It was with great excitement, optimism and chills down my spine that i listened to the annual Budget speech of the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) delivered by Deputy Minister Bongi Maria Ntuli to the National Assembly of parliament on Tuesday 4th May 2010.
I managed to obtain a copy of the speech from her office and would like to share parts of it here. This might seem like a boring political transcript, but i trust that you will share in the optimism, hope & opportunity as presented in these excerpts. I am more than ever convinced that South Africa is the place to be for anybody with a hint of entrepreneurship inside of them - in South Africa, opportunity is everywhere!
"Honourable Chairperson, at the Seventh Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in 2009 Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank said, “The responsibility of the State is to create opportunities for people, support them, so that they can stand up for themselves’. I have every reason to agree with Professor Yunus and this is why.
On Friday past together with the Minister of Home Affairs, Minister Dlamini-Zuma, I was in Kokstad in Kwa Zulu Natal. I had the privilege of visiting a bakery run from a container by five enthusiastic young men. Led by Thembelani this group is called the Sakhakulunge Co-op Bakery.
An opportunity was created for them by the Greater Kokstad Municipality, the container was equipped but the energy and the passion to run the operation had to come from the group. The leader of the group explained, that if it was not for this opportunity, all of them may have found themselves as repeat offenders with lengthy jail terms.
Ladies and gentlemen, initiatives such as these need further support from government. The challenge facing this Co-op is what many other similar micro enterprises face. The challenge of increasing market share, the challenge of increasing capacity and the challenge of making this a sustainable enterprise.
None of the Co-op members expressed the wish that this business should make them millionaires, they wanted to use the business as a vehicle to provide their families with an education and improve their own skills, provide a healthy product, prevent other young people from doing crime by being gainfully employed, contribute to the development of this rural area and be economically active.
Ladies and gentlemen, these five young people have expressed more eloquently than any policy could, the five priorities, identified as national priorities, by our government and in our ruling party’s elections manifesto. (These priorities are: decent work, education, health,fight against crime and rural development)
Chairperson, in our pursuit not only to meet but exceed the expectations of the five priorities of government, our department has looked at methods that together with our colleagues at Provincial and to an extent local level, we can initiate during this financial year. I have also had discussions with various people from academic institutions to the private sector who are offering to assist us in meeting our developmental goals.
Ladies and gentleman I started with the story of the bakery co-operative, I said that they still have some challenges. They have received a ‘hand-up’ from the local municipality. What stops us as the DTI, pooling our resources with the Province and other agencies and even the private sector to assist Co-ops such as these and others who need often minimal assistance for example bridging funds to expand and flourish.
As a believer, it is my conviction that the development of our people, no matter how daunting the task may be, can be realized. I believe that our country has the potential we need to eradicate poverty. All we need is a leadership that is ready and capable and equal to the task to respond to the aspirations of the people. We can create a world class economy working together with everyone willing to do this.
Honourable Members, as a popular song goes, “We must make the circle bigger”, we have to broaden economic participation. We have a generation of young people out of work. We have numbers of women who are in informal business who if not provided with opportunities will never enter the economic mainstream. I am inviting young people and women to come to the fore, I am also appealing to Honourable Members to direct us to communities where we can offer support for economic activities.
Twenty years ago when former President Mandela was released from prison he re-iterated the words he said from the dock when convicted and sent to prison, “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities”. We need to provide those equal opportunities, we need to act faster, we need to act with “Umlilo”, a greater sense of urgency and passion. We have had sixteen years to practice, we now need to get it right.”
If you are thinking to yourself that this is just nice words and words don’t mean much, i want to congratulate you!
You (as the Deputy Minister knows) just realized that the government ultimately will not change South Africa.
It is up to visionary, optimistically tenacious entrepreneurs who accepts the world as it is, as an opportunity to create the world as it should be.