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UFS launches a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Observatory, first of its kind in South Africa
2013-12-04

In cooperation with its partners, the Centre for Development Support at the University of the Free State (UFS), launched the SME Observatory at a function on the Bloemfontein Campus. This initiative is the first of its kind in South Africa. 
 
According to Willem Ellis, Director of the Centre for Development Support, this is a public-private partnership between the UFS, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (detea), which aims to gather information for research on small and medium enterprises. “With this research we will endeavour to empower policy formulators to make the right decisions in terms of development on a local, provincial and national level,” Ellis said. 
 
Presentations and the panel discussion at the launch covered topics such as: 
  • How many enterprises can survive in a town?
  • Are entrepreneurs being set up for failure? 
  • Is SMEs the answer to the unemployment question? 
  • The cost of red tape: is SMEs being tied down? 

To demonstrate the applicability of the enterprise architect for issues relating to enterprise policy, as well as entrepreneurship strategies, it was decided to focus the pilot phase of the observatory on towns in the Free State. Dr Daan Toerien, research associate at the Centre for Development Support, and Johannes Wessels, Project Manager of the SME Observatory, compiled the report: “50 Towns in the Free State: What the Enterprise Architecture of these towns is telling us about Entrepreneurial Space.” 
 
In his presentation at the launch, Dr Toerien said: “The Enterprise Observatory’s prime goal is to present valuable facts and insights about enterprises in the domains it is observing.” He has developed a database that contains information on a large number of South African towns. He said that studying the enterprise architecture of towns will contribute significantly to inform the policy and strategy debate on LED and enterprise development. “These activities will add valuable data and insights to approach entrepreneurship in the Free State and, after the pilot phase, also in other provinces in South Africa. The Free State government, district and local municipalities, and the consultant fraternity serving them, should find the SME observatory’s activities of value,” he said. 
 
Wessels said that the SME Observatory of South Africa is dedicated to base its arguments on sound theory, science and applied research; to engage policy and decision makers on an evidence-based approach; operate in a politically non-aligned mode in order to mirror truthfully the impact of policies and decisions and to partner with policy makers, entrepreneurs, public administration, think tanks, research institutions, business representatives and NGOs on building networks and alliances to promote an open and competitive enterprise environment.

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