The moderating effect of microfinance on the financial constraints to SMME growth in South Africa
Omer, Nasraldin Abdelkarim Eldod
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Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) play a significant role in an economy. Thus, governments all over the world concentrate on the development of the small business sector to endorse economic growth. SMMEs are a large contributor to the creation of job opportunities, improvement of the economy, and promote the effective use of regional resources which leads to the engineering of economic development and growth. SMMEs are an important source of jobs, entrepreneurial spirit and innovation and are thus vital to promoting competitiveness. However, despite the noted contribution of SMMEs, in many countries they face serious constraints, often resulting in failure. The constraints and economic environment have significant and unequal effects on SMMEs in different industries and in different locations. Constraints have been used, amongst other growth factors, to understand why some SMMEs fail to grow.This study lays the foundation for understanding the concept of SMME growth. SMME growth was examined in detail, and found to be heterogeneous in nature. The variation in measures used in SMME growth studies, the variation in growth indicators, the variation in the measurement of growth over time, and the variation in the characteristics of the SMMEs are all important features of SMME growth as a phenomenon. SMME growth models were examined to further understand why some firms survive and grow, and others fail. The models examined the problems SMMEs experience at different stages of growth, and the actions to be taken to overcome them as they progress from one stage to the next. Four growth models identified in the literature is discussed: stochastic models of firm growth, the resource-based view of firm growth, the motivation view on organizational growth, and the life cycle view of firm growth. The study then discussed the concept of constraints to growth, and conducted a literature review on the effect of some factors that act as constraints to SMME growth. It was concluded that constraints have a negative effect on SMME growth. The study also discussed various theoretical models on the financing of firms, starting with the traditional concept of the financial behaviour of firms. The relevancy of trade-off theory, agency theory, and the pecking order theory to SMME finance and capital structure is also examined. The theories explain the financial behaviour of enterprises, taking into account their different characteristics and problems. It is suggested by the theories that internal sources of finance such as equity, retained earnings, and venture capitalists represent the cheapest and best source of SMMEs capital structure. The study applied a quantitative research survey. The approach enabled the determination of the factors acting as constraints to SMME growth, and examination of how SMMEs could overcome these constraints to survive and grow. The approach chosen aims at investigating the moderating effect of microfinance on the relationship between financial constraints and SMME growth. The primary aim of this study was to explore and investigate the factors acting as constraints to SMME growth. The study investigated the effect of nine types of constraints on SMME growth namely: lack of access to finance, lack of skilled employees, competition, corruption, lack of professional financial advisors, lack of clear business plan, government rules and regulations, lack of awareness of financial services and assistance, and lack of government support. The study also empirically examined the moderating effect of microfinance on overcoming, avoiding or mitigating the financial constraints to SMME growth in South Africa, particularly in the province of the Western Cape. In order to assess the aim of the study, five secondary objectives were developed. The objectives were subdivided into seven hypotheses. The study found evidence that the lack of skilled employees, competition, corruption, lack of awareness of financial services and assistance, lack of professional financial advisors and lack of access to finance were significant constraints to SMME growth in South Africa. An important contribution this study makes is that microfinance provides a way to overcome or mitigate financial constraints for SMMEs. The negative effect of a lack of professional financial advisors and the lack of access to finance is reduced when SMMEs make use of microfinance source. As such this is an important finding that adds to existing studies on the role of constraints as well as to the literature on entrepreneurship in developing economies. However, contrary to the study hypothesis, microfinance does not moderate the relationship between the lack of awareness of financial services and assistance, and SMME growth. This can be attributed to the important role that has to be played by the microfinance institutions (MFI) and government agencies in ensuring that procedures are simple, financial products are demand driven, and clear and brief financial information is provided. These results imply that microfinance can play a positive role in SMME growth particularly for SMMEs that experience financial constraints. The study also suggests that MFIs and government agencies should provide more information to the public in particular to SMMEs. This study is not without its limitations. Firstly, the study is based on the province of the Western Cape, of South Africa. In a South African context, with its two tiered economy, the Western Cape is perceived to be a "developed" economy as opposed to other developing African countries. Further studies can be conducted in other countries or can include samples from other provinces to compare the results. Secondly, as this study provides only a measurement at one moment in time, we are not able to establish causal and longitudinal effects. However, the sample size of this study is favourable in comparison to other recent studies, and thus provides extended validity. Future studies that apply longitudinal designs are needed to establish the causality of the relationships found in this study.