The effective participation of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) is important for the success of the special economic zones (SEZs) programme which is an important tool for attracting strategic foreign and domestic direct investment, Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said on Thursday.
Zulu was speaking on the second day of the first National Special Economic Zones Conference that kicked off on Wednesday in Durban. The conference is hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) in partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism, and Environmental Affairs.
“The SEZ programme is an important tool for achieving government’s objectives of attracting strategic foreign and domestic direct investment in key and selected regions, creating additional industrial hubs and centres especially in previously marginalised areas with significant potential, and creating decent and sustainable jobs and thereby improving the overall quality of life. This is where small and medium enterprises play a significant role to the lives of these communities and regions,” she said.
Zulu added that the development and sustainability of the SEZs and the inclusion of SMMEs, especially local SMEs surrounding these SEZs, was one of the most important elements to the mix of government economic interventions aimed at growing the economy and creating jobs.
“We are glad to be working with the dti in ensuring that SMMEs actively participate in all our SEZs across the country and whilst we think we have done OK – we strongly believe that much more can be done to ensure the effective participation that results in sustainable job creation and skills development,” she said.
She announced that her department has recently commissioned research into opportunities for SMMEs and how challenges associated with these opportunities can be overcome to ensure meaningful participation of SMMEs within the SEZs.
She further explained that the study will be concluded and approved in June this year. The department is interacting with some of the best practices on the SEZs model, especially those in the East.
The objectives of the study include exploring international best practices regarding what are the opportunities and how these were affected for SMMEs within SEZs such as in China and Singapore, and identify the opportunities and the modality to realise these opportunities for SMMEs and co-operatives in SEZs in South Africa.
“We are also studying the specific sectors and industries that are earmarked for certain SEZs and looking at working with local and provincial government to see how best we can directly support these sectors mainly on high-end productive sectors such as manufacturing and industrialisation, automotives, agro-processing and business services in order for us to direct our support accordingly,” she said.
“We are also crowding in funding for our programmes to support local SMMEs with machinery, tools and equipment and access to funding, thereby preparing them to enter the specific supplier development programmes of companies operating in these SEZs.”
– African News Agency (ANA)