Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Africa, one of the most affected sectors has been that of small businesses. Small businesses don't only support the communities they're in, but they also uplift the families of their employees and contribute significantly to our economy. The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has made these times extremely difficult and uncertain for small businesses across our country.
As the government has begun to ease locked down regulations to open up the economy, the reality is that many small businesses cannot open their doors as the COVID-19 pandemic has made it challenging to finance their rebuilds and regain customer traffic. To help address such consequences, Visa has launched the Back to Business search tool to help consumers find and support local businesses. Small business owners can register on the Visa Small Business Directory, and the public can nominate the business of their choice on the directory. Once Visa has identified that a small business in an affected area has processed a Visa transaction, it will be added to the tool, so consumers can identify the small business and help support it.
To gain a deeper understanding of the impact of the pandemic on commerce Visa recently surveyed merchants and consumers - the COVID-19 CEMEA Impact Tracker. The findings showed just how severely some of our local businesses had been affected by COVID-19. At least half of the merchants surveyed suffered a high impact on their business, and 70% and above said they experienced a medium-to-high impact. These small businesses have also seen fewer visits from customers, and customers are spending less when they do shop.
With such a decline, it is no surprise that many entrepreneurs are experiencing an enormous amount of anxiety about their future. Merchants are concerned about cash flow, whether they can afford to pay salaries or to keep all of their staff, and not being able to engage with their customers.
The Visa Back to Business Project was initially designed as a resource to support small businesses that have been impacted by unforeseen events and circumstances. Since it has started, the project has grown and empowered many small business owners to re-open their doors and continue making a positive impact on local communities.
"COVID-19 has resulted in difficult times for many of our local businesses, which are incredibly vital and unique to our communities. Some businesses have temporarily closed, and many others have had to scale back or change their operations completely. While it's easy to feel powerless in a time like this, there are still a few things we can do to support our local businesses. At Visa, we are proud to support merchants and recognize that many small businesses have been most adversely affected by the pandemic. Our Back to Business merchant locator aims to help support them and champion the local small businesses that serve as the backbone of our communities", said Aldo Laubscher, Visa Country Manager South Africa.
"We encourage consumers to think about where they spend, and how shopping local can support sustainability, build community spirit and create economic opportunities for all. At Visa, we are committed to making a difference, and we hope both business and consumers will use the platform to help business owners as we continue to support local economies and create businesses that can thrive", added Laubscher.
For more details on Visa’s Back to Business search tool, or to find out how you can support a small business near you visit https://www.visa.co.za/support/small-business/back-to-business-project.html