20 June 2012

South Africa: Automotive Hub Hopes to Make a Dent in Unemployment

Winterveldt — Gauteng's newly launched Automotive Hub hopes to turn the tide of unemployment among the youth in the province.

"This is part of interventions to some of the challenges. It may not be a solution to everything but it's an intervention to some of the real challenges," Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said on Wednesday.

The Premier was speaking at the launch of one of the Township Enterprise Hubs focusing on the automotive sector. The Automotive Hub is the first of three such initiatives in the province, designed to stem the tide of youth unemployment, and will be followed by the Enterprise and Industrial Hubs.

The R58 million Automotive hub, to be based in Winterveldt, one of the province's poorest areas, will give an opportunity to 17 cooperatives within the surrounding community which will be provided with free training and support in the automotive sector as well as equipment at the hub's site.

The project, the first of its kind in the country, will focus on the automotive sector, but will also include several other support sectors. To date, said the Premier, MTN has signed up for the project while the Consumer Goods Council has also been approached.

According to the premier, construction of the site will kick off tomorrow. "We believe that within a period of a year, this project will be functioning," she said, after the sod-turning event.

The hub is aimed at those who are unskilled and the semi-skilled. As to how the hub will operate, Mokonyane said: "There are many people who are doing auto mechanics in their backyards. We want to formalise them;, let them be integrated in the formal economy."

The hub would be linked to the Rosslyn automotive sector.

"We are tapping on what already exists. We are providing an opportunity that is organised, that is linked to the formal economic sector and most importantly we are going to make sure that their businesses are supported in terms of the supply chain. They will be able to be linked to the private sector and various companies," she said.

The province was also looking at formalising car washes in communities. The Premier said she believed that entrepreneurship was an important component to a long term solution to unemployment. "Entrepreneurship is the way to go, so that you don't create a sense of dependency."

It was important for the people of Winterveldt to feel that they were part of a democratic dispensation.

"[The hub] will skill young people," Gauteng Economic Development MEC Qedani Mahlangu said, adding that the "pathfinder" cooperatives will receive assistance for a period of between 18 to 24 months after which other cooperatives will be identified .

"These cooperatives that are starting here, they are not the only people benefiting from this. In about two-year's time, they must get out and another group must come in. It's got to be like that because our expectation is that they are not going to be permanently based here. We'll give them the head-start and when we're sure that they're ready to go on their own, they'll be required to look for their own premises where they can operate," explained Mahlangu.

The total budget for the project, including all three hubs, was over R100 million.

"It is about increasing levels of economic activity and to ensure that young people are doing productive things," said the MEC.

The hub will also have a sport and an internet caf,, an art craft shop as well as provide car-spraying services, among others.

National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) chairperson in Gauteng Simon Molefe said the hub spoke to economic freedom as well as to formalising township businesses.

Resident Vincent Mabhusha said he was happy with the creation of the hub as it would create much needed opportunities for the youth.

South Africa's unemployment rate currently stands at 25.2%, of which a majority of the figure represents unemployed youth.

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