South Africa’s SME community faces a tough hostile environment, despite regular declarations of its importance to the country. The second round of the SME Growth Index – the most comprehensive gathering of firm-level data yet undertaken in South Africa – finds that around one third of firms report a threat to their very existence, and large majorities believe it is becoming more difficult to do business. It analyses the critical issue of whether firms are in fact growing in the current environment, and the related question – central to national concerns – of whether they are taking on new employees. It also examines the aspirations of SME operators. The results are intriguing and often sobering, but provide a detailed picture of an enormously valuable resource that should not, and need not, be wasted.
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