Jozi@Work empowers small businesses

Aiming to improve service delivery, the City of Johannesburg's jozi@Work programme will contract around 1750 small businesses to provide services as diverse as waste sorting and infrastructure maintenance. The programme is expected to create 40 000 jobs.

A new programme, Jozi@Work, aims to empower community cooperatives and enterprises to address poverty, inequality and unemployment in the city.

Recently launched by executive mayor, Mpho Parks Tau, Jozi@Work, through the City, will spend more than R1-billion on contracting an estimated 1 750 new and existing community-level cooperatives and enterprises in the first year of the programme. A total of 40 000 new jobs is expected to be generated by the City's spend across nine sectors by the close of the current mayoral term, in 2016.

The programme is designed to inject income and promote commercial activity in all clusters of the City, from the most deprived to the more prosperous areas, according to Tau. The programme will change the way the City does business, creating thousands of new neighbourhood cooperatives and micro-enterprises.

"Jozi@Work will enable and empower both existing entrepreneurs and thousands of new market entrants, who in turn will draw on the hundreds of thousands of unemployed and underemployed people available as part of the City's labour pool."

Johannesburg is one of Africa's fastest-growing municipalities and, according to Tau, improving services offered in the city will address poverty, inequality and unemployment by providing much-needed jobs. The 2011 census found that there are over 800 000 work-seeking adults in the city.

"The City's poverty mapping, based on the broader census data, shows that there remains an enduring and strong correlation between lack of access to employment and the wider range of poverty indicators: below average income; poor health outcomes; lack of access to education; and poor living environment standards."

Using a new supply chain process developed in consultation with national treasury, the City will source community-based enterprises and cooperatives through a new network of regional bidders' briefings, to be known as the regional Jozi@Work forums.

Appointed bidders will be providing services as diverse as de-sludging chemical toilets; separating and recycling waste as it arrives at municipal dumps; providing food to City nutrition programmes; resurfacing and maintaining roads; and providing frontline support to water and power infrastructure.

"Our residents will be our suppliers as well as our customers – and transacting locally will make them better at being both. It will mean better value for money paid to the City and faster, more attentive service in return for money paid into the City through rates and service charges," said Tau.

Capability Support Agents will oversee work done by successful bidders; the agents will provide professional oversight, mentoring, and quality assurance as well as enabling the enterprises to purchase raw materials and rent necessary equipment, recovering costs from monthly contract payments as milestones are met. This new system will ensure "a much wider range of poorer and middle class residents alike will find barriers to entry for those seeking to participate in the economy lowered", according to Tau.

Later this year, the programme will expand to include back office support to improve the functioning of City services, as well as a 10% slice of the City's maintenance work and 5% of its capital construction.

Tau added that workers gaining on-the-job experience on the work packages assigned through the system will also be able to build up their skills through an apprenticeship programme, which will include digital learning at recreation centres and libraries after hours and on days off. The result will be a trade certification and a chance to take their expertise further.

A new Community Innovation Fund linked to the Jozi@Work programme will be introduced later in the year. Through this initiative, the City will give the new regional forums the opportunity to propose locally led projects that fit the Jozi@Work objectives, but which are not funded under City departments' and municipal agencies' budgets.