On the busy corner of Rose and Strand Street in Cape Town dozens of men have gathered. Some have done this for months, others for years. Some are talking, others sit silently on the sidewalk with their arms folded over their knees. They waiting to be picked up by construction companies, or any other employer, for a day of work. “Sometimes I am lucky, sometimes I am not, but it is better than to sit at home,” one of the men says before hopping on the back of a pickup truck. “At least now we have got a chance to earn some money.”
By Miriam Mannak, Cape Town
Unemployment, together with crime, is one of South Africa’s most pressing problems. Government statistics show that unemployment has risen to 24 per cent. Of the youth, 51 per cent is unemployed.
One of the newest ideas to tackle this problem is the formation of a R29-billion job creation fund. It is expected that Finance Minister Praving Gordhan will shed some light on these plans this week.
Although the announcement of the job creation fund received a warm welcome, there was some slight criticism. Experts claim that creating jobs alone cannot solve the South African unemployment problem.
Creating tax payers
Stimulating entrepreneurship should receive more attention, they say. Enabling people to start their own business makes them productive, turns them into taxpayers, and makes them less dependent on government grants, is the general opinion . And on their turn, entrepreneurs create jobs too.
There are various initiatives that aim to boost the number of small and medium enterprises in South Africa. KickStart is one of them. This programme ran by South African Breweries (SAB), once a year, provides business training to young South Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds.
After a two-week training the participants are required to showcase their business plans during a competition. The winners are awarded with grants and more training.
Not for the fainthearted
One of the participants is 31-year old Antonio Pooe from the Sebokeng Township in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province. “Currently my company Exactech Fraud Solutions employs 24 people and we have clients from across the world, from the US to the Middle East and, of course, Africa,” he says. “I am very proud of that.”
Running your own show is not for the fainthearted, Pooe explains. “After putting together a work plan, I had to obtain the necessary funds to build a technology lab. In addition, I had to convince big corporations that this small and young business was just as good as the big firms out there.”
Keeping the business afloat was another challenge. Pooe recalls. “It's no fun when no penny comes in over a period of eight months. My values, character and commitment to the business have really been put to the test, but I kept going and succeeded.”
“I entered the KickStart programme to raise capital to buy basic tools for the forensic lab. I did not have the money for it myself. Then I won the 2007 competition and received an amount of 90.000 Rand. That was just what I needed.”
Luvuyo and Lonwabo Rani, both born in Queenstown in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province and currently residing in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha Township, also benefited from KickStart.
The brothers run a chain of township Internet cafés and computer literacy centres called Silulo Ulutho ('Bringing Value'). Their empire comprises 12 Internet cafés and 5 training centres.
'The sky is the limit'
“A couple of years ago, a shopping mall opened up in Khayelitsha. I decided to enquire about renting a space to open an Internet café. There was no Internet café in this township at the time, you see,” Luvuyo recalls. At that point he was selling refurbished computers to schools in Khayelitsha.
“In the beginning it was difficult to keep my head above the water as not many people did not know how to use computers or the Internet,“ Luvuyo says. “Things changed bit by bit when we started to organise training courses in computer literacy.”
In 2008, the Rani brothers applied for a spot in the SAB KickStart programme. “We wanted to grow but we did not have the money,” Lonwabo recalls. “We ended up wining 110.000 Rand, which enabled us to open two more shops. With the revenues, we grew bigger and bigger. Our plan is to open Internet cafes and training centres across the country. The sky is the limit.”