Giving township operators wings
NMU launches programme to train SMME owners to become job creators and help develop the economy
Many aspirant businessmen are doing small things in their own small corners – but they could be doing so much more if they were trained and started collaborating with each other.
This is the view of one of the students in a programme that seeks to nurture innovative thinking – a process that can lead to the revival of the economy and create opportunities, especially in the informal sector.
The Nelson Mandela University Business School announced the launch of its strategic development projects at a function at its Missionvale campus on Wednesday.
The initiative aims to cultivate and support sustainable township economies by providing SMMEs with relevant training programmes, designed to develop skills and enhance business expertise for community stakeholders.
Business school director Dr Randall Jonas said at the event that the project had been a longstanding dream, but the university had been battling to get funders to help bring the initiative to the community.
The year-long programme would be a collaborative effort between academics, the government and business to stimulate sustained economic growth, Jonas said.
For this project, the business school has partnered with the national department of small business development, the Eastern Cape Development Corporation and the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber to provide the necessary support to enable recipients of the SMME training to become job creators and contributors to develop the economy.
“I believe the launch of this project will allow us to cocreate mutual success and prosperity for communities,” Jonas said.
“The SMME sector is the biggest employer worldwide.
“When we bring people into the mainstream economy as businesspeople, whether small, medium or large corporations, we need to ensure that they are sustainable and anti-fragile.
“We have seen many such cases where people break down at the first hurdle of doing business.
“We want this to be a sustained intervention, where eventually the practical side of running a business will materialise.”
Sipiwo Grootboom, a student in the programme and member of the co-operative community, said that business owners needed to grasp every opportunity to be trained and up-skilled.
“I left my business to be here today – in good hands, no doubt – but the world is changing and you have got to learn and you have to keep up.
“SMMEs should be the key drivers to address the issue of unemployment,” he said.
“Many people are doing small things, in their own small corners – imagine if all these people were trained and began to collaborate. What would that mean for the success and sustainability of their businesses?
“Industry is tough, and nobody can expect favours,” Grootboom said.
“But we need to grab any opportunity where we can learn to operate our businesses better to keep up.” Mayoral committee member for infrastructure and engineering Andile Lungisa, speaking for the office of the mayor, said the municipality fully supported the initiative.
“I am happy that the university has identified small businesses and the township economy as the anchors for the programme,” he said.
“As the municipality, our main focus is to develop our townships and the northern areas.
“Our people never fought for freedom only to sing the national anthem.
“Our people fought so that they could have a stake and control in the economy,” Lungisa said.
The first intake of beneficiaries took place at Wednesday’s launch, with further training planned for 2019. Training will take place in Missionvale.
The key mode of delivery will be the provision of short learning programmes to promote entrepreneurial behaviour and sustainability by cultivating and enhancing business, finance, marketing and costing skills.
“The majority of our people are still on the periphery,” Jonas said.
“The world has woken up to the fact that the SMME sector is the component of society where wealth creation can take place – where we can broaden economic participation and prosperity to a much larger constituency.”..