Author(s): Kudzai Nigel Makuwe and Lawrence Mpele Lekhanya
It is evident and generally agreed by scholars around the world that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of any thriving economy. For the SME sector to fully support the economic activities of a country it needs to be absorbed in innovation activities that deliver products and services valued by customers. Studies have been conducted globally confirming a positive relationship between SMEs and their characteristic innovative nature. However, disparity still exists in the local context of South Africa, especially in Durban, on what influences SME innovation strategies. It was thus the aim of the current study to identify factors that influence SME innovation strategies in Durban. In addition, the study recognised the impact of Corona Virus 2019 (Covid-19) on SME innovation, while also delving into post Covid-19 innovation strategies by SMEs. The study made use of a quantitative research design and a structured questionnaire was distributed to respondents. The sample size of the study was 248 SME owners/ managers in Durban. With the closure of certain businesses, the impact of covid-19 forced a shift from probability to non-probability sampling, as well as changes to the data collection planned initially for the study. Therefore, the researcher had to resort to targeting SMEs in Durban that were allowed to operate. With the aid of a research assistant the questionnaire was distributed to and collected from respondents. Collected data was analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 25.0 for Windows. The results emanating from the study were then presented in the form of bar graphs, pie charts and cross tabulations. The main findings of the research revealed that the majority of SMEs in Durban surveyed invest in technology equipment. Furthermore, the results showed agreement by a majority of the SMEs that the size of a firm influences innovation strategies. In addition, the majority of SME owners strongly agreed that the global pandemic, Covid-19, has significantly changed consumer buying patterns. The research project additionally highlighted some of the most critical factors that influence SME innovation strategies in Durban. Policy makers, academics and SME stakeholders will find the study informative.