Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable: Community Management Committees in South Africa

SMEs are a vital engine of the economy, creating jobs and enabling inclusive growth. Promoting their development is just one of the ways we’re contributing to a thriving, more sustainable world.

‘Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable’ goes one of Africa’s best known proverbs. The members of our newly formed Community Management Committees (CMC) enthusiastically agree.

Launched in recognition of the power of collective action, the committees are driving community support for local enterprises to become thriving suppliers for Sappi in South Africa. They’re focused on:  

  • identifying shared value opportunities and championing local entrepreneurs
  • supporting Sappi in sourcing more goods and services from local suppliers
  • reporting on local employment needs and enabling responsive community investments

Committees are seeking to add as many sticks to their bundles as possible, actively seeking partnerships with government, NGOs and the private sector to scale their positive impact. The committees themselves are already quite diverse, with members reflecting the many skills, perspectives and life experiences of Sappi people in South Africa. Some of whom originally joined the company through Sappi Skills Centres, which share a similar mission to the committees.

A holistic approach to creating opportunity

One of the most significant challenges the committees face is the lack of technical and engineering skills amongst small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Without these skills and a record of achievement, it’s difficult for Sappi to award them business - especially in areas with known risk.

The Committees are working to resolve this gap with a holistic approach. While they're primarily focused on creating opportunities for skills training, they're also working to reshape the market landscape so that SMEs can be more competitive. This includes by making reforms to legislative and operating requirements, as well as safety systems processes.

Empowerment with a bundle of training

On the capacity-building front, the committees are making considerable progress. We've welcomed organisations with long-standing ties to Sappi to provide technical training including: the South Africa Institute of Welding (SAIW), the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA) and the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

We’ve been so pleased to see that many of our main contractors have committed to train and develop SMEs on portions of their unbundled scopes of work. This has been a significant boost and encouragement to local entrepreneurs.

On the business side, one of South Africa’s leading banks has provided financial management training. And the Department of Labour has also offered training on basic conditions of employment and health and safety. Several local companies seeking to generate shared value have enthusiastically joined the effort to collaborate on co-funding and market extension opportunities for mature SMEs.