JQD MSMEs seek improved support; upbeat about government’s efforts

Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the Joe Gqabi District Municipality (JGDM) commended the ongoing efforts of government agencies operating in the district, collectively giving them an average rating of 70%.

Despite expressing appreciation, MSMEs underscored the pressing need for intensified support, echoing this call on the second day of the district’s summit held from 21 to 22 November 2023. The summit was aimed at raising awareness of the Provincial MSME Strategy, consolidating district support, identifying collaboration areas, recognising MSME contributions, and fostering cooperation.

During the summit, which covered the key sectors of the district such as agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, and construction, delegates made a declaration which among others included developing the LED Strategy, strengthening business regulations, and creating the Walter Sisulu Local Municipality (WSLM) Rural Enterprise Hub. Other commitments include establishing a One-Stop-Shop, boosting support for the creative industry, engaging youth in MSME development, collaborating with higher learning institutions for business incubation developing capacity for farmers and reducing entry barriers.

The first day of the summit featured presentations from political leaders and key institutions. Cllr Unathi Hlathuka, representing MEC for the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT), Mlungisi Mvoko, stressed the importance of prioritising engagement with non-state actors through a bottom-up approach.

Cllr Hlathuka emphasised that growth and development must be at the forefront of the government’s agenda and called for coordinated support from the government and its agencies to facilitate sectoral growth and integrated planning, aligning with the district development model.

Welcoming delegates as the hosting municipality, Walter Sisulu Local Municipality Mayor, Cllr Vania Davids, appealed for the establishment of a multipurpose enterprise hub.
Speaking on the sidelines of the summit, Mbulelo Jolingana, the Director of Enterprise Development at DEDEAT, stated that the summit aims to build an integrated MSME ecosystem for the growth and development of the business sector in the district.

A delegate representing Zakhe Youth Primary Development Cooperative from Bikizana village in Sterkspruit, under Senqu Local Municipality, Bukeka Boqwana, welcomed the summit as a significant move fostering engagement and inclusion. She also testified that she is a beneficiary of several funding instruments from various government departments and agencies.

Various development agencies, including the Eastern Cape Tourism Agency and the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), both agencies of DEDEAT; Small Enterprise Development Agency, Eastern Cape Rural and Development Agency and the National Youth Development Agency.

ECDC’s services, including the Job Stimulus Fund, Imvaba Cooperative Fund, business advice and counselling, business plan development, mentorship programmes, quality management support, marketing support, market access, intellectual property registration support and business management training, were highlighted.

With over 100 participants, including representatives from business organisations and local municipalities such as NAFCOC, Eastern Cape Chamber of Business, Farmers Association, AFSA, Lundini Local Municipality, Senqu Local Municipality, and Walter Sisulu Local Municipality, the summit underscored the significance of partnerships.

While business associations applauded the summit for its efforts to include key stakeholders, they also called for more meaningful inclusion.

Specifically, they urged the removal of barriers to entry, particularly in the agricultural sector, and advocated for improvements in funding and technical support to bolster the growth of MSMEs in the district.