RURAL and township economies was put under the spotlight on Tuesday when the Minister of Small Business Lindiwe Zulu was in Nelson Mandela Bay for a Small, Medium and Micro-Sized Enterprises (SMME) stakeholder summit.
Adressing SMMEs at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Zulu said that her department had recognised the importance of the revival of township and rural economies.
The minister said that government was aware that small businesses and co-operatives found it difficult to flourish in underdeveloped areas such as townships and rural communities due to a lack of adequate investment and infrastructure.
“The strategy of developing township and rural enterprises is coordinated by my department with the support of the Department of Economic Development and Rural Development and Land Reform as well as Provincial Departments of Economic Development.”
“This strategy is aimed at intensifying government’s support to township enterprises to ensure their sustainability and competitiveness,” said Zulu.
Zulu added that a National Informal Business Upliftment Strategy sought to create an enabling legal and regulatory environment, providing financial and non financial support.
“In partnership with the Wholesale and Retails SETA, we shall upscale the Informal Traders Upliftment Project through which we are currently piloting the provision of skills and infrastructure support to 1,000 informal traders nationally.”
“Fifty million Rand has been allocated for the roll-out of the Shared Economic infrastructure Facility and support for informal businesses generally,” she said.
Zulu said that the department was committed to creating a conducive environment, making it easy for small businesses. She added that the future of township economic development should be driven by residents themselves in partnership with outside investors.
“The wealth of the country needs to be distributed, but black business must not sit in a corner and wait for the wealth..find out about the oceans economy, use your cellphone and google it,” said Zulu.
She added that the department was still struggling to deliver 30 percent of tenders set aside for the small business sector.
The Minister further noted that the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality was known as an economic powerhouse in the Eastern Cape, but despite this, poverty and inequality still prevailed in many parts of the province.
Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, Bicks Ndoni, said that there was a “sea of unemployment” in the metro.
“The Eastern Cape province is seen to be the poorest in the country. The municipality spent billions in our budget, we put aside a lot of money and there needs to be a structured approach where those billions benefit SMMEs in the metro,” said Ndoni.
Ndoni added that the municipality wanted to see township businesses thriving where people could “wake up and work where they live.”
During a question and answer session, a local SMME representative said that her hope had been restored where previously she felt like she had lost faith in becoming anything in South Africa.
“There are no proper structures for SMMEs to be sustained. I lost my car, my home and my dignity. Why are the doors completely closed for us? Why am I never given a chance to present? I have written to the MEC, I have driven to Bisho many times, I have a project that has the potential to create 20,000 jobs but I am turned away,” she said – ANA