Thank you very much for this opportunity to address the student body and indeed the University of KwaZulu-Natal on this important occasion of the launch of the BRICS Student Commission and Women Entrepreneurship.
Only a few months ago in August, South Africa played host to a significant section of the world when we hosted the 15th BRICS Heads of State Summit in Gauteng. Hosted under the theme “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism”.
Over the past 30 years our successive democratic governments under the ANC have managed the growth and development of a country with first-world economic infrastructure, a growing open economy with diversified sectors and industries trading freely with the world.
Despite the many challenges, South Africa remains a premier destination for domestic and international investment, with close to 200 of the Fortune Global 500 companies having a footprint in the country. Our resources have served as a base for industrial growth and exports supported by sophisticated banking and finance, technical skills and state supported innovation pioneered by the private sector.
REFLECTING ON THE SA INVESTMENT CONFERENCE AND STATE OF BUSINESS
As government reminded the world at South Africa Investment Conference in April this year, the Global Innovation index ranks South Africa number one in innovation in Africa. South Africa’s is also fast becoming a technology hub in Africa and has a growing ecosystem in the tech sector ranging from technical expertise to finance support for entrepreneurs.
Our Ministers and Premiers told the investor community that we also have one of the youngest in Africa, most energetic young people who are ready and willing to learn and to grab every opportunity offered to them.
This is borne further by the 2023 State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa survey which found our small business owners to “have no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit and grit with most building multiple businesses without help”. The survey also points to challenges standing in the way of growth in 2023 as being “lack of access to funding and the impact of ongoing load shedding.”
The UNCTAD Entrepreneurship Policy Framework for South Africa in August this year outlining five pillars that together, may constitute a national entrepreneurship strategy. UNCTAD posits that if properly supported, SMMEs have major “transformative power” which can be used to implement the sustainable development goals. “MSMEs and entrepreneurship in South Africa cannot be understated due to their potential in addressing societal challenges, contributing to innovation, the energy transition and higher employment figures.”
This spirit is well captured in the thrust of our National Development Plan 2030 which at its adoption in 2012, identified SMMEs and entrepreneurship as instruments for socio-economic goals in South Africa.
As a result of government action directly and indirectly, the UNCTAD report notes that from 2013 to 2019, the formal business sector increased turnover by 50 per cent, representing an average annual growth rate of 07 per cent. In that period SMMEs increased turnover by 8 per cent per year, and large businesses by 5. “Small businesses therefore seem to lead the pack, recording an increase of 12 per cent per year over the same period.”
The report also notes that in 2021, there were more than 700 tech start-ups in the country, corresponding to approximately $241 million with Kenya and Egypt respectively second and third.
Here is the challenge, however. We have noted over the years, that we are not creating jobs at the rate that is necessary to address the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
AGRICULTURE AS AN EXAMPLE OF INDUSTRY WITH POTENTIAL
In this regard we are at one with many studies that indicate that we are yet to exploit the potential of SMMEs to create work and to resolve unemployment. One of the sectors identified in the NDP 2030 is agriculture, an economic activity capable of pushing back the frontiers of poverty, decrease unemployment and reduce inequality.
Each October the Province launches the Multi-Planting Season to assist the resource-poor farmers to participate in the mainstream economy of our province. The plan is to develop vast tracts of underutilized agricultural land, increase production by providing comprehensive land preparation inclusive of production inputs and mechanization.
This year the province will is planting over 20 000 hectares benefiting 9003 farmers. As we increase food production, through Radical Socio-Economic Transformation (RASET) the farmers are linked to markets so that the reduction of food insecurity and poverty leads to the commercialization of smallholder farmers. One of our objectives is to promote entry and participation of women (who are the majority of beneficiaries) youth, people with disability and Military Veterans in food production and enterprise development.
CANNABIS – AN INDUSTRY HIGH ON POTENTIAL
Allied to this thrust, in October this year the Cannabis Conference and Expo was held in Bergville, defining a significant moment in the agriculture and agro-processing sectors as opportunities were identified to bring in local communities into the value chain. The cannabis and hemp sector are virtually unexplored in our province and holds huge potential to create jobs and promote entrepreneurship. I would like to use this opportunity to invite those interested in entering the world of business, to look at these and other sectors as areas of further exploration.
We have learnt from Prohibition Partners, that the African cannabis market could be worth up to $7.1(over R120 billion) in 2023, with medicinal cannabis accounting for $1.6 billion and recreational cannabis for $5.5 billion. In the province it is estimated that the local cannabis industry has a potential value of R107 billion of value waiting to be unlocked.
Through the KZN Cannabis Masterplan government is playing a leading role to support SSMEs and other players enter this industry. Under our district-based capacity building programmes together with the KZN Cannabis Association we will make not one of our entrepreneurs is left behind.
HIGHLIGHT OF PROGRAMMES FOR YOUTH EMPLOYMENT
Programme Director, may I also take this opportunity to highlight a few programmes and to point you in the direction of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) which under the Unemployed Graduates Programme, now has a cohort of 340 graduates undergoing a two-year programme.
