The Informal Economy Development Forum (IEDF) was launched on Wednesday to improve the business, labour, and regulatory environment in which informal businesses operate. IEDF chairperson David Venter said that South Africa’s 5.2 million informal workers would benefit from the forum, which was set up to drive growth within the sector, support informal economy workers, and function as the conduit between the government, corporate South Africa, and the informal economy.
The launch was attended by organisations and trade unions including Cosatu, the SA Informal Traders Alliance (SAITA), Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development, the Trade Union of Musicians of SA, and the South African Women in Mining Association. The IEDF is set to focus on six areas that concern informal traders, the informal economy and its labour force, and legislation.
They include the formalisation of the informal economy, and working with the government, labour, formal businesses, and civil society to drive an inclusive economic transformation agenda for informal workers and businesses. Other key areas are youth employment, developing training programmes to drive effective and professional labour practices within the informal economy, and facilitating education, skills development and social protection of informal workers and businesses.
“The informal economy represents one-third of all employment in South Africa, and is a critical economic incubator for both job creation and entrepreneurship, yet it receives very little support from government and the formal economy, and it is exactly what we are aiming to change,” Venter said. “A strong informal sector that is central to the economic development goals of our country is also important for alleviating poverty and joblessness, and for embedding a culture of inclusive and sustainable growth.
“People who run informal or micro businesses are inherently motivated to succeed. They are hardworking initiative-takers who with the appropriate training, skills development and business environment, can play a larger, more valuable role in the economy.”SAITA has applauded the launch of the forum.
“Recognising that the informal economy is a key economic player that needs to be protected and supported, we are proud to be part of the IEDF, working together to improve the business, labour and regulatory environments of South Africa’s 5.2 million informal workers,” it said. SAITA has been pressuring the government to recognise the informal economy as a “special needs” sector.
The informal economy includes street traders, vendors, home-based workers and backyard traders. It wants them to have improved access to opportunities and finance.