Two months on SME minister yet to announce new National Gazelles names

Two months after the start of the second cohort of the Small Enterprise Development Agency’s (Seda) National Gazelles programme, the Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu has yet to announce the names of 40 participating high-growth firms selected for the programme.

The programme aims is to grow the value of each of the 40 participating small businesses by 20% over the next three years.

The call for the second cohort went out in October last year, but programme administrators Traction managing director Martin Feinstein and Mtiya Dynamics managing director Zukile Nomafu said the names of those selected for the second cohort are now with Zulu and will be announced by her in due course.

By time of publication neither the department’s spokesman Cornelius Monama or Seda had responded to Ventureburn’s request to know when the announcement would be made.

Nomafu and Feinstein did however reveal that about two thirds of those firms selected for the second cohort – like the first cohort – are black-owned companies. Feinstein explained that this was because most of the over 350 applications came from such firms, rather than down to any selection bias. It’s a significant decline from the over 1800 applicants in the first cohort.

‘The names of those selected for the second cohort of the National Gazelles programme are now with Zulu and will be announced by her in due course’

The new cohort still includes firms from each of 10 sectors that the programme focuses on. Feinstein noted that there are now more participant firms from the manufacturing sector (most of them black-owned firms) than from the ICT sector.

The 10 sector are: agriculture and agri-processing, construction, energy and the green economy, health and bio-sciences, ICT, manufacturing, media marketing and creative industries, mining, metals and engineering, tourism as well as transport and logistics.

The call for the second cohort went out in October last year. It follows the announcement by Zulu in July last year of the names of those selected for the first cohort.

Nomafu said those that made it onto the new cohort underwent screening from different auditing firms and a panel interview, before meeting final approval from Seda. The site visits form part of the selection process.

The programme managers ran an induction workshop in June where participants had the chance to ask questions about the programme and where their obligations were spelled out. They were also informed on how they would be able to use the programme’s value-builder diagnostic tool aimed at helping participants to increase the value of their business. Sites visits of each participant were completed earlier this month, said Nomafu.

Once accepted on the programme each participant has the chance to apply for grant funding of R1-million each – with R800 000 to use to buy productive equipment and R200 000 for training and support services.

In the first cohort the programme supported 200 gazelles, with 40 chosen as the national gazelles for more specialised support. A big change for the second cohort is that unlike the first cohort the programme will no longer offer mentoring or support to the 160 runner-ups.

Nomafu said the reason for the change is that the selection of two tracks in the past had created some confusion and unmet expectations that those among the group of 160 would get access to a similar level of support, when much of the support went to the group of 40 gazelles. “No one wants to be a second-class citizen,” he added.

Another change is the scrapping of the system where participants were chosen on a proportionate basis per their respective province’s representivity in the overall population.

The programme managers next want to introduce industry-specific mentors. Feinstein said they have worked “really hard” in the last three months to recruit more technical experts that can complement the programme’s value-builder tool.



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