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Budget brings (some) relief to business builders

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Business builders and entrepreneurs can heave a sigh of relief that the Budget Speech for the 2017/8 tax year has not brought with it increases to corporation tax or VAT, but instead brings with it a few measures to boost the growth of the SME Sector.

Under the circumstances, I think the Minister has done a good job of balancing competing priorities, though there are a few measures that government could consider to turbocharge entrepreneurialism and business growth. Here are some of the highlights and what they will mean for the country’s Small & Medium Businesses:

1.     GDP growth – 1.3% for 2017

GDP growth in South Africa has been relatively slow since the financial crisis of 2007/8; Minister Gordhan expects to see it increase from 0.5% last year to 1.3% in 2017. He acknowledged the role of Small & Medium Businesses in driving economic growth, although I think if we were to be truly ambitious we could boost GDP growth even more by nurturing entrepreneurs.

2.    Support for small businesses

Government has earmarked R3.9 billion for small, medium and micro enterprises over the next three years and plans to provide 2,000 companies in this category with support from the Black Business Supplier Development Programme.

Meanwhile, the National Informal Business Upliftment Scheme aims to develop more than 5,000 informal businesses and cooperatives through financial and other support. It is a great idea since it will help these organisations grow from survivalist enterprises to sustainable, growing and competitive companies that could contribute towards employment and tax revenue.

These developments are welcome, though 7,000 companies are a small fraction of the estimated 2,8 million Small & Medium Businesses in South Africa. There are many steps government could take in future years to support this larger community of small companies—for example, an increase in the R1 million threshold for VAT registration is long overdue.

3.    Increased budget for the Small Business Department

It’s also positive to see an above-inflation increase to the Department of Small Business Development’s total Budget allocation up to 2019/20. We think that small businesses are vital and it needs strategic focus from government; this department could play a pivotal role in mentoring small businesses and serving as an interface between small companies and the public sector.

In the meanwhile, it’s interesting to note that the department plans to review the National Small Business Act and develop a National Small Business Amendment Bill. Its aim is to create a more accurate definition of a small, medium and micro-enterprise, which will, in turn, support more appropriate policy and support interventions. This sector is poorly understood in South Africa, so we welcome any effort to come to grips with its needs and its imperative role in the economy.

4.    Streamlining government procurement

Minister Gordhan once again reiterated that suppliers who have met their delivery obligations are entitled to payment within 30 days. Slow payment is a pain-point for small businesses, so this is good news. Government remains committed to using its procurement spend to help small and black businesses to grow—which is a wonderful way to support emerging businesses.

  1. Compliance

An issue that should be top of mind for Small & Medium Businesses as new tax laws and compliance requirements fly at them fast is using technology to automate and streamline their processes. It is especially important as businesses stay ahead of changes to schemes such as the Employment Tax Incentive and the possibility of a payroll levy or tax for the planned National Health Insurance. We believe that by 2020 admin-free businesses will become a reality for our customers by using technologies such as the cloud and artificial intelligence.

Closing words

Our customers in the Small & Medium Business sector are working hard for South Africa’s prosperity. It is pleasing to see that they are getting more attention in the Budget with each year that passes. We believe that entrepreneurs hold the key to a more equal and prosperous South Africa, and that it is important for their voice to be heard as government makes economic policies and regulations.

Cars

Mercedes brings older models to the connected world

The Mercedes Me Adapter is designed to bring older Mercedes Benz models into the connected world, allowing one to keep a close eye on the car via a smartphone. SEAN BACHER installs a unit

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In this day and age, just about any device, from speakers to TVs to alarm systems, can be connected and controlled via a smartphone.

In keeping with this trend, Daimler Chrysler has launched a Mercedes Me Adapter – a system designed to connect your car to your phone.

The Mercedes Me Adapter comprises a hardware and software component. The hardware is an adapter that is no bigger than a match box and plugs into the OBD2 diagnostics socket under the car’s steering wheel column. 

The software component is the Mercedes Me app, which can be downloaded for Android and iOS devices. (See downloading instructions at the end of the review.)

Setting up

Before you can start using the Mercedes Me Adapter, you need to download the app and begin the registration process. This includes setting up an account, inputting the vehicle’s VIN number, the year it was manufactured and the model name – among many other details. This information is sent to Daimler Chrysler. It is advisable to get this done before heading off to Mercedes to have the adapter installed, as it takes quite some time getting all the details in.

The next step is locating your nearest Merc dealer to get the adapter installed. You have to produce the registration papers and a copy of your ID – something Mercedes neglects to mention on its website, or anywhere else, for that matter.

What it does

The Mercedes Me Adapter is designed to show the car’s vital statistics on your mobile device. On the home screen, information like parking time, odometer reading and fuel level is displayed.

Below that is information about your most recent journeys, such as the distance, time taken, departure address and destination address. Your driving style is also indicated in percentage – taking into account acceleration, braking and coasting.

