Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) have the potential to be the backbone of the economy and the leading driver of job creation in the country. However, they are faced with many challenges, not least of which is the difficulty of competing with larger enterprises for state tenders.

JDA project manager Siyabonga GenuJDA project manager Siyabonga Genu gives local SMMEs an overview of current and future Rea Vaya projects in Alex.To help local SMMEs tackle this and other challenges, the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) recently held a workshop in Alexandra, where a number of its current projects are concentrated.

The Alexandra Development Projects Workshop, held at the Alexsan Kopano Community Hall on Friday, 22 May, was aimed at giving local SMMEs insight into how the agency goes about compiling its databases for SMMEs and local labour and appointing contractors and professionals for projects.

JDA project manager Siyabonga Genu, who led the workshop, also briefed SMMEs on current and future projects the JDA will be implementing in the community. These include the Alex Depot; the Alexandra Terminal, a public transport interchange linking Rea Vaya with other forms of public transport; and the Great Walk, a five-kilometre pedestrian and cycling walkway connecting Alex to Sandton via the new walking-cycling bridge being built over the M1 highway.

The workshop included a question and answer session in which stakeholders were given an opportunity to get clarification and raise concerns regarding their difficulties as SMMEs in Alexandra.

Speaking on the sidelines of the workshop, Alexandra ward 91 resident and business owner Thabo Mkhize said he believed that a more formalised SMME sector in Alexandra would make a good contribution to the community’s economy by creating more employment opportunities and generating higher production volumes.

Ensuring that the JDA’s processes are transparentEnsuring that the JDA’s processes are transparent.”This workshop has been enlightening,” Mkhize said. “I think the importance of collaboration and dialogue between institutions of development and communities is important to broad-based sustainable development.”

Genu said afterwards that one of the biggest challenges faced by SMMEs in general is that many of them do not meet the requirements to bid for public tenders. “The main reason for this is that their Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) grading, which requires that SMMEs reach a level 5 or level 6 grade, is too low.”

Nonetheless, he believes there are many opportunities for SMMEs to participate in the agency’s developments. “For example, the JDA has appointed a contractor that will be building the phase 1C Rea Vaya stations. SMMEs in Alexandra have the opportunity to contribute to this development because a landscaping and paving undertaking will be required.

“I hope this workshop has helped Alexandra-based SMMEs in understanding all the ongoing JDA projects and the potential opportunities that are possible for them,” Genu said.

“The JDA’s main aim has been to show that our processes are transparent. SMMEs don’t need to know particular people in the JDA to be involved in our projects. As long as the minimum requirements are met, there is always a possibility that SMMEs could be involved in the different projects.”