JOHANNESBURG, 9 SEPTEMBER 2020 – The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) has partnered with manufacturing industry veteran Leon Viljoen to provide support, guidance and advice to SMEs to help them run successful and sustainable businesses.

Mr Viljoen has more than 20 years’ experience in project and business management and as a C-suite-level executive at large businesses, such as ABB South Africa and Powertech Transformers, and has led efforts to optimise business operations and improve performance.

The partnership comes at a time when many SMEs are facing closure, following the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown that saw many companies unable to trade amid restrictions to movement to fight the spread of the virus.  This is in addition to the challenges they had already been facing in a country where about 70% of SMEs fail within the first two years, according to the Small Business Institute.

SEIFSA Operations Director Lucio Trentini said the partnership with Viljoen was important because small businesses are widely recognised as the lifeblood of economies. He cited research by McKinsey, which found that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa make up 98% of businesses. However, many of these businesses struggle under the strain of several challenges, including bureaucratic red tape and lack of access to finance.

“Sixty-six percent of the companies that are affiliated to our member Associations are small businesses. We, through the SEIFSA Small Business Hub, strive to assist these companies to navigate a very tough operating environment,” Mr Trentini said.

Mr Trentini said Mr Viljoen’s demonstrated expertise within the manufacturing industry will ensure SMEs in the sector receive relevant support and advice at a time when they need to rework their strategies and operations in order to adjust to a COVID-19 environment.

Mr Viljoen said he was pleased to be able to work with SEIFSA on a matter that was close to his heart – the success of businesses by innovating and improving operations from within before looking externally for support.

“My support is not about making good businesses great,” Viljoen said. “It’s about helping businesses go back to the basics and creating a strong foundation in order to become sustainable, and then move on incrementally to greatness.”

As part of the partnership, SEIFSA and Mr Viljoen will be hosting a series of webinars on what SMEs need to focus on to become sustainable businesses. The first webinar discussing the series will take place on 17 September 2020, to be followed on 6 October 2020 by a webinar covering culture and strategy.

For more information or to register for the webinars, please contact