A Start Cockpit button displayed on the home screen includes a range of widgets offering additional information, including where your car is parked – right down to the address – as well as battery voltage, total driving time, distance and driver score since the adapter was installed. A variety of other widgets can be added to the screen, allowing for complete customisation.

Many users have have pointed out that that there is no real point to the adapter. However it does offer benefits. Firstly, your trips can be organised into personal and business categories and then exported into a spreadsheet for tax purposes. Secondly, you can keep a very close eye on your fuel consumption, as it automatically measures how many litres you put in each time you visit the garage and the cost (the cost per litre must be entered manually so it can work out total refuelling costs). This is also quite beneficial in terms of working out how much fuel you go through, without keeping all the pesky slips when it comes to claiming at the end of the month.

Probably the most important benefit is that it monitors the engine, electrical, transmission and gearbox, sending notifications as soon as any faults are detected. A perfect example was encountered on a recent trip I made to Pretoria. Upon arriving, I received a notification that I needed to check my engine, with the Mercedes roadside assist number blinking and ready for me to dial.

The notification did not even show up on the actual fault detection system, except for the faint glow of the orange engine light, which I would never have noticed in the bright light. I immediately took it Mercedes and they diagnosed it as an intermittent thermostat error, which they said is fine for now but that I have to keep an eye on the engine temperature.

Conclusion

The convenience of easily being able to export mileage for tax purposes and refuelling stops as well as being able to locate your car at anytime should be more than enough to qualify it as a pretty useful companion for your car.

Add to this the fact that it is completely free from Mercedes, and that makes it an absolute no-brainer. Should you not like it, simply unplug the adapter and uninstall the app. The only thing lost is half an hour while the Mercedes technician sets it up, ensures it is working and gives you a crash course on how to operate the app.

The adapter will only work in Mercedes Benz models from 2002 onwards. No warranties are lost, as the adapter does not increase the car’s performance and is a genuine Mercedes part.

2017 models and above do not need the adapter as everything is installed when the car is manufactured. All one needs to do is install the app and pair it with the car.

Get the Mercedes me iOS app here

Get the Mercedes Me Android app here

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Durban FilmMart wants African documentary projects

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Submissions for documentary and feature film projects in development for the Durban FilmMart  (DFM) close next week on 31 January 2020. The organisers are making a special call-out to documentary filmmakers who have projects to submit.

“We invite documentary filmmakers to submit their projects no matter how early in its development it is, so long as it has a producer and director attached to it,” says Don Edkins well-known documentary filmmaker and the DFM’s documentary film mentor. “The DFM is a brilliant way in which filmmakers are able to galvanize interest in their ideas, get people excited about being involved or helping them develop the project. It may be that the project could then be taken to its next level by being invited to another market for further development, or find financing through the pitches. The possibilities are endless.”

The DFM, which takes place from 17 to 20 July 2020, will host 10 documentary and 10 feature projects at its co-production and finance forum. The producer, director or writer on the project must be an African citizen and can either be living on the continent or in the Diaspora.

‘Documentary filim has over the last years really come into its own,” enthuses Edkins. “We see how the genre has evolved from its more information-driven newsreel-style to a narrative or ‘story-driven’ approach,” he says. “It makes the film genre so much more accessible for its audience, drawing them in and engaging them, yet still making strong statements or creating its requisite impact.”

Countless film projects have gone from a simple concept and idea at the Durban FilmMart to the big screen over the 11 years.

Some examples include the 2011 project Buddha in Africa directed by Nicole Schafer (SA) which premiered at HotDocs 2019, and had its SA premiere at Encounters and won Best SA Documentary at DIFF making it eligible for consideration for an Oscar nomination.  2014 projects which made it to the big screen include Kula – a Memory in 3 Acts directed by Inadelso Cossa (Mozambique), The Colonel’s Stray Dogs directed by Khali Shamis (SA), The Sound of Masks directed by Sara Gouveia (SA/Mozambique), Alison directed by Uga Carlini (SA). The 2015 alumni projects which were completed include Amal directed by Mohamed Siam (Egypt), Not in my Neighbourhood directed by Kurt Orderson (SA), The Giant is Falling (working title After Marikana) directed by Rehad Desai (SA) had its international premiere at IDFA. The 2016 project The Letter directed by Maia von Lekow and Chris King (Kenya) premiered at IDFA in 2019 and also from that year, Working Womxn directed by Shanelle Jewnarain (SA) is in production.

“There are plenty more examples of films that have pushed through from their initial concepts, into production and then onto distribution and or screening,” says Edkins. “The documentary film community in Africa is still small and working with the DFM we try to find new talent constantly and work with the industry to hold space for the documentary. I know there are highly creative and talented people out there who have brilliant ideas, and I would like to encourage them to submit these for consideration for this year’s edition.”

To submit a project go to http://www.durbanfilmmart.co.za/ProjectSubmissions

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