Exploring changes in the membership of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Ramakhetheng, Nthabiseng Lineo.
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Post 1994, chambers of commerce have gone through transformation as they adapted to new laws that were implemented with the new democratic government. Many policies were adjusted, impacting business but as a result specifically affecting the chambers. As an example the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), lost a high number of its members since the changes in policies. In 1999 the DCCI had 7000 paying members, but in 2014, it has about 2800 to 2900 members and this decrease in membership threatens the sustainability of the DCCI. Furthermore, while the DCCI manages to attract Small and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs), it struggles to attract larger companies and new members or to retain current members. This study was set out to explore the dynamics behind the changes in membership numbers and patterns and the negative impact to the development of the DCCI. Furthermore, it explored opportunities to increase membership numbers by attracting large companies as well as SMMEs. It also re-evaluated some of the services and programmes that the DCCI offers. A qualitative research design was chosen to explore peoples' experiences through the process of change. Fifteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with staff and members of the DCCI. In addition observation and secondary data was used. The data was analysed by means of thematic analysis. The findings of this study reveal clearly the main challenge for the DCCI is to retain members. This is because of the lack of services and DCCIs battle to adapt to the changes that came with a ‘new’ South Africa. This study further makes some suggestions to the DCCI leadership, managers, staff and members regarding the handling of the challenges that came with the changes. It also informs the chamber on how they can improve their services to increase their relevance for current members and on how to better meet the needs of their members.