While there is a specific small, medium and micro enterprises (SMME) fund set up for the tourism and travel industry, government has rolled out a series of economic measures to help business mitigate the potential negative impact of a 21-day lockdown.

Speaking at an inter-ministerial press conference earlier today, Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, elaborated on the R3 billion (€157.77m) Industrial Funding earmarked for the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) which will be made available to not only industrial businesses but those providing essential services outside of the IDC’s remit.

He added that a special issue of the Government Gazette would be published tomorrow (March 25) which would outline further details.

Meanwhile, Minister of Small Business Development, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, has clarified that the Debt Relief Fund – made possible by donations of R1 billion (€52.62m) each from the Rupert and Oppenheimer Foundations – will help fund working capital for all SMMEs and will be offered at prime minus 5% interest rate.

“Priority will be given to women and youth-owned businesses as well as businesses that are owned by people with disabilities,” she said, pointing out that these funds would be made available across a geographic and demographic spread.

Furthermore, businesses must show that they had been directly impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be rolled out over six months, from April 1 to end September. “We will re-evaluate this after that period and see if more assistance is required,” said Ntshavheni.

Debt relief will also be made available to informal workers and those who are self-employed. “There is a strict set of criteria, which include that any business must be 100% South African-owned and at least 70% of staff in its employ must be local,” said the Minister.

Ntshavheni added that government was negotiating with the banking sector to offer a moratorium (or payment holiday) to any SMME sector that would be hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We will also soon announce a comprehensive debt restructuring package offering additional funding to SMMEs at a rate of prime minus 5%,” she said.

According to Ntshavheni, government will fast-track funds to ensure SMMEs receive assistance within 14 days.