The South African government is committed to supporting cooperative enterprises owned by young people, especially women and people living with disabilities. However, for this commitment to bear fruit, it is necessary for the national government to work together with local municipalities and the communities where these cooperatives are based.
This is the view of Small Business Development deputy minister Rosemary Capa, who this week visited various cooperatives in KwaZulu-Natal as part of the national ‘Siyahlola’ programme.
Capa joined the deputy minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Nomalungelo Gina who was on a mission to assess the progress of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Programme, Revitalisation of Industrial Parks programme and sector-specific Master Plans.
Gina and Capa visited Elihle Mgazi Cooperative, a youth-owned cooperative based in Verulam that was said to have benefitted from the Job Fund Informal Programme and the eThekwini Municipality Clothing and Textile SME Programme.
The cooperative, which is a Cut-Make-Trim (CMT) factory, provides textile services for large retailers Fashion World and Kingsgate Clothing.
The company also manufactures school uniforms, traditional dresses, tracksuits and beads. Co-founder of the cooperative, Nelisiwa Manukiza said that the cooperative plans to strengthen its partnership with retailers by developing brand awareness.
“Part of our vision is to create a formidable company that will create employment opportunities within the community, thereby helping to solve the problems of unemployment and poverty,” she said.
“We have formed various partnerships in order to grow the company and we are under the mentorship of the Project Preparation Trust.”
According to Gina, this is aligned with the commitments made on the South African Retail-Clothing, Textile, Footwear and Leather (R-CTFL) Value Chain Masterplan 2030.
“We will be envisaging a situation where cooperatives and SMMEs are supported to participate in the entire Clothing and Textile value chain: growing of fibres such as cotton, Aloe Vera, banana, pineapple, hemp, and the manufacturing of fibre, yarn and fabric which can be inputted into the textile industry,” Capa said.
“Municipalities and traditional leadership are commanding a lot of land and facilities which can be released for growing these fibres as well to assist the SMMEs to access spaces for factories.”
Gina said that women, youth and people with disabilities, especially those who are in business, are priorities of the government.
“This successful factory is a case study that must be used to encourage young entrepreneurs to start businesses in the clothing and textile sector to create much-needed jobs,” she said.
“It is exciting that the owners of the cooperative are all under the age of 30.
“This is an indication that the youth are eager to start their own businesses and explore new ventures,” she said.