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Date: 15 May 2012
Title: Zuma pledges support for small business
Soweto - President Jacob Zuma says South Africa has come a long way in changing the country's townships from "labour reservoirs" into thriving economic centres but more needed to be done to strengthen technical skills and market access.
"The availability and cost of funding to small businesses is vital but not sufficient," Zuma said at the start of the International Conference on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development at the University of Johannesburg, Soweto Campus on Tuesday.
The theme of the conference, which is being hosted by the University of Johannesburg's Faculty of Management, is "Transforming townships into economic powerhouses".
"The conference comes at the most appropriate moment; it fits in perfectly with our mission as government. At the heart of our agenda is the total transformation of our country and economy," Zuma said.
He urged the small business sector to explore opportunities in the recently unveiled infrastructure plan for South Africa. There were also opportunities in the green economy with government giving the rights to install more than one million geysers across the country to small businesses.
The President acknowledged that the country needed to move with speed in addressing the structural and social economic inequalities.
"Apartheid imposed underdevelopment into the majority of black South Africans. In this second transition we have to ensure true economic emancipation. The accumulation process under apartheid confined the creation of wealth to a racial minority and imposed underdevelopment. The result is an economic structure that today, in essence still excludes the vast majority of people".
Zuma said government would continue to support policies such as Affirmative Action and Black Economic Empowerment to address the imbalances of the past. Government would be undertaking a review to ensure that Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment benefited more South African instead of the few elite that it was currently serving.
"We have said that in its current form and implementation the BBBEE has benefited only a few and has not been broad-based enough," he said.
Director of the Centre for Small Business Development at the University of Johannesburg Thami Mazwai earlier said the economic outlook of townships needed to change.
The conference would encourage "massive structural adjustments" as this was required to reverse apartheid's planning that promoted poverty in townships.
"The situation must change and these communities must become the focal point of development," said Mazwai.
Small Enterprise Development Agency CEO Hlomela Lupuwana said despite progress, the country's small business sector still faced many challenges.
"Statistics show that there are around 5.9 million medium and small enterprises in South Africa. It is for this reason that this sector requires special attention that can address issues of unemployment," she said.
Government established SEDA to promote young entrepreneurs through access to finance and business skills.
Lupuwana said if South Africa was to achieve its target of five million new jobs by 2020 it needed to support the growth of small businesses.
There were too many challenges that faced small businesses and one of them was access to market and government in particular which the biggest supplier is.
"While we believe that there is support for small business, we believe that the state as the biggest supplier should do more to support small businesses in our country." - BuaNews