In March this year 246 Diploma and Learnership Students graduated from Cedara College and the Owen Sithole College of Agriculture many of whom are now employed. This year 331 students are enrolled at Cedara and Owen Sithole College of Agriculture.
Amongst other job creation programmes coordinated by the province are the following: -
Job Preparedness Programme, Mock Interviews & Entrepreneurial / Business Information Sessions to capacitate unemployed graduates with various skills including scarce skills and others.
The Youth Empowerment Fund - On 06 September 2023, 60 beneficiaries of the Fund were awarded R90million towards starting or expanding their businesses. Another window will be opened in the 2024/25 financial year for the Youth to grab such opportunities and have sustainable businesses.
The S’thesha Waya Programme was launched and over 80 000 young people are in the process of being absorbed into the system. Over 400 employees have received their appointment letters from the MEC.
Zibambele, a woman headed household programme has trained and employed 39 000 rural women in road works, including grass and verge maintenance. The Department has since increased the stipend from R850 to R1 000 and exit plans will focus on the maintenance of rural/gravel roads.
The Vukayibambe Routine Road Maintenance programme (VRRM) is an empowerment programme for youth between 18- 35 years. Currently, there are 6 000 people employed across all districts in KwaZulu-Natal who received accredited training thus enhancing future employability or business entry. They are working on pothole patching, road marking, grass cutting and other maintenance work.
Road Traffic Inspectorate Trainees – As part of S’thesha Waya the Department of Transport is filling critical posts and recruited 200 trainee RTI Officers. They assumed training at the RTI College on the 1st October 2023 and will be deployed to various RTI stations in the province.
National Youth Services – there are 1 600 young people receiving training and stipends and the majority are participating in the Welisizwe Bridge programme coordinated by the National Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and the South African National Defence Force.
The Dunlop programme - KwaZulu-Natal Province in partnership with Dunlop and Sumitomo Rubber South Africa invited young entrepreneurs from KwaZulu-Natal to apply for funding to participate in the tyre services programme. The programme is worth R20 million and is expected to create 90 job opportunities throughout the province targeting years 18 and 35, in the following sectors: tyre-related services: wheel balancing, wheel alignment, wheel changing and other services.
The Government Garages/Auto Service hubs programme aims to unlock automotive industry opportunities. The Pilot Programmes are in uMgungundlovu/uMsunduzi and eThekwini Metro targeting Township/Urban areas. The pilot is set to create at least 250 jobs for the two Districts.
Skills Development Centres
The Department of Social Development has developed skills centres in 8 Districts with the other two District still in implementation phase. Through a 3-year partnership agreement the Department has signed with the NYDA, all beneficiaries of structured skills development programmes in our Youth Centres/Academies undergo business management training with the view of encouraging them to be entrepreneurs.
The Human Settlement Internship Programmes Graduate Internship Programme equips unemployed graduates with necessary skills, knowledge, values and work experiences in order to improve their chances of employment within and outside the Public Service.
MOVING INTO A SMART KZN
As part of a SMART KZN the Provincial ICT Summit for ICT was held recently at the Durban Exhibition Centre under the theme “Moving towards a SMART province” in partnership with Vodacom to establish Public Private Partnerships focusing on the Fourth Industrial Revolution” and Cyber Awareness and to drive the province into the 4th Industrial Revolution. During the State of the Province Address we announced that the Coding and Robotics curriculum is being implemented in 26 out of the targeted 33 schools at foundation phase, and at 211 schools for the Intermediate Phase (Grade 7).
Working with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies and its entities the province is extending services in the province through the Broadband Access Funds under the Presidential Employment Stimulus with National Treasury having approved funds for the roll-out of digital infrastructure in districts of Amajuba, iLembe, uMkhanyakude, Zululand, King Cetshwayo, uMgungundlovu and uMzinyathi.
FOCUSING ON DEVELOPING SKILLS IN THE PROVINCE.
As intimated above, KwaZulu-Natal and indeed the whole of South Africa is teeming with opportunities in many other sectors outside of agriculture. This includes in ICT, the Aerospace and Aviation, Maritime, the Green Economy, the Oil and Gas industries, and other manufacturing industry value-chains. The Human Resource Development Council, a collaboration between government and the private sector is driving a process to develop skills that bare needed by the industry.
Programme Director, the world of students is a place of creativity and from which the future of countries depends. Your cohort of students stand on the cusp of history having lived through a democratic order, Climate Change, the Floods and Covid-19, the World Cup victory of the Springboks and Trevor Noah, Black Coffee and Tyla. All these developments demonstrate that even though it may be fuzzy today, a bright future is in your hands. As students keep probing for answers to the question of our time, keep asking to find out, but dreaming and questioning alone does not accomplish dreams, doing does.
May I take opportunity to congratulate you as the student body and the university of KwaZulu-Natal on this giant step of launching the BRICS Student Commission. On behalf of the provincial government we wish you well and look forward to working together in the future to build a better KwaZulu-Natal and a better world.