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Transnet, Wits launch support centre for local SMMEs

CREAMER MEDIA / 6 NOVEMBER 2017 / ANINE KILIAN

In partnership with the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), State-owned railutility Transnet on Monday launched the R62-million Matlafatšo Centre, which aims to assist aspiring entrepreneurs and small, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMMEs) to explore and test their products before accessing the market.

Speaking at the launch in Johannesburg, Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama said that the centre would facilitate the transfer of skills and provide small businesses with access to research and development facilities “for young businessminds”.

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He added that the centre would try to address the country’s entrepreneurial skills shortages through innovation, research and development.

“We are expecting to see great and disruptive ideas coming out of this centre. The investment should be used as a springboard for young people to catch up with other leading countries when it comes to research, innovation and technology,” he said.

Gama further noted that the centre’s knock-on effects would hopefully have an impact on unemployment and skills development in South Africa.

Also speaking at the launch, Public Enterprise Minister Lynne Brown said that State-owned enterprises (SOEs), like Transnet, were the backbone of the economy.

“SOEs help build the economy. We must help to empower young people to be able to participate in the economy to build a society that is more equal, irrespective of where you live or who you are,” she said.

Brown added that the centre, which is located in Wits’ Solomon Mahlangu building, in Braamfontein, would also allow for struggling entrepreneurs, particularly young black men and women, as well as those living with disabilities, to introduce and expand new business ideas across all economic spheres.

“It is important [for entrepreneurs] to be included in the mainstream economy because they will create jobs; it is also important for them to look at growing [their businesses] beyond our borders and into Africa. This centre will contribute to the development of our country,” she said.

Focusing on innovation, research and development, the Matlafatšo Centre will enable young businesspeople to fit into the fast-paced and digital space influenced by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“The centre is the brainchild of Transnet’s enterprise and supplier development programme and will later be rolled out countrywide to reach broader communities,” Gama said.

The hub will help beneficiaries protect their intellectual property and assist them in scaling up manufacturingprocesses and technology demonstrators by informing them about the potential of new technologies, thereby supporting upcoming SMMEs.

Wits, which is fast becoming a leader in the innovation, research and development space among tertiary institutions in South Africa, will provide the academic and technical support for the centre.

The Matlafatšo Centre has started working on some ideas and has registered 115 ideas from 136 individuals.

EDITED BY: SAMANTHA HERBST CREAMER MEDIA DEPUTY EDITOR

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LINK - http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/transnet-wits-launch-support-centre-for-local-smmes-2017-11-06/rep_id:4136

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