Supporting one small company to succeed invariably helps others, too: it’s the business equivalent of ubuntu – and Khaya Madiba lives by it.
“If you thrive, then I can thrive,” says Madiba (35), owner of East London-based Sakhe Engineering and Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd.
Madiba established Sakhe in 2020 in order to acquire two interrelated engineering businesses, Gehring Engineering and AIG Plasma. The Small Enterprise Finance Agency (sefa) assisted him with the funds to acquire the companies and stock, along with working capital.
Gehring Engineering designs, manufactures, assembles and installs machines, machine parts and conveyor belts, as well as fabricates steel. AIG Plasma is a specialist in cutting steel and other metals. Both companies serve the South African and international markets, and they provide 35 people with employment.
“Khaya Madiba is a wonderful example of the kind of entrepreneur that sefa supports,” says sefa CEO Mxolisi Matshamba. “He’s young, ambitious and driven to succeed in his chosen field, and he’s creating economic prosperity and employment in the Eastern Cape.”
In an effort to alleviate pressures on small-business owners, sefa continues to honour its core function, which is to foster the establishment, development and growth of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) and cooperatives, and to contribute towards poverty alleviation, job creation and economic growth.
It encourages small businesses to apply to any of its available funding programmes:
Township and Rural Enterprise Programme
Small Enterprise Manufacturing Support Programme
Business Viability Programme
Post-investment support programmes for sefa clients
Madiba, who holds civil and structural engineering degrees, from the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) respectively, as well as a master’s degree in Engineering Management from UJ, boasts wide experience in the mining, roads, water and transport sectors.
While he has worked all over South Africa, “the greatest exposure and experience I got was working overseas” for French-owned Alstom Transport, where he worked for nearly two years.
But, he says, he didn’t want to be another South African who emigrates with their skills, and his heart led him back to his home in the Eastern Cape – a province that needs all of the economic growth it can get.
“And my grandmother reminded me what my name means, and I must not forget to come home,” Madiba adds, smiling.
It was a fortuitous move because Gehring and AIG’s founder and owner, Albert Gehring, was retiring – and it was either sell his businesses or shut them down.
“I’ve always wanted to have an engineering business of my own,” says Madiba, whose engineering experience has primarily been in supervisory or managerial capacities, making him an ideal buyer.
Indeed, he is such an entrepreneur at heart that he’s published a book, Just Evolve: For Effective Business Growth, which is now in its second edition. And growth – of businesses and people – is what it’s all about.
“I grab every opportunity I get, especially if it includes growth,” says Madiba.
He continues that he has achieved all of his personal goals – from his career choice to working overseas and now owning his own concern – which allows him to focus on growing his business and empowering others, to make a broader impact on the world.
South Africa’s unemployment rate is “heart-breaking” and linked to increases in crime. While Sakhe’s own contribution to fighting joblessness is admittedly modest, “our biggest mission is to make a dent in it”.
And in that regard, his employees are “number one on my list”. Madiba is committed to upskilling his own staff (a process that he finds exasperatingly slow), and giving young people workplace exposure to the world of engineering (despite his frustration at the apparent lack of commitment of many to their future careers).
“Running the business is easy. The difficult part is the people,” says Madiba. But, he continues, “It has been good. I’ve enjoyed the impact I’ve made on people’s lives, but I want to do more.”
“More” involves expanding his business – he wants to employ more people, and open a branch in Mthatha – but for that, he requires a further capital injection.
Madiba also points to a need for greater local support for his business, to keep commerce and jobs in East London instead of outsourcing work to other centres. This speaks, once again, to his belief that support for one company can lead to dividends for another.
There needs to be more local manufacturing and procurement, he avers; for example, his company is able to design and make products and components for local businesses, instead of them sourcing such products elsewhere at greater cost and with delivery delays.
“There’s a lot more we can do to build local businesses, including my own,” he says.
To find out more about sefa’s support for SMMEs and cooperatives, go to sefa.org.za