Durban may have been the epicentre of recent riots and looting in July, but that hasn’t stopped the Durban Chamber of Commerce (DCC) from doing what it has done for the 156 years of its existence: roll up its sleeves and get businesses moving in the right direction.

It represents the interests of more than 3,000 corporations and 54,000 SMEs and informal sector businesses.

The DCC was established in 1856 and is the oldest and largest metropolitan chamber in Africa. As a business-based and member-focused organisation, it works to protect and promote the interests of the eThekwini business community.

Palesa Phili, CEO of the Durban Chamber of Commerce, says SMEs were the primary victims of recent riots in the city

“The biggest need we have is to uplift and strengthen the informal business and SMEs in our metropolitan area, and there are 54,000 of those,” says CEO of the DCC, Palesa Phili. “The biggest victims of the riots and looting were SMEs.

“We definitely welcome the opportunity to partner with Saiba accountants and strengthen our networks. Accountants have a very definite role to play in uplifting the standard of business in the informal and small business sector.

“Sadly, the recent riots left us with thousands of businesses that were destroyed and may never open their doors again. We condemn the looting and riots in the strongest possible terms. A great many of these businesses were uninsured, and we’ve been compiling a list of them and approaching larger corporations with a view to seeing how we can assist them get back on their feet.”

Getting down to the practicalities of the assistance needed from accountants, Phili says many of the businesses that have closed their doors might have had a different outlook if an accountant was on board to advise on matters such as insurance, the setting aside of cash reserves for emergencies, providing financial statements and strategic advice that could lift these businesses from rudimentary survival to prospering enterprises.

“The DCC has been working hard to make sure that informal businesses are compliant, and we do this through guidance and mentoring of emerging entrepreneurs. We would absolutely welcome working with Saiba to accelerate this process. There is a huge need for accountants to help informal businesses and SMEs to formalise their operations and lift their standards of compliance.

“We are firm believers that networks are a vital part of business success, so we would welcome having Saiba members join us in our quest to promote sound and ethical business practices in the Durban metro area.”

Among the activities offered by the DCC are:

  • Advocating and influencing policy decisions that affect the interests of business (labour laws, tax and business regulations, for example);
  • Offering business support services and advice (CIPC, Certificate of Origin ITC checks, human resources/capital, networking opportunities and more);
  • Providing business information relevant to the organisation decision-making process.

A major strength of the Durban Chamber is constant engagement in its area and standing forums, covering areas such as women and youth in business, travel and tourism, manufacturing, and other segments.

These forums provide insight to the common challenges faced by the business communities of specific regions. They also identify key opportunities that can be created by enabling a resilient and conducive business environment. Key to this are pioneering workable partnerships that bridge the gap between the public and private sectors.

In the aftermath of the riots, Phili says there is an unkillable sense of optimism that has taken root among entrepreneurs in the area. “People who have a history of starting their own businesses are entrepreneurs through and through. You cannot keep them down, and we are seeing this spirit shine through as people start to rebuild their businesses and their areas.

“We welcome the Saiba Roadshow to Durban look forward to networking with you when you are here.”

Those who want to assist the DCC in its endeavours can write to