South African Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele says small businesses are the biggest innovators and that they need support to turn their big ideas into even bigger solutions.

Addressing a roundtable at the 10th Public Sector Innovation Conference here Tuesday, he said the small business sector needed the support of government and big business in order to participate in the economy.

“The reality of the fact is that when you talk about innovation anywhere, big companies can innovate, but the biggest innovators are small companies,” said Cwele, who added that there were several initiatives which were being rolled out at tertiary institutions where collaborations with several government institutions were being forged to incubate young people to help them to take their innovations to new heights.

“If they are given a chance to come up with ideas in a controlled environment with the support of the experts, this way we can turn their innovations into productive activities. Small is big in the innovation space,” said Cwele when responding to a question on what government was doing to ensure that small businesses received the necessary support to thrive and innovate.

He said the recently established Office of the Public Procurement Officer had also introduced innovations to make the cost of doing business low. For example, through the Central Supplier Database, small companies can now register as suppliers and can apply for tenders without having to pay for tender documents.

Public Service and Administration Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who was also part of the panel, said the Central Supplier Database had also assisted government to centralise all government procurement and in the process, reduced corruption. This new platform also allowed government to advertise tenders through the eTenders portal.

He said the government was biased towards small business and that the Cabinet had pronounced that 30 per cent of tenders be set aside for small business and the National Treasury would be making regulation changes to enable that.