A Closer Look at The Different Business Structures in South Africa

If you are starting a company in South Africa, one of the first things that you need to consider is which business structure will suit your endeavour best. Each business structure has its advantages and disadvantages and understanding these can help a great deal when deciding on the structure that best suits your business.  


Here are five different types of business structures to choose from in South Africa: 


Sole Proprietor:  


A sole proprietorship is a business that consists of one individual, often referred to as a sole trader. This individual is responsible for the daily operation of the business and they are entitled to all of the profit. Setting up a sole proprietorship is very simple and no official paperwork is required to register the business.  

The downside to a sole proprietorship is that the owner assumes all the risk for the company. There is no distinction made between the owner and the business, leaving the owner personally liable for any debts and obligations. 




A partnership is a business structure that can have between 2 and 20 partners with a stake in the company. This type of business is very easy to establish, with partners coming to an agreement amongst themselves regarding the division of profit. 

As with as sole proprietor, there is no distinction made between the business and the owners, making partners personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business. 


Private Company: 


A private company is often referred to as a proprietary limited (Pty Ltd) company. Up to 200 shareholders can be a part of this type of business structure, making it possible to generate a large amount of capital to run the business. A private company is seen as a separate legal entity and stakeholders in the company are not held personally liable for any debts incurred by the business.  

One disadvantage of this structure is that the registration of a private company is more challenging than the business structures discussed previously. Furthermore, there are a large number of legal requirements that private companies need to consistently comply with.  


Public Company: 


A public company is a form of business that allows the company to trade its stock on a stock exchange. This means that any member of the public can become a shareholder by purchasing stock. This allows this type of business structure to generate large amounts of capital from various shareholders. Shareholders in a public company have limited liability and risk is spread out amongst shareholders. 

The downside to a public company is difficult to set up and it can take a long time before the company is able to trade publicly. There are also many legal requirements that need to be met before the company can be registered. 




A franchised business structure occurs when the owner of a company licences their business to another party, allowing them to operate under the franchise’s name. Franchised businesses usually have an established reputation, with systems in place to help the business function optimally. 

This business structure is often very expensive to establish and owners have very little input into the way the business operates.  


At Booysen Accountants, we understand that the many complexities surrounding the different types of business structures in South Africa can make registering your business a daunting task. Our qualified accountants will help you to choose the right business structure for your company and aid you throughout the entire registration process. Contact us on: (012) 740 7703 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out how we can help you!