When and how to register a business in South Africa

Jared Kruger

16 Jul 2020

Reading time: 7 min Thought leadership articles

If you’ve ever felt intimidated by red tape and heaps of paperwork that don’t make sense, then this blog is for you! We’re going to walk you through registering your business (aka: slaying the dragon) step-by-step. 

To begin with, we want to point out something you might not be aware of – the hardest bit is already over! What’s that you ask? Finding your passion and deciding to pour it into a lucrative business of course.

That’s right people = MOTIVATION. 

Without purpose, everything falls flat, but with it you can take on queues, questions and customers with relative ease… On that note, let’s go!

Why starting a business in South Africa is a great idea

Before we jump into the nitty gritty of actual registration, let’s talk about the awesome step you’re about to take. South Africa is a great place to start your own business!

The World Bank defines an entrepreneur as being “an individual who recognises opportunities with the purposes of creating value and wealth, whether through informal or formal economic activity”. 

If you have lived in this country for any amount of time, you will know that along with being a friendly bunch, we are also dynamic, creative and resourceful. Businesses are born out of necessity and stay afloat through grit and community support.

In addition to this, we have the second biggest economy in Africa, which attracts attention from the international business community. 

According to Business Tech, small businesses in South Africa are ‘super successful’.

“A massive 94% of businesses surveyed said that they were profitable, with more than a third (37%) saying they were profitable from the start. Three quarters of business owners believe they are making more money than they would have working for someone else.”

(Um, yes please!)

Granted, the current pandemic and lockdown restrictions might paint a different picture. But there are loads of viable businesses you could start during lockdown. Need ideas, we’ve got your back.

Choose your business category 

Before you can register your business, you have to know what you will register it as. Here are the three categories to choose from:

  • Sole proprietorship: a business owned and run by one person.
  • Partnership: two or more people sharing the right to make business decisions and in the net profits.
  • Private Limited Company: a legal entity, run by directors and owned by shareholders.

Get your papers, cash (and thoughts) together

Take it from us, gathering all the necessary paperwork before starting the application process saves you lots of time and stress.

Make sure you have:

  • Your ID 
  • A certified copy of your ID
  • A valid name for your business (and two backups, in case it’s already taken… fingers crossed!)
  • Valid bank card for payments

Don’t worry about it being an expensive affair because you can now register a business for less than R200 through Biz portal

Next steps to take

There are a few sites we recommend when registering you own business. The South African registrations website, the CIPC website or Biz portal mentioned above. If you want our opinion, the latter is easily our favourite because it’s simple. (Oh yeah, and the fact that you pay so much less!)

Once you have logged on to either site, the step by step guides are pretty straight forward, follow them and you’ll be fine. 

The only slightly confusing detail may be what title to register under: private, public, non-profit, state owned, etc. If you aren’t sure, ‘private company’ is the safest bet for an entrepreneur.

If you’re still not convinced about what steps to take to register your business, check out the helpful ‘How to’ video on the Biz portal website. 

Other ways to register

If you prefer to get things done in person, you can visit the  CIPC self-service terminals in Pretoria, Joburg or Cape Town. 

Another option, thanks to a partnership between the CIPC and First National Bank, is that you can also register your business through FNB, online or in person. This will make it easy to open a bank account for the business and register a new company at the same time. 

Throughout the process, FNB will also educate entrepreneurs on the annual renewal fee and process.

Sanjeev Orie, head of products with FNB business banking, is confident in the partnership, saying: ‘This innovative partnership is a first in South Africa and will benefit big and small businesses in many ways.’

Thanks to the realisation that SMMEs are important to our economy and the progress of tech, things have gotten a lot simpler – no need to mail documents, stand in queues or wait weeks for certificates.

Bonus news

Once you have registered your company through CIPC or any of its affiliates (FNB / Biz portal) your private company will be registered with SARS automatically. That means a whole chunk of admin has been taken care of for you. Cue the applause!

And that’s it, simple as 1,2,3. 

Once you’re registered as a legitimate South African business, you can focus on earning legitimate bucks… Good luck!

Remember that we’re here when you need us. For help on how to actually start a business, we recommend you read our blog on ‘Why and how to write a business plan for your startup.’

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