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SMEs must be higher on local election agenda

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A lot has been said about how national government can help SMEs and how local government plays a role in shaping business, which is why entrepreneurs should listen to the promises made by parties in the upcoming elections, writes ANTON VAN HEERDEN of Sage.

Much is said about how national government can and should help create an enabling environment for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to flourish, but local government also plays a vital role in shaping their business environment. As such, entrepreneurs should be listening carefully to the promises and policies outlined by the candidates and parties standing for South Africa’s upcoming municipal elections.

The day-to-day impact local government has on the average small business’s day-to-day operations should not be underestimated. Where national government sets macro-economic policy and national laws for industry and commerce, local government is the coalface of service delivery to citizens and businesses alike.

Local government affects small businesses in many ways. For example, companies planning to set up an office or factory will often need to consult with the municipality about zoning regulations and building bylaws. Meanwhile, if you operate in an industry such as food or entertainment, you may need to get a trading licence from the municipality and show your compliance with health, safety and noise control bylaws.

Building the ratepayer base and creating employment

Local government also provides a range of mission-critical services to small businesses, from refuse collection to electricity distribution. If a municipality fails to maintain its local power infrastructure, its SMEs may suffer financial and productivity losses that harm their sustainability. Conversely, a municipality that invests in broadband infrastructure and maintains its local roads efficiently creates an enabling environment where entrepreneurship can thrive.

However, we haven’t heard much from most political parties about what they will do to make the towns and cities they govern into better places to do business. We consider this to be an oversight since municipalities that do a good job of attracting and supporting small enterprises can boost their ratepayer base and help to create employment for their residents.

SME owners should ask their local candidates and councillors questions about what they will do to streamline red-tape for businesses in their constituencies. For example, do they have any plans to make it faster and easier to apply for a trading licence or a building permission? In many cases, small business owners need to go and stand in a queue to file a simple form. Visionary municipalities should make it easy to apply, pay and file paperwork online.

Entrepreneurs should also scrutinise the plans municipal candidates set out to ensure the steady and reliable provision of services such as power. Also high on their priority list is consistent, reliable billing for municipal services as well as transparent and fair ways to initiate billing disputes.

Make a seat at the table for the entrepreneur

I urge councillors and mayors who will be taking new positions in local government after the elections to make a seat at the table for small business. We think that mayors, councillors and city managers can help their cities to thrive and prosper by supporting SMEs.

In addition to revisiting red tape – in line with the 2013 Guidelines for reducing municipal red tape from the departments of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs – there is much municipalities can do to nurture small businesses.

One example is ensuring that they buy local as much as possible when procuring goods and services, and paying small business suppliers and service providers promptly. Another is by working with large businesses to create training and mentoring schemes for small local businesses. In a world where only the voices of the biggest are heard, we must always fight to hear the voice of the entrepreneur. It is only through growing a vibrant small business community that our towns and cities can prosper.

* Anton Van Heerden, EVP and Managing Director, Sage South and Southern Africa

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Now download a bank account

Absa has introduced an end-to-end account opening for new customers, through the Absa Banking App, which can be downloaded from the Android and Apple app stores. This follows the launch of the world first ChatBanking on WhatsApp service.

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This “download your account” feature enables new customers to Absa, to open a Cheque account, order their card and start transacting on the Absa Banking App, all within minutes, from anywhere and at any time, by downloading it from the App stores.

“Overall, this new capability is not only expected to enhance the customer’s digital experience, but we expect to leverage this in our branches, bringing digital experiences to the branch environment and making it easier for our customers to join and bank with us regardless of where they may be,” says Aupa Monyatsi, Managing Executive for Virtual Channels at Absa Retail & Business Banking.

“With this innovation comes the need to ensure that the security of our customers is at the heart of our digital experience, this is why the digital onboarding experience for this feature includes a high-quality facial matching check with the Department of Home Affairs to verify the customer’s identity, ensuring that we have the most up to date information of our clients. Security is supremely important for us.”

The new version of the Absa Banking App is now available in the Apple and Android App stores, and anyone with a South African ID can become an Absa customer, by following these simple steps:

  1. Download the Absa App
  2. Choose the account you would like to open
  3. Tell us who you are
  4. To keep you safe, we will verify your cell phone number
  5. Take a selfie, and we will do facial matching with the Department of Home Affairs to confirm you are who you say you are
  6. Tell us where you live
  7. Let us know what you do for a living and your income
  8. Click Apply.

 

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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