Due to the lockdown, all face to face trainings and field work were suspended. It was only in level 2 which started in August 2020 that Business Advisors under UNHCR project resumed face to face training. The trainings composed of five-day boot camps, with an intake of a maximum of 20 beneficiaries per class. COVID-19 Safety precautions were put in place at the boot camps to avoid new infections and spread of coronavirus. Precaution measures included checking the temperature of the beneficiaries at intervals during the day, sanitisation of hands and classrooms and maintaining a social distance of 1.5m. Anyone who posed symptoms of coronavirus was not allowed to be part of the training session. The boot camps covered trainings on Business, Life Skills, Employability and Digital Literacy. City of Johannesburg also participated in the boot camps and made presentations on gender based violence, human trafficking and the importance of documentation. The beneficiaries were also assisted in registering their businesses with CIPC and SARS, most of them could not qualify for the relief funds provided by different sectors because their businesses were not registered. The boot camps were also a platform to share unforeseen challenges brought by lockdown into small businesses and how to overcome them. Boot camps were followed by vulnerability assessment of the businesses. Negatively affected beneficiaries received relief funds in form of grants to help them stay in businesses and recover from the losses during the lockdown.
Business Improvement Groups
Business Improvement Groups (BIGs) are a form of post- SIYB training follow-up that is offered to the trained entrepreneurs that have completed training in all the modules. BIG Constitutes business people with shared interest to leverage collective learning and improve their enterprises. by creating a platform to address business problems/issues, take a consultative approach to find actionable solutions that will help the enterprise achieve the best business outcomes. The Objectives of the BIGs are to:
- Enable entrepreneurs to apply the knowledge and skills gained in trainings
- Enable entrepreneurs to encourage each other, provide moral support and collaborate for personal, family and community development.
- Enable entrepreneurs to create a synergy between each other's businesses for where there is value to link for synergies within their own business processes or in accessing services from external stakeholders e.g. group trainings or provision of government services may be more effective and appealing to the service providers than an entrepreneur accessing the service alone.
- Provide a possible platform for creating a voice for business people in the community to lobby for different services and/or policy changes
BIGs have started in Blouberg and Musina and the entrepreneurs have received
well the new concept of the project.
By the beginning of the year, the plan was to continue to support more businesses with the business loans. Unfortunately, the lockdown restrictions completely changed the business environment, forcing almost all businesses to lose a lot of revenue and be on the verge of shutting down. The project therefore swiftly decided to offer business grants to relief the negatively affected businesses. The grants will be used to purchase tools of trade, restock, and/or to compensate business for lost income, based on the needs assessment. As of end of mid-October, the programme has issued grants to over 200 businesses. The business grants project assist refugees, asylum seekers and South Africans micro and small businesses. In addition to grants, businesses were required to attend a 5-day boot camp on business training.
HIH Online Learning Platform
Lockdown restrictions prohibited mass gatherings calling for suspension of face to face trainings. As a result, HiH created an online training platform aimed at facilitating a continuation of HiH trainings. The online platform covers Life Skills, Employability, Entrepreneurship and Business modules, and uses video tutorials, reading materials and quizzes to enhance learning. Furthermore, HiH facilitated access to other remote learning opportunities. One such platform identified has been Coursera, it goes free of charge and it is considered an important opportunity for refugees. By the end September 2020 of the at least 8 people have completed at least 1 Coursera course and received a certificate.
While the effects of COVID-19 are felt by all levels of businesses across the globe, micro-entrepreneurs and informal sector workers face higher vulnerability due to their small profit margins and limited or no savings. At the onset of COVID-19 lockdown, the AWOME Programme conducted a rapid assessment of the women entrepreneurs to understand their experiences considering that their businesses are fragile and that entrepreneurs have limited capacity to navigate conventional policy and legal environments. The assessment found that the entrepreneurs were in great financial distress - unable to meet their basic needs and financial commitments due to reduced income and for some, the inability to earn at all resulting from restrictions on economic activity. Informed by the findings of the rapid assessment and in support of government's effort to provide relief, AWOME Programme stood with the women by supplying food parcels and hygiene products (sanitizers and face masks) to 525 families in Blouberg and Musina Local Municipalities. Entrepreneurs were grateful for the food parcels. "We had run out of the food; we did not know who to turn to." said Julia Tshimangadzo an entrepreneur in Limpopo province who received a relief package.