The south African National Treasury’s R9 billion Jobs Fund, which aims to create 150 000 jobs over three years, is now accepting applications from companies and non-governmental organisations with innovative job creation projects, said the Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan.
Gordhan told a media briefing before his Budget Vote in Parliament today that the aim was to give out R2 billion in grants this financial year to those in the private sector.
These would either be in the form of matching grants, or grants where companies and organisations had committed a portion of funding to the respective project.
Gordhan first announced the plan to set up the Jobs Fund in his Budget Speech in February.
The fund would run for three years and is administered by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
Gordhan said his department chose the DBSA to administer the fund because of the development bank’s footprint – which covers over 200 municipalities across the country and its experience in funding community development projects.
The fund is targeted at established companies with a good track record and that plan to expand existing programmes or pilot innovative approaches to employment creation, with a special focus on opportunities for young people.
The specific focus is not in particular on small or micro businesses, as the government has other programmes to assist entrepreneurs, including the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) for business support, Khula, Samaf, the NEF and the IDC for small business funding and the Technology Innovation Agency (Tia) for innovation funding.
Gordhan said the fund would target four areas, namely: enterprise development, local infrastructure development, support for work seekers and institutional capacity building.
Enterprise development includes assistance to local procurement, marketing support, equipment upgrading or enterprise franchising.
Local infrastructure development included the funding of light manufacturing zones and communication links to market goods, he said.
Support for work seekers would include setting up networks and projects that can provide training and career guidance, while improving institutional capacity would include funding internships and mentorship programmes.
The National Treasury will continue to monitor and assess the performance and sustainability of projects funded through the initiative and all projects must be run for at least three to five years.
Gordhan said the level of urgency around the country’s high level of unemployment meant that the country required a new energy and infusion in the job creation process.
He said the fund would not compete with other government initiatives, but rather complement them.
“One hopes that this will inspire new forms of innovation, new forms of creativity and open new areas of job creation possibilities,” he said.
The DBSA’s investment committee would be chaired by Frans Baleni, current deputy-chairperson of the development bank and secretary general of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Baleni said applications would be welcomed from today and investment would target poor and rural regions.
The success of the jobs fund depended on strong co-operation between the private sector and the government, he said.
Baleni said the team had been given directives to process application timeously. The technical team, which processes applications, would meet weekly and the investment team, which makes the final selection, would meet monthly.
“We are expected to submit bi-monthly reports to the shareholder (the National Treasury), so there would be no time to relax,” he said.
Brian Whittaker, chief executive of the Business Trust, who has been chosen as the fund’s vice-chair, said the fund was a bold new initiative that would release a degree of creativity on tackling unemployment
“There’s an opportunity here to do something innovative and that’s what excites me,” said Whitackker.
Paul Kibuuka, who heads the DBSA’s development fund, said the fund aimed to create 150 000 jobs over three years, adding that each job funded should last for at least one year.
He said the fund aimed to target between 1 000 and 2 000 projects.
The closing date for the first round of applications is July 31 and a large portion of applications will be processed electronically.
Those interested, as well as applicants, can contact the Jobs Fund on 086 100 3272 or visit www.jobsfund.org.za.