Business Partners to administer Rupert family donation

Applications will open by the end of the week.
Keeping it in the family … Johann Rupert is founder and co-owner of Business Partners. Image: Chris Ratcliffe, Bloomberg

Business Partners – which according to its website is a “specialist risk finance company that provides customised financial solutions, sectoral knowledge, mentorship, business premises and other value added services for formal small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa and selected African countries” – will be administering the Rupert family’s R1 billion donation in support of small businesses impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak in South Africa.

The entity’s roots go back to 1979 when the late Dr Anton Rupert, encouraged by his son Johann (now chairman of Swiss-based luxury-goods company Richemont and SA-based Remgro), proposed the idea for a joint venture between the public and private sectors to finance and support SMEs. ​

The Small Business Development Corporation was established in 1981, and later renamed Business Partners.

Business interrupted

Since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in SA early this month, the flow of goods and services has been interrupted as companies, shops and schools have closed. Small businesses have been the most hard-hit.

The Rupert family donation aims to mitigate the risk faced by these companies, and thus the economy as a whole. Business Partners announced on Sunday evening that it is the official administrator of the donation, and that it will be ready to take applications from small businesses by the end of the week.

This announcement follows President Cyril Ramaphoa’s acknowledgement during his 21-day lockdown speech that the Rupert and Oppenheimer family were donating R1 billion each to assist small businesses whose operations have been disrupted by the pandemic.

‘Truly honoured’

“We can confirm that Business Partners, one of Africa’s leading risk finance companies for SMEs, has been selected as the administrator of the R1 billion funding and are truly honoured to have been provided the opportunity to serve our country in this manner,” says Ben Bierman, managing director at Business Partners.

Business Partners MD Ben Bierman. Image: Supplied

Business Partners has experience managing and disbursing funds on scale, having financed over 71 000 SME transactions over its 39 years in operation.

It has previously managed funds for the South African government as well as international development finance institutions such as the International Finance Corporation and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

Aiming to reach those most in need

To ensure that SMEs’ financing needs are met during these unprecedented times, Bierman says the Business Partners team has been working around the clock to put guidelines and systems in place to ensure that the funding reaches businesses that need it most.

“We will have distinct and separate financing programmes available for both sole proprietors and formalised SMEs to ensure widespread support,” says Bierman.

“We expect to make an announcement regarding the criteria, repayment terms and how to apply for the finance this week.”

Bierman says the unfortunate reality is that Covid-19 will lead to the demise of many SMEs across the world.

“We believe that through the funding made possible by the Rupert family and Remgro Limited, together with other initiatives being implemented by both the public and private sector in South Africa, we can help sustain many of the affected businesses and protect jobs for years to come,” Bierman says.

It has not yet been confirmed who will administer the Oppenheimer family donation of R1 billion, while the Motsepe Foundation and partners – including Sanlam and African Rainbow Minerals – have now also collectively pledged R1 billion to support individuals, communities and small businesses affected by the pandemic.

Read: Motsepe Foundation and Sanlam pledge R1bn to fight Covid-19 crisis

Listen to Melitta Ngalonkulu’s interview with Kim Polley of Instinctif Partners Africa:



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As far as I can see not one of the 3 billionaire donors have given money to government directly. No surprise there I suppose.

Why would you give it to government? They would just put a racist hoop to jump through and alot of people who desperately need funding would not be able to access it, for having been born the unwanted colour.

Bus Partners are going to focus on ability to repay and not race… Its a shrewd move, and the Ruperts might even make some money off this…

Just as well, not much would get onto the ground. Called admin fees to many new millionaires in government.

So is this a donation to SMEs or is it just financing for SMEs through business partners?

It looks like it is financing arrangements.

No helicopter money yet.

Please Explain Donation. Never heard that you need to pay back a Donation


Interesting question. If the SBDC issued interest free short term loans using this Billion (so it is not affecting their capital base) and then effectively only use the billion to absorb capital that is never repaid (some will very certainly never be repaid), the billion could be leveraged to say four billion of help.

