Empowering small business owners remains fundamental to economic transformation and financial inclusion, and is thus a foremost priority in the partnership between Old Mutual and the South African Funeral Practitioners Association (SAFPA).
This is according to Old Mutual’s General Manager for the Foundation Market, Thembisa Mapukata, in her address at the opening of the annual SAFPA conference which took place in East London this week.
Hosted under the theme Breaking Barriers, this two-day-long conference formed part of an ongoing partnership between Old Mutual and SAFPA. Aimed at empowering funeral practitioners from around the country, the event provided a platform to share best practice, promote SMME growth and drive credibility in the industry.
“We are working with SAFPA to ensure that their members prioritise compliance, remain competitive by growing their businesses and continue driving employment in communities while expanding access to financial services at grassroots level,” highlighted Mapukata.
She further explained how the funeral industry’s informal operations and self-regulation resulted in the credibility of the industry remaining inconsistent. “Historically, financial institutions focussed solely on affluent and mass markets while the foundation market relied on one another to save, invest, borrow and even bury their loved ones. Their lack of resources made people realise that they needed to come together in communities, churches and families. This evolved into stokvels and informal burial societies, among others,” she said. Mapukata stressed that the number one priority of Old Mutual, the regulators and SAFPA is serving the end customer.
“Our role in this partnership with SAFPA is to be the reputable financial partner with over 170 years of experience in the financial sector, and is aligned with our commitment to serve the previously under-served market. And as a responsible business we are dedicated to ensuring that we support the funeral industry as a major driver of SMME development, transformation and financial inclusion in South Africa,” added Mapukata.
These sentiments were echoed by the President of SAFPA, Yongama Quma, who said that their members conduct 60 000 to 70 000 funerals across the country every year.
“As we are only one of many funeral associations operating in South Arica, our numbers clearly highlight the potential of this industry to grow and drive employment,” said Quma. “We value the role played by Old Mutual in ensuring that more than 300 funeral parlours were registered as Financial Service Providers (FSPs) from 2016 onwards, in compliance with the regulatory requirements for any parlour that collects premiums and makes a profit.”
Through the partnership with Old Mutual, SAFPA members are empowered with business development learnings from Nedbank to ensure that they evolve from hand-to-mouth type businesses to sustainable enterprises able to access funding and compete in the market.
For the first time the SAFPA conference also hosted representatives from Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Botswana to strengthen cross-border funeral and burial capabilities for both South Africans living in other countries in Africa and foreign nationals residing in South Africa.