When the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Africa and most economic sectors were shut down, South Africans turned to e-commerce to access basic needs like food and supplies, while schools turned to e-learning.
Participating in a debate on the State of the Nation Address during a hybrid sitting of Parliament on Tuesday, Small Business Development and Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the pandemic has showed everyone that the 4th Industrial Revolution is not still coming – it is here.
She said the economy has already gone digital and government is currently revising its guidelines and approach to connectivity.
“Our connectivity programme has to be revised from connecting health and schools to connecting homes, therefore the Department of Communications and Digital Technology is already revising the guidelines and our approach for connectivity.”
Access to affordable fast speed broadband is no longer optional – it has become a basic service like water and electricity.
Key sectors showing signs of turning around
The Minister said, meanwhile, that despite several challenges, the economy is showing some bold green shoots.
The agricultural and mining sectors continue to register quarter-on-quarter growth and this is not by accident but the deliberate actions of government.
“Early on in the management of the pandemic, we ensured that the agricultural sector continued to operate and provide food security.”
She said that when the necessary safety protocols were put in place, the mining sector was brought back to full production capacity.
“I bring this point forward because the resilience of these two sectors have emboldened the implementation of the SMME-focused localisation policy framework.
“To date, the Department of Small Business Development has introduced over 385 SMMEs and cooperatives to the value chains of large retailers and wholesalers and the majority of the products are agro-processed goods.
“In the meantime, the mining sector continues to provide business opportunities for SMMEs in the services sector and we are working with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to support the participation of SMMEs in the mining value chains including primary mining activities.”
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