To cut down the time it takes to access key services meant for small, micro and medium enterprise owners, the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) has brought these services online.
The ECDC on Friday announced a digital portal for its funding (loans and incentives) and business support processes.
The ECDC is the official economic development and investment agency for the Eastern Cape, with a mandate to plan, finance, coordinate, market, promote and implement development of the province and its people.
Former Vodacom Business chief officer and South African Airways CEO Vuyani Jarana is chairperson of its board of directors.
Speaking during the launch event on Friday, Darwin Zinzile Nkonki, enterprise finance and business support executive manager at ECDC, explained the agency’s offices are centred in metros and urban areas of the Eastern Cape.
Sometimes this proves difficult for those people located in deep rural areas of the Eastern Cape to access ECDC services, he said. They may sometimes need to drive far distances from Peddie to East London, or Matatielet to Mthatha, for example.
The system aims to bridge these gaps, indicated Nkonki, as well as provide services such as payroll, how to register a company and how to prepare cash flow. It also has built-in diagnostics tools to assist business owners.
"We are excited to introduce this online platform that will transform the way small and medium businesses access funding.
“Our goal is to make the process easier and more efficient, enabling entrepreneurs to focus on what they do best − growing their businesses and supplying their communities with goods and services, as well as creating job opportunities. This platform not only streamlines the application process, but also provides training and support to new entrepreneurs, equipping them with the tools they need to succeed.”
The platform was developed by Finfind, an online aggregator of lenders and a solution for access to finance for small businesses. Other stakeholders involved in the digital system include the provincial Treasury and Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism in the Eastern Cape.
Finfind CEO Darlene Menzies comments: “We are proud to be partnering with the ECDC and the Nelson Mandela iHub and contribute to the vital work they are doing to support SMMEs in the Eastern Cape.”
According to the ECDC, the virtual platform allows applicants to submit their applications from anywhere and at any time through its website. The system fast-tracks verifications, such as ID and Companies and Intellectual Property Commission documents, to reduce processing time.
“The platform extends the ECDC's reach beyond their physical offices, ensuring entrepreneurs located in remote areas can benefit from their services. In addition to funding, the platform offers comprehensive training for new entrepreneurs, covering essential topics such as company registration and the development of customised business plans.”