R1-billion business fund suspends applications following massive demand

The R1-billion Sukuma Relief Programme has closed access to its application portal, following huge demand from South African businesses.

Business Partners, which administers the R1-billion fund from the Rupert family and Remgro, launched a website for SMEs and sole proprietors to apply for funding on 3 April 2020.

In the three days which followed, the combined value of the applications for the programme reached over R2.8 billion. This includes both completed applications and applications in progress.

Ben Bierman, Managing Director at Business Partners, said the high number of applications “is indicative of the crippling impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on South African SMEs”.

“Just three days after the online portal was opened for applications, the programme has already received in excess of 10,000 applications from formal sole proprietors, close corporations, companies and trusts.”

Bierman previously said they worked hard to put guidelines and systems in place to ensure the funding reaches businesses that need it most.

The funding will be made available to smaller businesses in the form of a grant, which means there will be no repayment obligations.

For larger businesses, there will be a loan component which will have to be repaid at some point in the future.

Closing applications

As a result of the oversubscription, the company decided to suspend access to the application portal with immediate effect.

“We will now be using the next seven days to assess the applications received and provide feedback to the applicants. Should we thereafter find that there is still capital available, we will then open the programme for applications again,” said Bierman.

Bierman also called on big businesses and corporations to contribute funding to the Sukuma Relief Programme.

“We realised when engaging with our clients that the situation is dire, but we have been surprised by the sheer number of SMEs that are in desperate need of assistance.”

“As such, we are making a public plea to other big businesses that are looking to support local SMEs during this critical time. SMEs are the lifeblood of our economy and they are in need of financial assistance, now more than ever before, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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R1-billion business fund suspends applications following massive demand