Deputy President David Mabuza says in a bid to revitalise township and rural economies, government will introduce a new programme in the next financial year to help small business with incubation and access to markets.

He said this when he responded to oral questions in the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday.

“The Department of Small Business Development is championing the product market programme, focussing on the refurbishing and repurposing of industrial sites, as well as other municipal-owned properties in order to transform them into product markets.

“The programme is planned to commence in the next financial year and will be implemented in the Eastern Cape, North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.

The Deputy President said the product market programme will also focus on lowering infrastructure costs and also avail economic hubs that will benefit SMMEs and cooperatives, affording special priority to those owned by youth, women and persons with disabilities.

“Through the Small Enterprise Development Agency, some of these identified sites will be transformed into centres of entrepreneurship, rapid incubation and will offer access to infrastructure business support and skills to students, graduates and SMMEs for the catchment area through a structured incubation model,” he said.

The Deputy President had been asked whether, in its efforts to confront serious challenges regarding the revitalising of rural and township economies, government has considered any possibilities of identifying vacant industrial sites across the country, restored and availed them to small businesses.

Mabuza said government has prioritised the provision of business infrastructure support, including access to office space, connectivity, technology platforms that enhance innovation.

He also said government has, through its land reform programme, also prioritized the allocation of strategically located state-owned land and properties for the purpose of industrial development in order to support small businesses, especially in township and rural areas.

“Underutilized properties and industrial sites will be repurposed, revitalized for use by small businesses as part of infrastructure to support business operations.”

He said within the context of the district model, the implementation of targeted economic empowerment models must be based on the spatial mapping of industrial development opportunities of each and every district.

“This will allow for a clear focus on key economic sectors, products and market value chains that define the comparative advantage of each district.

“In all instances, it is imperative to foster local participation to promote and grow the capacity of local businesses to manufacture and supply product services.

“In practical terms, our infrastructure delivery programme must enable the development of strong local supply industries to diversify access to project development opportunities and avoid the overconcentration of participation within a few monopolies within the build environment.”

Mabuza said on the demand side, where government needs to deliver infrastructure such as human settlements, schools, hospitals and roads, procurement will focus on the empowerment of small businesses in township and rural areas to manufacture and supply construction material to government projects.

“Infrastructure project opportunities in each district will be profiled, quantified and set aside for local businesses to promote inclusive economic participation. We will have to implement a social enterprise model that maximises localisation, community empowerment and job creation.”

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