11th November 2016
A Chamber of Commerce is defined as an association of businesses of a city, region or country formed to protect and promote the economic interests of its members through legislative and other means. In South Africa for example, the National Small Business Chamber works towards assisting small businesses to “grow, connect, network, be inspired have have fun”. This they do by offering their members a variety of benefits aimed at catering for the needs of the self-employed and small to medium size businesses.
A forum, on the other hand, is a public medium or physical space used for debates in which anyone can participate. Looking at the main aims and objectives of the Grahamstown Business Forum however, it is not difficult to see that the GBF provides far more than merely a space for deliberation:
- To be a unified, non-racial, all-inclusive body, that represents our members.
- To assist in facilitating a clean, safe and appealing Grahamstown Central Business District.
- To engage with the Municipality and Local Government in order to be involved with decision making processes which affect Commerce and Industry in Grahamstown.
- To promote the interests of business.
- To use reasonable measures to ensure the delivery of services by the Municipality and local government.
- To promote ethical, legal and socially conscious business practices amongst our members.
- To encourage networking and information sharing amongst our members in order to foster business relationships.
- To create and manage an interactive platform for members and the general public to share information.
This year alone has seen the Business Forum Management Committee engaging with officials of Makana Municipality around numerous issues that affect living and working conditions in the City. Productive negotiations with the Directorate of Local Economic Development and Planning and the Office of the Town Planner proved to be some of the best success stories in this regard. Similarly, input around organising car guards and a parking system ensured that the needs of business are not ignored. Getting their hands dirty (and their pockets empty!), some Committee members collaborated with the Grahamstown Residents’ Association in an ambitious project to clean up the streets of Grahamstown. The GBF created spaces for public engagement around issues of mutual concern through events such as The Grahamstown Conversation and a business breakfast and collaborates with the National Arts Festival, Makana Tourism and other organisations to develop Grahamstown as the Creative Capital of Africa. Moving beyond the boundaries of our little City, a delegation of the GBF met with the Premier of the Eastern Cape to engage around the Fees Must Fall protest and turning Grahamstown into a winning city. The list indeed does go on.
This begs the questions: What makes it worthwhile for a business or private individual to join a local business fraternity? What are the advantages of joining organised business for an enterprise? What can a business forum do for you?
Given the amount of care for the community displayed in the actions and contributions of the GBF, perhaps John F. Kennedy’s words in his 1961 inaugural address are as appropriate for contemporary Grahamstown: “Ask not what your country can do for you …”. Private individuals and business owners who are keen to “ask what you can do for your country”, are invited to contact the GBF Administrator, Marlene Mitchener at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about membership of the GBF.