CAPE TOWN, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says one billion Rand (about 71.1 million US dollars) will be allocated to the newly announced fund for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as the government makes a push to empower small businesses, especially those in the townships.

Responding to oral questions in the National Council of Provinces (upper House of the South African Parliament) here Wednesday, he said: As was announced in the [Medium Term Budget Policy Statement] by the Minister of Finance last week, a new fund for small business and innovation will be established which will be allocated 1.0 billion Rand in 2019/20. The National Informal Business Upliftment Strategy is also available to help township enterprises upgrade their business activities."

Ramaphosa had been asked whether the government has developed a nationally co-ordinated assistance to young entrepreneurs with business initiatives. He was also also asked whether the government would develop a national township growth strategy in order to curb the increase in unemployment in townships.

He said the government providds financial support to youth-owned businesses through the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA), the National Empowerment Fund and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). Over the past financial year, the IDC approved 2.3 billion Rand in funding to youth empowered businesses, which are those with more than 25 per cent youth equity ownership.

Last year, SEFA reported that it approved funding of 222 million Rand to over 10,000 youth-owned businesses, showing that the focus is on helping to empower youth-owned businesses. Much is being done to empower the youth and also to develop township enterprises," Ramaphosa said.

However, given the legacy of apartheid planning and the dire extent of youth unemployment, there is still much that needs to be done and what also needs to be done is to improve the business skills, the entrepreneurial knowledge of young people in the townships, in the rural areas and we are embarking on a number of other initiatives of setting up incubation centres that are going to help young people to become more proficient."

The Deputy President said, meanwhile, that many township entrepreneurs were and still are excluded and restricted from opportunities in the major commercial centres of the country having being relegated to being small business players in the townships and in the rural areas.

He said township entrepreneurs have not yet really found opportunities that can truly empower them and the government is determined to reverse this. We are already implementing key elements of a strategy to boost township enterprises, to increase the involvement of South Africans in the economy as well as to expand opportunities for our people through SEFA," he said.


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