Hopefully the assistance is carefully applied and not sommer applied to arrears on existing SBDC loans. If the latter it will be a repeat of that bankorp drama where a secret list of persons had their debt forgiven from the lifeboat.

Hard to imagine what other structure exists in SA that has the back office and network to deal with this efficiently?

Clearly its financing, which does not really help at all. Donation is set to assist. Financing is just getting Businesses in debt.

Other countries government and pledgers are helping without expecting anything in return. How will this be different from an ordinary bank loan.

They must Just keep their monies or explain donation

A year interest free loan? If yoyu are a good business that has just run into trouble becuase of lockdown that is all you want, borrow what you need to keep your overheads paid and pay it back once you have cashflow. Lockdown lasts 3 months (max probably, if longer they can switch off the lights) leaves you with 9 months to pay back the loan, interest free…

It is a grant, in that being interest free, the net can be spread very wide. Business partners is actually the former small Business Development Corporation.

Good move – the old SBDC is very close to the ground on SME’s incl informal businesses.

Fair disclosure : I did my army stint there after basics in 80’s. Smallest “loan” was R180 (no, not missing a k)and biggest R2m. The R180 was a used chest freezer for factory guard that worked out he could buy chicken bulk and sell packs to workers after the shift. He did very well!

Will there be 20% donations tax on the R1 billion i.e. R200m?

I doubt it. It’s probably an equity loan, then if things go badly you can write off a portion. The write-off could attract tax if SARS is aggressive. Let’s see.

I have dealt with Business Partners on an ad hoc basis from time to time ,often with Area Management.I got the distinct impression that more finance was given to entrepreneurs who were historically advantaged .As the years have gone on,they tend to focus more on Commercial Property funding ,and guess which segment of the population owns these?The question is …do their clients get first bite at the cherry,and do these donations get handed out a bit more equitably than the way they lend money.Too close to home,in my opinion ,and they were less biased organisations to administer this process

Perhaps you support the suggestion that only enterprises with 51% BEE credentials should be supported? I personally find no justificarion for such a biased approach.

Awesome. Direct Government control of any money is asking for it to disappear. Thank you to the Rupert family for this generous amount which you will be donating. Thank you also for administering the funds and not letting government get their hands on any cash.

I previously phoned Business Partners Hot Line number and reported possible fraudulent transactions regarding financing of an particular Franchisor with the money’s of Treasury that Business Partners administered. More than two years ago, maybe they lost it.

The main thing is that businesses survive so they can continue employing people afterwards. People are resilient and they will survive.

Businesses may not. So I pray we can all come out of this. First pay your suppliers and then maybe pay staff a reduced salary. Otherwise your suppliers can’t pay their staff and it’s a knock on effect.

Edcon is messing up the market. Why not pay suppliers. It’s stupid. They have delivered. Pay staff half of what they earn and pay suppliers half. Catch a wake up. Not paying suppliers is what kills industry.

Julius are you out there? Very quiet. Lucky there is a thing called WMC, hated by you, or we would be further up the creek than we are.

Pledges versus Donation. I am always fascinated by people never noticing the difference between donations & pledges.

Donations are paid in real time & have tangible identifiable recipients whereas pledges are normally not defined in time nor do we most of the time hear that they were paid,u get the PR?

Johann Rupert is chairman of Remgro which has a 42.7 % share in Business Partners.(Wikipedia). Donation or Business loan ?

Mr Ramaposa is conspicuously absent from the list of billioaires who have pledged donation capital

So is Tokyo and a host of other new ANC millionaires, Dudu Zuma, etc.

Good News to Every One !!
Be a part to receive this donation from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s “COVID-19 Relief Fund”Individuals are to receive the sum of $1,000,000,If you are interested to receive this donation from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,Email: (

End of comments.



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