The National Treasury’s R9 billion Jobs Fund, which endeavors to generate 150 000 job opportunities over three years, is currently accepting applications from companies and non-governmental organisations with innovative job creation projects, stated the Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan.
Gordhan revealed to a media briefing before his Budget Vote in Parliament that the aim was to provide R2 billion in grants this financial year to those in the private sector.
These would either be in the form of matching grants, or grants where companies and organisations had dedicated a percentage of funding to the respective project.
Gordhan initially announced the master plan to establish the Jobs Fund in his Budget Speech in February.
The fund would run for three years and is administered by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
Gordhan stated his department decided to go with the DBSA to administer the fund as a result of the development bank’s footprint – which provides coverage for over 200 municipalities throughout the country along with its experience with funding community development projects.
The fund is geared towards established companies with an above average reputation and that also intend to broaden existing programmes or pilot innovative solutions to employment creation, with a unique focus on opportunities for young adults.
The precise focus is not in particular on small or micro businesses, given that the government provides other programmes that can assist entrepreneurs, including the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) for business support, Khula, Samaf, the NEF and the IDC for small business funding and the Technology Innovation Agency (Tia) for innovation funding.
Gordhan explained that the fund would concentrate on four areas, namely: enterprise development, local infrastructure development, support for work seekers and institutional capacity building.
Enterprise development includes assistance to local procurement, marketing support, equipment upgrading or enterprise franchising.
Local infrastructure development incorporated the funding of light manufacturing zones and communication links to market goods, he explained.
Support for work seekers would include establishing networks and projects that are able to provide training and career guidance, at the same time making improvements to institutional capacity would include funding internships and mentorship programmes.
The National Treasury is going to continue to monitor and assess the overall performance and sustainability of projects funded via the initiative and all projects are required to be run for at least three to five years.
Gordhan mentioned the level of urgency surrounding the country’s high level of unemployment necessitated that the country required a fresh energy and infusion in the job creation process.
He explained the fund is not going to compete with other government projects, but instead complement them.
“One hopes that this will encourage completely new forms of innovation, new forms of creativity and open new areas of job creation possibilities,” he said.
The DBSA’s investment committee will be chaired by Frans Baleni, current deputy-chairperson of the development bank and secretary general of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Baleni announced that job applications would be welcomed from today and investment would most likely target poor and rural regions.
The success of the jobs fund relied on strong co-operation between the private sector and the government, he was quoted saying.
Baleni explained the team had received directives to process application timeously. The technical team, which processes applications, would meet weekly and the investment team, which makes the final selection, would meet monthly.
“We are required to submit bi-monthly reports to the shareholder (the National Treasury), which means that there would be no time to relax,” he stated.
Brian Whittaker, chief executive of the Business Trust, who has been selected as the fund’s vice-chair, said the fund will be a bold new initiative that is going to release a degree of creativity on tackling unemployment
“There’s an opportunity here to do something innovative and that’s what excites me,” said Whitackker.
Paul Kibuuka, who heads the DBSA’s development fund, said the fund aimed to generate 150 000 jobs over three years, adding that each job funded will need to last for at least one year.
He said the fund aimed to target somewhere between 1 000 and 2 000 projects.
The closing date for the first round of applications is July 31 and a large portion of applications will be processed electronically.
Those interested, as well as applicants, can contact the Jobs Fund on 086 100 3272