AS South Africa strives for economic recovery and inclusive growth, the role of cooperatives in our socio-economic development cannot be underestimated.
That’s according to the Chemical Industries Training Authority (CHIETA), which has invested over R1.5 million in local cooperatives this year.
“Cooperatives play a fundamental role in job creation, economic transformation and the creation of sustainable livelihoods,” said CHIETA CEO Yershen Pillay.
“Added to that, these initiatives promote community-building through open membership, democratic decision making, member economic participation, cooperative autonomy, education and training, cooperation, and concern for community.”
A cooperative is an autonomous and voluntary association of people who unite to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.
Forty trainees from various cooperatives in rural KwaZulu-Natal will soon benefit from the African Alabaster Ulundi Project, which will provide business skills development, practical experience, and mentorship ahead of a new aloe processing plant to be developed in the Ulundi area.
Aloe extract can be used for many products that benefit the community, such as skin care products. African Alabaster aims to equip rural women and youth with skills necessary to start and run their own businesses.
The main objective of this initiative is to resuscitate rural economies through promoting and growing small enterprises.
“The Aloe Ferox is one of South Africa’s industrial crops that has the capacity to create jobs. However, this will not happen without assistance and intervention to equip our people with the right skills and competencies,” said Pillay.
The KZN initiative follows successful interventions in other provinces.
Fifty beneficiaries from various cooperatives in the Phokwane Local Municipality recently underwent an Entrepreneurial Skills Programme to develop their business skills in the face of the pandemic.
“Rural communities are often overlooked for skills development, which is especially problematic as the world moves to remote business operations. Our Rural Cooperatives Support Skills Programme was catered towards helping young people learn how to run successful and sustainable businesses, with the help of remote systems for sales, marketing, administration and customer service,” said Pillay.
The initiative took four months, with a R175 000 investment.
Ten business owners under the age of 35 were given the opportunity to develop their skills in the chemicals sector, through a R430 500 investment from CHIETA.
The training initiative saw these young people receive a Chemical Operations Qualification at NQF Level 2, and has inspired further interest in the chemicals sector while also equipping young people with scarce skills.
“The initiative also provided these young people with a financial stipend, which has helped alleviate pressure on themselves and their families while the training was underway. Now, ten new chemicals entrepreneurs have entered the market.”
Pillay said CHIETA looked forward to witnessing the wider impact of these initiatives as the knock-of effects benefit local businesses, families and communities.
“By promoting and investing in cooperative skills development, we are providing people with tools for their own economic empowerment, which in turn benefits the country’s efforts towards sustainable economic development.”