21 June 2012
South Africa’s Gauteng province has begun construction of a R58-million township Automotive Hub in Winterveld, one of the province’s poorest areas, to help turn the tide of unemployment among young South Africans.
The hub will give an opportunity to 17 cooperatives within the surrounding community, which will be provided with free training and support in the automotive sector as well as equipment at the hub’s site.
The hub is aimed at the unskilled and semi-skilled, and will be linked to the Rosslyn automotive sector.
Construction on the site began on Thursday, with the hub expected to be fully operational within a year.
Formalising township businesses
“There are many people who are doing auto mechanics in their backyards,” Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said at the sod-turning ceremony on Wednesday. “We want to formalise them; let them be integrated in the formal economy.
“We are tapping on what already exists,” Mokonyane said. “We are providing an opportunity that is organised, that is linked to the formal economic sector and, most importantly, we are going to make sure that their businesses are supported in terms of the supply chain. They will be able to be linked to the private sector and various companies.”
Mobile giant MTN had signed up to be a partner on the project, the Premier said, while the Consumer Goods Council had also been approached.
The overall project, the first of its kind in the country, will focus on the automotive sector, but will also include several other support sectors, with two more township hubs, an Enterprise Hub and an Industrial Hub, in the pipeline.
The total budget for the project, including all three hubs, is over R100-million.
‘Entrepreneurship is the way to go’
Mokonyane said it was important for the people of Winterveldt to feel that they were part of a democratic dispensation. The initiative “may not be a solution to everything, but it’s an intervention [tackling] some of the real challenges,” she said.
The province was also looking at formalising car washes in communities. The Premier said she believed that entrepreneurship was an important part of the long-term solution to unemployment in South Africa.
“Entrepreneurship is the way to go, so that you don’t create a sense of dependency.”
Gauteng Economic Development MEC Qedani Mahlangu, also speaking at Wednesday’s sod-turning, said the hub would give young people skills, adding that the first group of cooperatives would receive assistance for a period of between 18 to 24 months, after which other cooperatives will be identified .
“These cooperatives that are starting here, they are not the only people benefiting from this,” Mahlangu said. “In about two-years’ time … another group must come in.
“We’ll give them the head-start, and when we’re sure that they’re ready to go on their own, they’ll be required to look for their own premises where they can operate.”
Encouraging young people to form cooperatives
According to Mohapi Molaoa, project manager for cooperatives at the Gauteng Economic Development Department, the department is encouraging young people to form cooperatives.
In the process of selecting cooperatives, the department would engage ward councillors or community development workers to help them identify people, Molaoa said.
In the case of the Winterveldt’s Automotive Hub, the councillor’s office as well as business associations had been engaged, and some of the cooperatives had already been identified.
“As long as you’re young, willing to go into entrepreneurship, and you are sector-specific, people will be considered,” Molaoa said.
The Automotive Hub will also sport an internet cafe and an art and craft shop, as well as provide car-spraying services, among others.
The National Youth Development Agency’s Gauteng chairperson, Simon Molefe, said the hub spoke to economic freedom as well as to formalising township businesses.
Resident Vincent Mabhusha said he was happy with the creation of the hub as it would create much-needed opportunities for the youth.