Over the past 12 months, Ashburton Investments through the Ashburton Credit Enhanced Funds, collaborated with National Treasury’s Jobs Fund to disburse R34.4 million in grant funding to counter the negative effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in areas most in need.
The Small Enterprise Foundation (SEF) was identified as an entity well placed to use the COVID-19 grant to assist their clients and ultimately preserve jobs. SEF qualified for the grant as an investee in the Ashburton Credit Enhanced Funds.
This initiative provided R34.4 million in grants to 19 996 identified beneficiaries. To date 99% of the identified beneficiaries have received once-off grants of R1 720 each. The recipients are under no obligation to repay the funds.
SEF is a South African non-profit micro-finance institution focused on poverty alleviation. It currently serves over 200 000 women in remote parts of the country. SEF offers women access to capital for microbusiness, along with financial and business skills. These services support the creation of small businesses, jobs, and support networks for households and communities across the country. SEF’s services are focused on the most vulnerable, with 79% of SEF’s clients living below the poverty line and 39% below the food poverty line. Entrepreneurship is their largest source of income, and so when their businesses are threatened, so are their livelihoods.
The COVID-19 lockdown forced these micro-entrepreneurs into the worst-case scenario. They were largely prohibited from running their microbusiness and thus were cut off from their main source of income. Nearly 70% of microbusinesses were shut down across SEF’s client base, including tailoring, door to door sales, prepared food, events, and clothing resale. The reduction in transportation, closure of many bank branches and the inconsistent availability of permits created an extremely challenging environment – particularity for women in rural areas.
SEF used its local knowledge, livelihood data, and existing relationships to ensure that the grants reached the most vulnerable beneficiaries. This intervention provided much needed relief to entrepreneurs and helped preserve businesses and support livelihoods.
Ashburton Investments was well placed to facilitate this process through our partnership with National Treasury Jobs Fund. Over 20 000 jobs were protected through support provided to micro business. This positive impact is a testament to the effectiveness of a constructive public and private sector collaboration.