New co-ops support agency to open doors

A new Co-operatives Development Agency, and Co-operatives Training Academy, will open soon, says the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Elizabeth Thabethe.

Speaking at the DTI’s national SMME Summit, Thabethe said that these institutions, together with a Co-operatives Tribunal, will help develop the sector.

Further details are sketchy at this stage, but it is likely that the new agency will operate on a similar basis to Seda, with a focus on co-ops.

The training academy will come as a welcome service for many co-op members who require business training.

Government is looking closely at resuscitating “the old industrial parks and business hives, to provide for suitable business infrastructure for small businesses – many of these spaces are lying idle.”

If these are re-established and refurbished, they will create a new network of business premises ideal for small manufacturing companies.

Another possible support measure that was hinted at is the development of a small business credit rating system outside of the financial services industry.

“The lack of credit data, or what is called credit information asymmetry, remains a real constraint for SMME funding.

“We need to find ways so that SMMEs are not always burdened by bad credit records and then finding it unable to ever secure funding,” she says.

Thabethe had harsh words for some township entrepreneurs: “The scourge of South Africans in townships selling and renting their businesses to foreigners unfortunately does not assist us as government in our efforts to support informal businesses.

The DTI is working on a new informal business strategy that will go a long way to support township businesses.”

“A programme to promote bulk buying, and the re-skiling and upgrading of township retailers and support of backyard mechanics and spraypainters, for example, is envisaged to enhance the growth and sustainability of township and rural businesses,” she said.

She says small businesses who are unfairly blacklisted can approach the DTI for assistance.

The MEC for Economic Development for Mpumalanga, Mrs Pinky Phosa, said the unemployment rate in the province was 29.4% and that the poverty rate was 39.4%.

“We have a sizeable task ahead, with 70% of our population under the age of 35.

“We need more small businesses so that we can grow by 5 to 7% per annum, so that we can make in impact,” she said.

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