Tackling economic integration tasks
IT IS IMPORTANT to reflect on the importance of building an integrated economy that would make it possible to create alignment between what business and the government are doing to develop small and medium enterprises. The need for such alignment is borne out by the fact that South Africa continues to see formidable obstacles towards development of sustainable small businesses, despite a concerted push to create a vibrant ecosystem for entrepreneurship.
The analysis of this dichotomy will be among the key areas of discussion at the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (JCCI) annual conference in Johannesburg tomorrow, as we seek ways to address some of the apparent shortcomings in how South Africa goes about trying to drive small business development, especially in the townships.
I am heartened by the support that our interventions have received in this regard from the Gauteng government, led by Premier David Makhura, who will update the conference on his plans to create an integrated economy and build entrepreneurial capacity across the province.
One often-repeated shortcoming about the development of township enterprises is the lack of a cohesive approach to help big business identify and nurture emerging enterprises that can than be capacitated through interventions, such as enterprise and supplier development.
Granted, the township economy is flourishing, but not at the level at which South Africa can make a serious dent in its unemployment. With this in mind, the JCCI’s is spearheading a series of projects to help strengthen the partnership between the private and the public sectors.
Our chamber acts as a facilitator, enabler and a platform to support the private sector in initiating measures to develop and support businesses and job-creation.
Some of the initiatives by JCCI members are listed below.
All of these are privately funded by the business sector as enterprise and supplier-development projects. Our conference will see a number of businesses provide a review of some of their enterprise-development initiatives, but here is a snapshot of some of the initiatives:
Developed as part of Growthpoint Properties’ corporate social investment programme, Property Point unlocks opportunities for SMEs operating in South Africa’s property sector.
Established in 2008, the two-year programme provides entrepreneurs with the skills, training and personal development support they need to develop their enterprises into fully independent companies that will uplift the community through job-creation.
Real procurement opportunities are unlocked by giving entrepreneurs access to Growthpoint’s supply chain, thereby ensuring a measurable impact on small business growth in South Africa.
Property Point also partners with corporates to assist them to make an impact through their own enterprise-development programmes.
By designing and/or managing initiatives on their behalf, Property Point ensures that the corporates get the best possible return on their investment.
The incubator provides SMEs with customised general business and export training, assistance in marketing and product-development, as well as ongoing mentoring and introductions to targeted clients until they reach their take-off stage. They also participate in missions and international exhibitions. Dedicated, fully-equipped office space in the JCCI building with secretarial services, computers, internet and wi-fi are made available to incubatees.
The members of the JCCI Youth Commission are engaged in negotiations with DCD Rolling Stock, Transnet engineers and other stakeholders whereby small black businesses will be trained to help the company increase its output capacity, with the ultimate aim of supplying Transnet’s needs.
By way of an example Alviva Holdings (formerly Pinnacle Holdings) with its subsidiary companies – Axiz, Pinnacle Micro, Datacentrix, Centrafin and Infrasol – have over the past five years embarked on a massive skills-development process to train the unemployed youth, offer internships and job opportunities, while continuing to up-skill their own employees.
The programmes have been experiencing significant growth on an annual basis. EOH has also embarked on a youth job-creation initiative with 702 as their media partner.
There are many other companies that are involved in similar processes.
And the JCCI calls upon all its members and stakeholders to make available their premises and facilities for internships and youth-development activities in order to address the country’s massive unemployment challenge.
North meets South West
The JCCI, in partnership with FNB, launched the North meets South West initiative, whereby big business from Sandton and the surrounding areas in the northern suburbs travel to Soweto and meet with SMEs in the south west region of Johannesburg.
The first breakfast session took place at the Sakhumzi Restaurant. The event enables small business to establish partnerships and explore supply-chain opportunities with big business.
This agricultural incubator employs the local community in sustainable farming initiatives. The farm then sells the produce to the informal sector at below-market cost. Small-scale farmers are given an opportunity to access the market and sell their produce using the established infrastructure at the Red farms facilities.
Big Box park
This project will provide low-rental secure spaces for street vendors to market their products safely and efficiently. Big Box parks are set in high foot-traffic nodes. Each centre uses a combination of retrofitted shipping-containers plus bricks and mortar.
JCCI has launched a publication, Business Focus, which is distributed in airport lounges and conference centres, chamber offices, executive offices, as well as electronically.
While the publication deals with the cutting-edge issues of our economy, it also serves as a vehicle through which the good work of the JCCI and its stakeholders is recorded and shared internationally. The publication showcases the various enterprise-development projects and the businesses of the beneficiaries.
The chamber supports these and other similar programmes as they constitute some of the key pillars of inclusive economic participation that can only be achieved by ensuring that as many as possible of our population are actively engaged and absorbed into our economy.
The Meet your Chamber First Monday initiative has become a successful intervention allowing business owners, irrespective of whether or not they are chamber members, to share the issues and obstacles to doing business.
The JCCI, together with its stakeholders, ensures that the necessary solutions are found. It also serves as an information session covering a broad range of important topics.
Trade activities have been arranged with different countries. The JCCI with the Gauteng government hosted the president and high commissioner of Namibia late last year. A business delegation to Namibia followed for the official launch of the Invest in Namibia programme in December, 2016. The programme seeks to enhance trade between South Africa and Namibia.
There has since been a B2B follow-up session in South Africa in April, 2017 with some 100 companies participating, resulting in a significant number of contracts and partnerships.
The process is ongoing. There are similar engagements with Asean countries, Russia, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Taiwan, Turkey and Peru, to mention a few. Ernest Mahlaule is president of the JCCI. Visit www.jcci.co.za for more information.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura is expected to provide the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry conference with an update on his plans to create an integrated economy and build entrepreneurial capacity across the province.