Helping township businesses recover from Covid-19 pandemic-induced slump
Gauteng’s proposed Township Economic Development Bill, which was initially intended to be tabled into law in 2021, is currently undergoing public hearings. The bill is a key element of the Gauteng provincial government’s drive to change the economic geography of Gauteng.
The bill aims to create new development regulations and by-laws that will make it simpler, easier and cheaper to formalise more than 90% of informal businesses, making it easier for them to access financial and non-financial support from the government and the private sector.
In addition, the bill allows the establishment of the Township Economy Partnership Fund which is intended to attract both public and private sector resources to fund township-based businesses, particularly start-ups and small businesses that find it difficult to access funding from financial institutions.
It also creates a legal framework for government to support the development of township real estate such as turning taxi ranks into business hubs and providing infrastructure in township high streets or commercial nodes. Growing the province’s economy and creating jobs is a key focus of Gauteng’s current provincial administration as it looks to recover from the damage resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.
Even prior to the pandemic, Gauteng provided extensive support to township businesses through a public procurement policy that saw the provincial government spend more than R20bn procuring goods and services from township-based enterprises.
Speaking at the recent state of the province address, premier David Makhura revealed that a total of R5.6bn was spent on women-owned enterprises; R5.3bn was spent on youth-owned enterprises; and R470m was spent on enterprises of people living with disabilities.
In addition, supplier development training was provided for 3,198 township suppliers while 2,881 suppliers were trained on how to tender and access government business opportunities. Although many township businesses were hard hit by the impact of the pandemic, a number of inspiring stories have emerged of township entrepreneurs that have triumphed since 2020.
Many of these entrepreneurs have been incubated at the provincial government’s eKasiLabs. An extension of The Innovation Hub’s service offering, eKasiLabs, offer micro-innovation hub facilities are spread across five of Gauteng’s economic corridors.
They specialise in fostering and cultivating a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in townships by providing business development support, mentoring, a legal advisory and access to financial support, among other offerings.
In the past year alone, 56 township businesses were incubated at the eKasiLabs. To assist township businesses negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and July 2021 unrest, Gauteng and its partners established a R500m fund. R100m has been earmarked for supporting the recovery of township businesses.
Courtesy of Sowetan Live – full article here