South Africa recently witnessed civil unrest that led to the destruction of infrastructure, looting and violence that severely impacted many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and informal traders in parts of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng.
Telkom says it has heeded the call to help clean up, rebuild and grow SA by launching the SME Relief Project.
According to the telco, the Telkom SME Relief fund, currently valued at R10 million, is aimed at providing aid to small company owners to rebuild their businesses and to urge South Africans and the private sector to rally behind SMEs.
Small enterprises are crucial to SA’s economic growth and employ between 50% to 60% of the labour workforce, says Telkom.
It notes that more than 11 000 Telkom Business customers have been severely impacted by the unrest and Telkom is committed to helping these businesses rebuild and stay connected.
“Telkom customers in the affected areas will receive support in the form of payment holidays, re-routing their connectivity and the freezing of contract terms. These relief packages will enable our existing customers in the affected areas to continue to operate,” says Dumisani Bengu, chief commercial officer of Telkom Business.
Telkom Business has earmarked to fix premises of businesses in KZN and Gauteng that have been ravaged as a result of the unrest and looting.
Each selected business will receive a contribution of up to R20 000 to help rebuild.
Telkom Business will conduct a vetting process to identify the SMEs in need of assistance to fix their premises.
Bengu says: “The looting and unrest came at a time when many SMEs are still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and some small businesses are uninsured.
“We understand the importance of backing small business owners during this time of distress and we will use our resources across our business units to ensure small businesses get back up. Telkom aims to lend a hand to small businesses and informal traders. Telkom will make a branding contribution of over R5.6 million and LTE offerings to 1 200 spaza shops in affected areas.”
The company says Telkom Financial Services will assist with mobile point-of-sale devices and loan propositions to businesses in the affected areas to allow them to resume trading.
FutureMakers, the enterprise and supplier development arm of Telkom Group, has pledged R1.5 million to support ICT SMMEs through grants to assist with rent, inventory and salaries.
Through FutureMakers, Telkom will offer mentorship and training, including extending the Township Incubator programme to affected areas.
Furthermore, Telkom Consumer will be collaborating with its brand ambassadors to help them identify businesses which were affected by the unrest in their community or industry, to adopt and support.
Restoring communities and businesses that have been impacted by the unrest is a collective effort and Telkom is committed to helping SMEs to clean up, rebuild and grow, the company notes.
“We urge leading corporates, businesses and ordinary South Africans to make a pledge to help rebuild small businesses that have been devastated by the unrest."
Businesses in need of funding will be able to register by clicking here, while South Africans can also use this online portal to make their pledges to assist.
Telkom customers can also pledge by donating airtime or data. All the collected data and airtime will be redistributed to affected businesses.
“In the aftermath of the unrest, government, business and communities are assessing the damage and are focusing on rebuilding communities that have been severely affected. We also urge responsible corporate leaders in SA to support affected micro and small businesses and help them weather this period, rebuild and grow," Bengu concludes.