JOHANNESBURG, Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu says her department has witnessed enormous progress for small businesses in South Africa over the last three years, although there are still challenges ahead.

Speaking at the Progressive Business Forum held here Monday on the sidelines of the African National Congress (ANC) 54th national elective conference in Johannesburg, she urged government departments and big businesses to support small, media and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) and appealed to South Africans to buy locally-made products to boost the sector.

The Small Business Development Minister said the revitalization of townships in the country was important for the development of small businesses and added that despiite progress made in her department, small businesses still faced a number of challenges.

Many of your small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are having to compete with big companies which have deeper pockets, have been operating for a very long time and they are supposed to be competing. Yes, there is a political will to make sure that we support, but a political will on its own and not being supported by real activities, by real financial and non-financial.

Zulu said the ANC would be finalising policies which they undertook at the ANC Policy Conference in June and will endorse some proposals for the sector. She added that the party was aware that serious intervention was needed in the wake of the poor economic climate.

Her department had also pushed for government departments to procure more from small businesses, she said. The ANC identified the areas in which we need to deal with in supporting the SMME's. For instance, in 2012, it encouraged the creation of new businesses co-operatives and expansion of small businesses by reducing cost of compliance and ensuring that payment of government invoices for the adoption of 30% procurement and that is now in place.

The Minister said the ANC has also supported SMMEs in the ICT value chain. I was very excited by the Department of Posts and Telecommunications, because when we engaged with them over the ICT sector and the opportunities that exist there for small and medium enterprises, they decided that they will go and develop a strategy that is aimed at supporting SMMEs and this strategy was adopted by Cabinet.

The Minister also called for speedy land reform to transform the agricultural sector. She said this wouldl help greatly to expand entrepreneurship in the country.

South Africans and black South Africans in particular need the land and they need to be assisted with skills in order for them to utilise that land adequately. And therefore, when we talk about the farmers who are owning tracks and tracks of this land with very little transformation there. We are calling on the farmers to say this is our country and this is your country, but if you don't walk with us on this tomorrow we might have a bigger problem, which we might not be able to deal with.