Abstract: Orientation: Corporate governance adoption and compliance are an issue augmenting in importance recently and have been extended to business enterprises of any size including small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Research purpose: This study seeks to examine the impact of corporate governance adoption on the firm competitiveness and performance of SMEs in Vanderbijlpark. Research design, approach and method: The study employs a cross-sectional research design, which employed quantitative methods. One hundred fifty-two SME owners or managers were selected from Vanderbijlpark in Gauteng, South Africa. The collected data were analysed using a structural equation modelling system by using Smart PLS software. Main findings: The principal findings of this study revealed that the implementation of corporate governance by SMEs significantly and positively affected their competitiveness and performance. Practical and managerial implications: The paper provided both practical implications and made some recommendations. Contribution or value-added: This article bridges the gap between theory and practice because it has both an economic and commercial impact in practice. It can be used in influencing public policy, teaching and research (because it contributes to the body of knowledge particularly SME corporate governance in emerging markets). An important aspect of this article is that it gives a framework for additional similar studies in other locations within emerging markets to test the generalisability of the findings. For teaching purposes, it provides a template for how to assess the link that exists between corporate governance and SME performance. Lastly, the article gives a unique empirical analysis of the relationship that exists between corporate governance compliance and performance of firms in South Africa, and thereby giving a valid contribution to corporate governance literature.