In many parts of rural South Africa, poverty is the defining feature. Eastern Cape Province is the poorest of all. Through major EU-funded economic development programmes, we are helping people in some of the deprived provinces to improve their lives by starting their own businesses.
Project Director Keith Cook takes up the story: "These EU funded projects are aimed at job creation and promoting economic development in places where that wasn’t well understood. The first one was in KwaZulu-Natal, where unemployment was running at 39%. Known as Gijima, it involved funding local projects that would create sustainable jobs as well as building the capacity of local government to manage economic development.
"The project’s €37m funding prioritised agriculture, with a particular emphasis on creating employment for women. We based ourselves in the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism, and initially worked with a team of international consultants and South Africans. As soon as they were ready, we appointed the South Africans into leadership roles. Many of them later went on to work for the provincial government."
Building on success
Initially implemented in four communities, using local media to call for project proposals that would help create jobs, reduce unemployment and improve the quality of people’s lives, Gijima was then rolled out in the rest of the province. Its success led to WYG winning another project, known as Thina Sinako – which means ‘we can do it’ – in Eastern Cape Province, the poorest in the country.
WYG International’s Managing Director, in South Africa, Varsha Ramballey, takes up the story: "Thina Sinako was aimed at funding people who had great ideas but no money to put them into action and was designed to move people up from a subsistence lifestyle to business. It was specifically aimed at entities, not individuals, and different levels of funding depended on whether a great idea already had a business plan or not."
"We not only helped the province set up and train support teams, the first of their kind in South Africa, but also worked with applicants to strengthen their proposals. As a result we’ve helped start up a number of great businesses."
"For example, there’s a collective of 300 women who have a factory out in a deep rural area making uniforms and other clothes. There’s also now a business growing and processing vegetables to feed school children who don’t have enough to eat at home."
As with Gijima, the project team also gave technical support to help local government develop policies that would stimulate economic growth. In addition to funding business projects, the programme’s €38m funding was also used to pay for training and advice on how to create credible local development strategies and engage stakeholders, as well as helping to create partnerships between government departments and the private sector.
Delivering tangible outcomes
Thina Sinako has been a major success. Within three years it had funded 46 projects that created many jobs. It also supported 59 local partnerships and 10 financial institutions.
Keith Cook concludes: "Throughout the programmes we encouraged learning by providing web access to information and case studies, and through formal and informal meetings and conferences as well as ongoing networking."
“WYG played a pivotal role in counterpart development of key Provincial Government Departments. This has resulted in a tangible enhanced capacity of such Provincial Departments, local government and participating public institutions to design and manage complex, multifaceted LED grant schemes.”
Bulelewa Nqadolo, Chief Financial Officer, Eastern Cape Provincial Treasury