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28/11/2017

JCCI Sandton Regional Committee actively seeks inclusive projects involving Sandton and Alexandra in 2017

The year 2017 has been an active year for the Sandton Regional Committee of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI). The year kicked off with a new Chairman, Vincent Charnley and Vice Chairman, Kerry Botha, with an enthusiastic committee of seven members.

"Our aim this year was to consolidate initiatives started in 2016 and to strengthen ties with Region E city representatives in particular," Charnley said.

Because both Alexandra township and the Sandton business district sit in proximity with one another, the committee focused on initiatives that bridge both business communities, as well as those in other townships.

North meets South West

The year kicked off with the North meets South West breakfast at Sakhumzi's restaurant, in Soweto.

This initiative was aimed at bringing together Sandton corporate business representatives with township entrepreneurs from Soweto and other regions within Gauteng.

Taking the form of a business breakfast, the aim was to close the perception gap between largely northern suburb-based corporates and Soweto's entrepreneurs.

The first of these breakfasts, sponsored by First National Bank (FNB) was held in May, in Soweto.

"Soweto's economy is estimated to be around R540-billion annually and is serviced by a broad spectrum of business. The challenges entrepreneurs face here are similar to those facing all emerging entrepreneurs (township industrialists) in South Africa," Charnley said.

These challenges include lack of access to affordable skills training, mentorship, access to markets -- particularly those traditionally serviced by large corporates, as well as capital and growth constraints.

"Through these regular networking sessions, we hoped to create a better understanding among corporates of some of the difficulties that these emerging entrepreneurs face and what is required to enable them to achieve sustainable growth," he added.

"A plan to assist and help grow entrepreneurs in townships is urgently needed, otherwise we will see increased crime, impoverishment and a general breakdown in our wider society," said Sakhumzi Maqubela, founder and owner of the well-known Sakhumzi Restaurant and chairman of the JCCI in South West Region.

The event in Soweto was a resounding success with over 150 guests in attendance.

Vuleka on your phone

Vuleka is a grassroots economic development initiative focused on growing township-based businesses (both formal and informal). The brainchildof Sandton region's youth commission Brian Makwaiba and Oscar Monama, the initiative involves a mobile app, which allows bulk purchases of goods sold by township-based
businesses. The collective is thus enabled to negotiate better deals when buying in bulk. These savings are then passed on to the traders. Orders get delivered directly to them, saving them time and money. Because the app is linked to a virtual wallet, the purchases are cashless.

Since its launch in May this year, the Vuleka team is:
Now servicing 125 outlets in Alexandra comprising spaza shops and over 40 hawkers, growing from three products to 27
Looking at warehouse options, currently working from the Alex Multipurpose Centre (through the assistance of Region E Regional Director's office)
Employing four youth marketers that reside in Alex
Dealing directly with four manufacturers
When Vuleka was announced, there was great interest and coverage from the media. Alex market gardens
Lastly, the JCCI Sandton Regional Committee has been involved in assisting the City and the market gardeners in Alexandra to determine how the private sector could provide more support to the initiative.

In August, the Sandton Regional Committee and the City of Johannesburg's Region E recently hosted a workshop for the gardeners in the Marlborough Gardens community centre. The purpose of the event was to get a sense of the gardeners' needs and to see where the Chamber of Commerce could assist in establishing new markets for them.

Region E's Director Liziwe Mokoro saw the need to establish the market garden communities several years ago as a means to put open plots to use as well as create sources of income for the gardeners themselves.

"We were humbled by the gardeners' love of the land, their passion to grow and learn," said Charnley.

The initiative is currently canvasing hotels, retailers and restaurants in Sandton to see how new markets could be opened for the produce. The Sandton Regional Committee is also involved with the municipal counselor to put land, which is currently a dumpsite to use, and to work through a social enterprise to create a garden project.

"We are using this opportunity to create a prototype for all market garden projects that involve the private sector as well as liaison with the city," said Botha, who is co-ordinating the project.

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