COVID-19: South African Billionaire Establish Trust to Support SMMEs

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African billionaires have been up against coronavirus in efforts to protect the continent from economic downturn after the eradication of the pandemic.

In South Africa, as the total number of confirmed cases continues to increase, a number of billionaire families have begun to pledge their support to help speed the general effort of combating the spread of the pandemic.  

Recently, the Oppenheimer established a new trust called the SA Future Trust (SAFT), to disburse the family’s R1bn donation with the purpose of extending a financial lifeline to employees of small, medium-sized and micro enterprises (SMMEs).

According to the family, the purpose of the trust, “is to create a structure that will extend direct financial support to SMME employees who are at risk of losing their jobs or will suffer a loss of income because of Covid-19.” 

“While coronavirus has separated us physically, it has united us in our shared humanity and identity as South Africans. We have faith in our collective ability to overcome this challenge and emerge stronger than before,” said Nicky and Jonathan Oppenheimer.

The trust is in partnership with four of South Africa’s largest commercial banks; Absa, FirstRand, Nedbank and Standard Bank.

The SAFT which is expected to start operation on Friday, will disburse funds by way of interest-free loans to employees of participating SMMEs over a five-year term, allowing businesses who are suffering from short-term cash-flow constraints to continue operations while retaining their employees.

Effectively, the SMMEs will apply to the banks for loans and the loans will be used to pay eligible employees’ salaries. The employees themselves will carry no liability and will not have to pay back the money.

The trust expects the typical loan amount per eligible employee to work out to R750 per week for a period of 15 weeks.

The banks will waive their normal fees in relation to managing the scheme during the period of the national disaster. SMMEs will be able to begin applying for funding from Friday April 3.

SMMEs are encouraged to apply through their existing banks, the trust intends to include more banks as things progress and plans to carry on operating long after the crisis has passed.

“SAFT will have an ongoing role in accelerating economic growth within SA. Any further donations, and loans repaid, to SAFT will remain within this non-profit structure. They will be used to support initiatives with a focus on employment creation.”

The trust has been structured as a public benefit organisation and can therefore accept donations from third parties.

In addition, the Oppenheimer family, through its philanthropic arm is considering proposals for emergency grants in a number of areas to “enhance national interventions around response, recovery and critical assistance initiatives”.

Earlier, the Rupert family using specialist small business lender, Business Partners, which Johann Rupert founded in 1981, they will be assisting small businesses in the country.

Also, the Motsepe Family recently gave R1bn for treating and preventing the spread of the disease in poor and rural populations through the provision of protective equipment, medical supplies and water.

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