Public, private partnerships are key to ensuring economic growth and decreasing unemployment levels.
This was the message at the Riversands SMME Incubation Hub roof wetting ceremony, held on Friday.
The event was attended by the Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Small Business Development, Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, City of Johannesburg Mayor, Parks Tau, and MEC Lebogang Maile.
The R300 million facility is a result of a 2012 partnership between the Jobs Fund and Century Property Development. The 50/50 joint venture is dedicated to the development of small and micro enterprises.
Minister Lindiwe Zulu delivering her speech, with MEC
Lebogang Maile, Minister Ebrahim Patel, City of Johannesburg Mayor,
Parks Tau and Gauteng Premier David Makhura.
Once completed the incubation hub, which is within walking distance to Diepsloot, will house up to 160 SMEs. The facility will also form part of a light industrial park which will be a source of small business suppliers.
It’s hoped that the community of Dieploot will benefit the most from the development. The township, whose dominant economic sectors are trade, manufacturing and business services, is also set to benefit from the 1 000 permanent jobs that will be created through the development primarily from the area.
Public, private partnership
Johannesburg mayor, Parks Tau in his address, said investing in and supporting SMEs was a way to confront some of South Africa’s biggest challenges such as inequality and high poverty and high levels.
“We are placing our faith on SMEs” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by Premier Makhura who said the development represented the beginning of how private business and government should be doing business.
Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu said such combined efforts were necessary if SMEs were to sustain themselves. The minister also praised the efforts of the private sector, saying it was up to government to support such initiatives particularly in training and incubation.
“We need to have proper coordinated plans across all spheres of government”, she said.
Mark Corbett, CEO of Century Property Development, said the development sought to transform the socio-economic fabric of the marginalised community.
“We are convinced that this project may be replicated in other parts of the country to stimulate the economy with the public and private sectors working hand in hand”, he said.
Stimulating the township economy
Expectations are that the Riversands project will also go some ways in bringing the township economy into the mainstream, with Premier Makhura saying it was critical to include the township economy into the mainstream if the country was to achieve socio-economic transformation.
The Premier quoted recent research by the World Bank ‘Economics of South African townships : Special focus on Diepsloot‘ that showed that the Diepsloot economy was valued at R1.8 billion but that most of that wealth was being spent outside the area to the surrounding suburbs of Sandton and Fourways.
Despite the challenges, such initiatives offered hope, he said.
“The future is bright for township enterprises and cooperatives” he said.
The Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel highlighted that the success of the economy lies in the productive sector and said that the incubator was an opportunity to bring more South Africans into the economy.
Minister Patel also stated that South Africa had to shift from a nation of borrowers and consumers to that of producers.
The next phase
The first batch of entrepreneurs is currently being assessed for inclusion in the pre-incubation programme; more than 150 applications have been received.
Once completed, the hub facility will house 450-seat auditorium, lecture halls, training rooms and a restaurant. There is also an open air auditorium which will host various music festivals and will accommodate up to 10 000 people, along with an agricultural training element to the Hub.