Facebook and partners, OECD and World Bank, have launched the Future of Business Survey that provides insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by smaller businesses in South Africa.
The survey also provides information to support policymakers, researchers, academics and other stakeholders who seek to understand the SMEs market in the country. It also provides insight about how SMEs are using technology to grow their businesses and provides fresh insight into their sentiment, activities, and challenges.
The survey polls Facebook business Page owners, both newer and long-standing companies, and has to date received nearly 100,000 responses across 22 countries from SMEs on Facebook. With more than 60 million small and medium-sized enterprises using Facebook to connect with customers, this new survey is a unique window into the new digital and mobile economy.
“What I find particularly exciting about this partnership is that this is just the beginning. This is a long-term commitment and we will continue to work in partnership in order to help businesses in South Africa to build a better future,” comments Nunu Ntshingila, Facebook Head of Africa.
High levels of confidence
South African small and medium-sized enterprises are optimistic about the future, according to the initial report. Some 71% of respondents report that they are positive about the outlook in the next six months for their businesses and 45% plan to hire more people in the same timeframe.
The respondents are more positive about the short-term future than they are about the present state of their businesses – only 45% are positive about the current state of their companies. According to the survey, some 18% of respondents trade across South Africa’s borders.
“Small businesses are among the most innovative and dynamic marketers and our initial results show that business confidence among them is high. Currently, nearly three quarters of business owners [71%] in South Africa are positive about the future of their business over the next six months. In fact, confidence levels in August were the highest they’ve been since we started the survey,” says Ntshingila.
The survey shows that digital technology today plays an important role in South African SMEs’ strategies today.
The vast majority use online tools to grow and manage their businesses:
- 93% to advertise to potential new customers
- 93% to show products and services
- 92% to communicate with customers and suppliers
- 90% to provide information to the market
- 86% to sell products and services
- 62% to streamline internal communication and business processes
The average respondent uses online tools for five of the six above purposes. Worldwide, businesses that make more extensive use of online tools are more positive about their current state and future, highlighting the impact technology has in this sector.
Among South African Facebook users, 52% are connected to an SME in a foreign country and 63% are connected to a South African company. Over 40 million people from around the world are connected to a business in South Africa and across Europe; people from South Africa are connected to businesses in UK, Turkey, Italy, Germany and France.
“The new Future of Business Survey builds on existing efforts by the OECD, other international organizations and statistical agencies worldwide to produce smarter and ever more relevant data. This innovative public-private partnership capitalizes on the opportunities provided by digitization to complement existing business statistics with surveys that are both timely and flexible enough to be adapted to respond to emerging issues,” says Martine Durand, OECD Chief Statistician.
“We think this project shines a spotlight on how forward-looking information on businesses may be gathered in the future, bringing together the best of what a firm like Facebook and organizations like the OECD and the World Bank have to offer. The new survey contributes to fill data gaps on SMEs, and by so doing it provides a valuable input to the monitoring of progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
“What is appealing about the new Future of Business Survey is its potential as a powerful tool that can get information relatively quickly and at a fraction of the cost of traditional survey methods. The World Bank Group’s goal of boosting shared prosperity and many of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are necessitating the development of new tools for collecting data. And these tools will need to be faster, cheaper and simpler, to best serve the needs of the development community and policy makers,” says Augusto Lopez Claros, The World Bank Global Indicators Group Director.
“The OECD, World Bank and Facebook all believe in digital’s promise to drive economic growth and innovation. In partnership, we have created the Future of Business Survey to help provide better insights on the current and future economic environments in which small businesses operate,” says Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook Vice President for EMEA region.
“Small businesses are some of the most innovative marketers. When we listen to small businesses they help us understand the challenges they face and the opportunities that exist to help them grow. The Future of Business Survey is a unique window into the new digital and mobilized economy,” says Mendelsohn.