The Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) has brought an air of excitement to Port Alfred with its much-anticipated Annual Stakeholder Forum. The event, now in its 15th year, is a beacon of hope for entrepreneurs, igniting their ambitions and dreams. With the theme ‘Ecosystem Collaboration Enhanced to Accelerate the Growth of Small Enterprises,’ it promises to be an event to remember.

The opening day kicked off at the Port Alfred Civic Centre yesterday, where the heart and soul of the event were centered. The first phase of the forum featured an impressive exhibition of Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) showcasing their products and services. The colorful stalls were brimming with innovative ideas, passion, and the determination to succeed. Eastern Cape entrepreneurs have poured their heart and soul into their businesses, and this is their moment to shine.

Andile Marasi, the outspoken Ndlambe Municipal Speaker, took to the stage on behalf of Mayor K.C. Ncamiso to welcome the distinguished guests and stakeholders. His speech was filled with optimism and encouragement, setting the tone for the event. He emphasized the importance of supporting these emerging businesses, recognizing that they are the lifeblood of the community.

After Marasi’s warm welcome, it was time for a momentous occasion. SEDA Board’s Chairperson, Xoliswa Daku, stepped forward to cut the ribbon at the Port Alfred Civic Centre. This symbolic act marked the beginning of the forum and opened the doors for the attendees to explore the world of SMMEs.

The Civic Centre buzzed with energy as guests streamed in, eager to view the products and services on display. Visitors engaged with the entrepreneurs, asking questions, making purchases, and providing words of encouragement. It was a delightful sight to see the local community rallying behind these small businesses in various ways, from making purchases to offering advice and connections.

As the first phase of the event concluded at the Civic Centre, the honourable guests made their way to the Royal St. Andrews Hotel for the second phase. This is where the big players in the corporate world stepped in to explain how they support the growth of SMMEs. Representatives from Mercedes-Benz, Johnson & Johnson, Border Kei Business Chamber, and ABSA took the stage to detail their roles in uplifting the small enterprises.

Abey Kgotle, representing Mercedes-Benz, joined the forum virtually, sharing the company’s commitment to empowering SMMEs. Dean Lo Ning from Johnson & Johnson highlighted the opportunities available for collaboration and growth, while Lizelle Maurice from the Border Kei Business Chamber emphasized the importance of a strong network and community support. Shedrik Rooi, representing ABSA, offered insights into financial assistance and guidance for SMMEs.

The anticipation is high as the second day of the event has already approached. It is to be held at the Titi Jonas at 1 pm today, where National Assembly Minister of Small Business Development, Stella Tembisile Ndabeni-Abrahams, is scheduled to make a special announcement. The word is that she would be handing over machinery and equipment to local SMMEs, further bolstering their efforts to succeed.

The Annual Stakeholder Forum is proving to be a vital platform for collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and support, with the potential to ignite the growth of small enterprises in the Eastern Cape. The dreams of entrepreneurs are being nurtured, and hope is flourishing in the picturesque town of Port Alfred.