Government intervention for entrepreneurs around COVID-19

By: Sisanda Ntshinga

With the current COVID-19 pandemic around the world, many businesses are struggling to keep their doors open, and entrepreneurs all over Africa are dependent on the different measures their governments have put into place, to create some much needed relief.

In South Africa, government as well as the private sector have announced various grants and soft loans that Small, Micro, and Medium- Sized Enterprises (SMMEs) can apply for during this time. For SMMEs the support interventions include a Debt Relief Fund and a Business Growth/Resilience Facility to assist with the expected economic slowdown in South Africa, and over R500 million has been made available through the Debt Relief Fund. There is also sector specific relief funding for those in tourism, sports, arts and culture and agriculture, that focuses primarily on applicants in rural areas, townships, women and young people living with disabilities.

Soft loans have also been available through the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) as well as the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) respectively. The IDC funding is a 3-month loan for essential supplies combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, while the NEF is making R200 million in loans available for black-owned businesses that need working capital, machinery and equipment to manufacture and supply a range of medical products to support the healthcare sector during the pandemic.

Salary support to help employers during the lockdown period sees the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Temporary Relief Scheme assisting businesses that can’t pay full salaries to workers sent home during lockdown. And the SA Future Trust (SAFT) is offering salary support for SME’s with less that R25 million annual revenue, and under stress directly due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Nigerian government has also started to release funds to struggling businesses during the pandemic. The Central Bank of Nigeria is said to provide a combined stimulus package of ₦3.5 trillion in targeted measures to households, businesses, manufacturers and healthcare providers. The bank has announced credit relief of $136 million to businesses affected by COVID-19, including informal traders and small enterprises. Interest rates have also been lowered from 9% to 5% while a tax relief is also available and the government is set to introduce a scheme to encourage businesses to retain staff.

Morocco has announced that a direct cash transfer programme for vulnerable houesholds, particulary those operating in the informal business sector will be released, and households will receive between $78 to $330. The government will launch an electronic platform dedicated to filing declarations. Menawhile the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is providing support for small to medium-sized enterprises managed and owned by bussinesswomen in Morocco. The bank has approved €1 billion solidarity package for existing clients facing temporary difficulties due to Covid-19.

In Kenya the International Finance Corporation is providing $8 billion in financing to help private companies affected by the pandemic and preserve jobs. With broader support from the World Bank Group which will deploy up to $160 billion over 15 months to protect the poor and vulnerable, support business, and bolster economic recovery. The government has also suggested people earning below 24000 shillings will no longer have to pay income tax. VAT will also go down from 16% to 14%.

Are you a business owner affected by the COVID-19? Tell us how you’re coping during the crises.

Featured image: Anzisha Fellows Cecil Chikezie and Graff Accrombessi at the 2019 Anzisha Prize Forum (Photo Credit: Mfundo Mbanze)