Johannesburg - Thousands of South Africans with disabilities are committed to getting their small business off the ground or growing already established small businesses. Yet it’s a struggle for most to secure money to invest in their business and, as a result, burgeoning and often very promising small businesses of persons with disabilities are at constant peril of failure.
The Small Enterprise Finance Agency (sefa) recognises the needs of entrepreneurs with disabilities and has responded with its Amavulandlela Funding Scheme: a finance scheme solely for entrepreneurs with disabilities.
Mxolisi Matshamba, sefa CEO, says around 15% of all South Africans have a disability of some sort. “As entrepreneurs, persons with disabilities face challenges that others do not: their costs are often higher as they need additional staff for tasks that other business owners do for themselves; research has found that financial institutions regard entrepreneurs with disabilities as high-risk funding applicants; entrepreneurs with disabilities often lack access to entrepreneurial education and mentorship; and broad-based stigma around disability means they must innovate for market share.
“These realities, and the fact that having a disability costs money – for assistive devices, for example – collude to make it exceedingly difficult for persons with disabilities to fulfil their entrepreneurial potential and ambition.
“Yet these persons are often ideal candidates for self-employment, as universal accessibility in both private and public sector workplaces is not yet a reality in South Africa. Persons with disabilities are frequently creative, innovative and practical problem-solvers; their disability in a world designed for persons without disabilities makes them so.”
The Amavulandlela Funding Scheme gives persons with disabilities an opportunity not only to enter the mainstream economy, but also to confidently grow their businesses and flourish, he says. The scheme goes to the very heart of the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the economy, and invites them in.
“This is a fund only for entrepreneurs with disabilities, and opens opportunities for them to access the fundamental social and economic rights that all other entrepreneurs enjoy. It widens the scope for their businesses to create jobs and integrate into the mainstream economy. It’s a right that SMME entrepreneurs with disabilities have been denied for too long.”
The Amavulandlela Funding Scheme provides asset finance, bridging loans and term loans for small, medium and micro-enterprises owned by persons with disabilities. The scheme offers credit facilities from R50 000 to R15-million at an interest rate of prime less 5%, and also offers pre- and post-approval business development support, coaching and mentoring.
Entrepreneurs with disabilities who are operationally involved in day-to-day running of the business are invited to apply. While businesses that are seeking to expand are preferred funding candidates, sefa will also consider supporting start-up enterprises with merit. Critically, applicant businesses must be at least 51% owned (and run) by a person with a disability and must be both technically feasible and financially sustainable to qualify for the Amavulandlela Funding Scheme.