In a bid to secure training, experience and, ultimately, project contracts, a Nelson Mandela Bay small business organisation signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) yesterday with the South African Chinese Business Society in Port Elizabeth.
Signed at the South African Chinese Business Society offices in Newton Park, which also serves as the headquarters for the Chinese Community Police Forum, the MOU is the latest effort by the Black SMME Chamber of Business to gain access and improve its participation in the metro’s construction sector in particular.
Commonly referred to as the Metro SMME Forum, the organisation represents about 400 emerging small businesses and SMMEs, 70% of which are construction-orientated.
The organisation’s members have waged a struggle, which has seen street protests, sit-ins and construction site invasions, to gain a foothold in the Bay’s construction sector for more than two years.
Yesterday’s development represents a significant shift in the SMMEs’ approach to gaining entry into the sector.
Previously the SMMEs have pressured local government authorities, state-owned enterprises and even private sector construction companies in their efforts to secure work.
The MOU is directed at skills transfers and development and developing a multi-faceted working relationship with Chinese business and the broader Chinese community in the Nelson Mandela Bay area. It was co-signed by South African Chinese Business Society chairman Bin Wu Zhuang and forum president Baba Ningi.
About a dozen forum members witnessed the signing, which Zhuang hailed as the beginning of a long-term relationship between the two entities.
“From today we are looking forward to a long-term relationship with our community.
“We want you to be part of our family. We will do our best to share our information and resources with you [the forum],” Zhuang said.
He later confirmed that skills transfers and participation in Chinese-led projects underpinned the MOU.
Expressing excitement about the agreement, Ningi said forum members, ranging from two-man emerging entities to SMME-sized businesses, were seeking participation in massive Chinese-led projects, such as the imminent construction of the BAIC vehicle assembly plant at Coega, and involvement in future Chinese investments into the region.
“We are very pleased about this agreement and anticipate positive developments, especially around the opportunities this MOU can deliver for emerging and small businesses which have not been given a chance, since they do not meet the strict requirements demanded by the government-linked enterprises,” Ningi said.
“That we are being assisted by the Chinese business community and not our government in our own country says a lot about the challenges we are facing.”