The Department of Trade & Industry's (the dti's) Enterprise Development unit is tasked with developing policy and strategy for the small business sector. The objectives of government policy and strategy on enterprise development are empowerment, economic development and job creation. Much progress towards meeting these objectives has been made over the first decade of democracy in South Africa, but challenges remain.
In assessing the progress made, it is important to provide a formal mechanism for monitoring and evaluation of government's overarching strategy towards small business development and to allow for feedback on the outcomes of government strategy at various levels household, sectoral, regional and national.
In 2004, the dti commissioned TIPS as an independent, credible institution not directly involved in the delivery of SMME services to undertake a broad-ranging, qualitative assessment of the outcomes of government's policy, strategy and initiatives in enterprise development.
The first annual assessment of the impact of government policy in this key dimension of government activity, the Annual Review of Small Business in South Africa 2003, was published early in 2004. This Review addressed what has long been a critical weakness of research efforts around SMMEs: the lack of longitudinal or time-series data illustrating the effect of government's enterprise development strategy over time.
Moreover, the Review also focussed on the increasingly desperate need to develop a consistent dataset of SMMEs that have been interviewed repeatedly over time, which thus allows the dti to access a wealth of analytically sound information about how SMMEs develop in different economic climates and their support needs at different times in their development.