Bizniz in a Box programme seen helping fight unemployment, xenophobia
Sixty-six youths from Matjhabeng local municipality will receive spaza shops and stock worth more than R4 million under what is undoubtedly one of the most innovative public-private partnership programmes to combat unemployment by turning jobless young people into entrepreneurs.
The programme that is still in its pilot phase is so far being implemented in Matjhabeng’s Kutloanong, Thabong and Meloding areas.
But Premier Ace Magashule yesterday said the scheme shall be extended to all parts of the Free State as the government seeks to boost growth of grassroots-based small, medium and micro enterprises.
The premier said the spaza or tuck shop business development scheme that is known as Bizniz in a Box was also a means to stop xenophobia. Instead of burning down and looting foreign-owned spaza shops, young South Africans will now be trained and equipped to compete with the immigrants fairly on the market, he said.
“Young people have to stop complaining (and instead) wake up and do things for themselves. They will need to outsmart foreign nationals in running spaza shops in their communities instead of fighting them. They must have strategies of attracting consumers and be able to sell their products,” said Magashule.
The premier was speaking at the Sipho Mutsi Indoor Sports Centre in Kutlwanong Township, Odendalsrus, moments after he officially launched the pilot phase of the programme by handing over a large cargo container converted into a spaza shop to one of the youths.
The rest of the youths will get their new shops soon, while all of them received certificates after successfully completing a training programme to equip them with the skills they need to run their new businesses.
Beverage maker Amalgamated Beverage Industries (ABI) and the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation are partnering the provincial government in the youth empowerment programme.
ABI managing director Velaphi Ratshefola said with the skills that the youths received during a rigorous training programme that last three-months, they will be able to not only survive but excel even against the foreigner traders who are renowned for their shrewdness when it comes to running spaza shops.
Ratshefola said: “It is not in anyone’s interest to stab, kick or destroy foreigners’ shops but I want to see you out-box them in running the business.
“I believe that through the training and skills young people have acquired during the past three months (they) will become better business people in our communities.”
Magashule said with the government looking to intensify the programme and train more youths across the Free State to combat unemployment among young people in the province, it would have to rope in more private sector players to work with and not just rely on ABI alone.
The government, which has made SMME development one of the central planks of its economic development policy, was looking to not only train and grow new spaza shop owners but to also train even those already in the business to make them better entrepreneurs.
The premier said: “Many of these young people across the province need training and marketing skills that will help them to start their own businesses. However, when we implement it across the province, it might not be ABI alone because we will now involve (more private sector partners) and the National Youth Development Agency.”
In a write up on the programme, the department of economic, small businesses development, tourism and environmental affairs (Destea) said during training candidates participate in a National Qualifications Framework Level 2 accredited programme.
To qualify a participant must submit a portfolio of evidence “including a marketing plan, and basic financial principles (i.e. income statement, budget, pricing and managing stock, and cash flow management).”
There are plans to set up 10 000 Bizniz in a Box spaza shops across the Free State, with 2 500 of the ventures owned by youths, according to the department.
Destea MEC Sam Mashinini said the project to grow small scale businesses is a direct response to the challenge of increasing youth unemployment in the face of lack of alternative means for the youngsters to generate income and earn a living.
Mashinini said: “Unlike many initiatives that only provide skills to the youths and leave it to them to seek employment or other means to generate income, this initiative aims to complete the training cycle by immediately providing a retail outlet in a container as an opportunity to the participating youth.”
Kelebohile Mabote, one of the youths set to benefit from the Bizniz in a Box project, said the scheme will help her fend for her family, while her neighbourhood will benefit from a professional service from her spaza.
“I joined the programme to help improve the welfare of my family and that of the community around by providing them with quality products they need on daily basis,” Mabote said.
She was confident that xenophobic attacks that have occurred in the past as local township traders fought their more successful immigrant competitors could be easily a thing of the past with more training given to locals under the new scheme.
At 31.5 percent the Free State has the second highest unemployment rate after the Northern Cape which has a rate of 34.8 percent, according to Statistics South Africa.
It is an unpleasant statistic that the new Bizniz in a Box initiative could do much to change.