South African SME’s account for over a third of our country’s GDP making them a vital component of our economy and livelihoods.

When it comes to business finance the market can certainly be described as complex, difficult to navigate and ever evolving and it's these factors that make it difficult for both aspiring business owners and existing businesses to find and secure business finance.

Existing SME's will certainly find it easier to secure finance than hopeful entrepreneurs without a track record to inspire lenders to offer them a business loan. We have provided a list of business lenders, their most important services and product details as well as their vital features to make the loan finding process easier.

Types of Financing for Businesses in South Africa

Unlike with other forms of credit, when it comes to business finance, research is a complex process since there are many types of business finance forms, different qualifying criteria and different approaches depending on your needs and goals.

It's important to remember that start-ups and existing businesses have very different options available to them. From government funding to angel investors and bank loans there are certainly no shortage of options for new and existing businesses.

Since understanding what types of funding options are available and whether or not they are suitable for you is the we will proceed by listing and describing the different forms of financing.

Government Grants for New & Existing Businesses

Institutions such as the Department of Trade and Industry and the Co-Operative Incentive Scheme in addition to a handful of others offer government grants which, unlike government funding or bank loans do not have to be repaid.

The competition for a government grant is fierce and businesses or start ups must have a solid business plan in place, be registered, have a tax clearance certificate available, an open business bank account in addition to a list of other requirements.

It is much easier for a small business or an entrepreneur to secure a grant if they are already operating and turning a profit. In such cases the institution will be able to justify the grant and easily gather all the required information and documentation to back up their decision.

New businesses with a solid business plan may qualify and will usually be put through a mentorship programme to help them register a business, obtain a tax clearance certificate and develop a good business plan.

Government Funding Schemes

Government funding will require as much paperwork and supporting documents as a government grant however, any funds obtained must be repaid in full, with interest. The benefit that this form of funding has over private funding from a bank is lower interest rates and significantly more flexible repayment plans.

Some government funds allow entrepreneurs to make their first repayment 6 to 12 months after the funds were approved and delivered. This is particularly true for businesses in the early stages of growth and for agricultural or seasonal businesses. Businesses that have secured contracts in place or have been awarded a government contract will find obtaining a government grant easier than others.

Debt finance from Banks and Private Lenders

Debt Financing is where an existing business borrows money from a lender and repays the loan in installments with interest. This form of finance allows a business owners or, its shareholders to retain complete control and ownership of the company unlike with equity finance where funds are raised through the offering of shares.

Major banks like Nedbank, FNB, Standard Bank and ABSA are primary sources of debt finance for businesses in South Africa. These banks offer overdrafts and asset based loans like vehicle finance which are any form of business loan that is secured.

This security can be offered in the form of property, invoices or balance sheet assets and can either long or short-term to meet the businesses needs. In addition to the major banks in South Africa there are many smaller, private credit providers who offer debt finance.

Overdrafts: This form of business finance is used by most businesses whether they are large or small and is an ideal way to manage cash flow. This form of business finance does not offer a large amount in most cases but can cover all your cash flow needs and can be obtained even by start up businesses provided their owners or shareholder offer a personal guarantee in the form of private assets.

Debtor Finance: This form of finance is available to businesses who have contracts in place or invoices that they can cash in on. Most major banks and private lenders will be willing to offer 75% finance on debtor invoices, however, qualifying is not simple and requires a significant annual turnover and business and financial administration that meets the lenders requirements.

Asset Finance: This form of finance allows a business to purchase equipment or vehicles by having a portion or complete asset invoice financed by the bank. The assets being purchased will be used as security until the loan is repaid in full. The loan is repaid in installments plus interest and can be either a long or a short-term loan.

Equity Finance

Equity Finance is finance gained by a business or start-up through the offering of shares. These shares can be offered privately to existing shareholders or publically to outside investors.

Although equity finance is quite popular among large corporations it is very rare for small and medium sized businesses since investors are typically looking for a return of 35% or more within a few years.

In addition, most equity fund managers tend to invest only in businesses that are considered a safe and easy investment. To access venture capital or equity finance you will have to either have an existing business or have a patent in place to gather the interest and support of investors.

Angel Investors

Angel investors offer funds to business that they believe may offer high returns for a relatively low investment. They are more likely to invest in what would be considered a "high-risk business" by equity fund managers and banks.

Angel investments offer startup companies a higher chance of raising the required funds than other forms of funding but is certainly far from easy. The two largest angel investment networks in South Africa are the Angel Investment Network and Angel Hub Ventures where the majority of angel funding transactions are done.