Most of you are aware that small business related matters (from a public sector authority) resided in the Department of Trade and Industry and, as a result, was part of the huge mandate that the dti had to deliver. In 2014, when we ushered in the 5th Administration, the ANC led government took a deliberate decision to establish the Department of Small Business Development (and cooperatives), which I have been tasked to lead. This move that was aimed at elevating this sector as the key sector that would contribute roughly 11million jobs by 2030 – as depicted by the National Development Plan (NDP). This means that we would have to create approximately 800 000 new jobs per year. A task that government just cannot do alone.

I am of the view therefore, that the steel, engineering and manufacturing sectors is one of the most important sectors to contribute in creating these jobs – mainly for 2 reasons:

Firstly, metals and engineering contributes roughly 28-30% of manufacturing and 6% to total GDP. In South Africa, roughly 10 000 companies are directly involved in this sector contributing about 390 000 jobs. This sector is an important components supplier into mining, construction and the automotive sector.

Secondly, In most successful developing countries, particularly the so called East Asian Tigers (which includes Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia) a special focus was placed on creating strong manufacturing and industrial bases for infrastructure development and growth of their economies – which is paramount to the creation of jobs.

As South Africa, we have adopted the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) which outlines our industrial priorities and the New Growth Path (NGP) which identifies key job drivers for economic growth together with our National Development Plan. This is part of our developmental trajectory as a country.

You would also note that the African Union recently adopted Agenda 2063 – the Africa we want – which outlines how Africa should look like in 2063 – with higher rates of infra-Africa trade – the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers, improved border posts including road, rail and the oceans, improved infrastructure linkages, as well as free trade and movement of goods, amongst others. This is also in line with SADCs regional indicative strategic development plan – which focuses on infrastructure development in the region as well as the establishment and sustainability of regional value chains for local companies to participate in.

My Department, together with its agencies – SEDA and SEFA, recently concluded a review process that looked at all the programmes it inherited from the DTI and Economic Development to ensure that our programmes speak to the felt needs of society. We retained the effective ones, others were transferred to our agencies, SEDA and SEFA, and others restructured and remodelled and, obviously, others were jettisoned.

In our Budget Vote in Parliament we gave an overview of what we will be doing in the 2016-17 fiscal year. Our work is going to involve us going to every part of the country to preach the message of entrepreneurship and the development of sustainable small businesses (and cooperatives). It’s going to involve us getting people in the townships and rural areas to form cooperatives whose sole purpose would be to play a role in the development of our economy. It is the light of these processes that we have now embarked on a journey to meet all the critical players in the Small Business space.

Immediately after our budget vote - we met with the leaders of organised small business to unpack our Budget Vote and discourse on how our Department can work with institutions such as the Black Business Chamber (BBC), the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut (AHI), the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI), various Chambers of commerce and Industry, National African Federated Chambers of Commerce (Nafcoc), and Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) amongst others.

We will thus have further engagements with clear milestones and deliverables so that we avoid having regular talk shops that end up being meaningless to everybody.

In his 2016 State of the Nation Address, H.E President Zuma emphasised that Small Business is Big Business. This statement was aimed at the importance of creating small businesses who would in turn become tomorrow’s big businesses.

Furthermore, we must recognise that small businesses are integral to the success of big businesses, primarily in participating through various aspects of their supply and value chains. Our interest in this as the Department is the structure of supplier development programmes of big businesses – how do these catapult small businesses into the economy. After all, at the heart of the supplier development programmes is the creation of jobs and the skilling of people and thus ample opportunities for our young people to get into trades and occupations that not only add value to the economy of our country, but provides a future for these young people.

Above all, the small businesses in these sectors become the innovators who, with their clients, create new products some of which are ultimately products and services that can be exported. Thus, and in short, SEIFSA is a very critical partner in what we do as the Department of Small Business and Cooperatives and I intend to discuss some of our plans with you when you have your council meeting in August.

We are also waiting for the Chamber of Mines to give us date when we can visit them and also apprise them of our plans. I am aware that our country is taking a strain because of the lack of growth and, in the process, your sector has been taking a hammering. This resulted in the closure of Highveld Steel, an event that shocked all of us.

I am aware that your sector has suggestions on how we can revitalise your sector and therefore the economy. These are the things I must discuss with you as you discuss them with my colleagues, the Ministers who lead the other departments that are part of your landscape such as the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Mineral Resources or the Department of Energy. I will discuss them with you in the context of the fact that I must see what support I must give the small businesses that are your suppliers.

My department has a programme called the Black Supplier Development Programme that provides incentives to SMMEs. In all honesty, we have to ensure that these incentives meet your requirements and standards rather than what we as a department believe to be the right thing. I understand that yesterday; Arcelor Mittal and Scaw Metals told this conference of what they are doing in supplier development. We want to know more about this and how we can partner with them.

We are currently signed an MoU with the Department of Public Enterprises on a massive projects in Saldanha together with Transnet. This multi-billion rand project involves us developing hundreds of small businesses that must play a role in this project. We have a special team that it working closely with Transnet so that we capacitate the small businesses that are now part of the value system of this project.

Last year we also launched our National Gazelles programme, in which we identified 40 small businesses in growth and value add sectors, which small businesses are now being capacitated. Of interest is that these Gazelles have been existence for at least two years and most have never received any Government support. They are a result of the sweat of the owner managers and, in my view, they have paid their school fees and shown us that they are made of sterner stuff. We have to discuss with you how you can have access to these Gazelles as they are in your sectors and are the professional suppliers you desire to have in your books.

We are currently involved in the setting up of a major fund to support small businesses and I have no doubt that some of your small business suppliers do need this fund as despite the fact that you do your best to support them in line with the requirements of the BBBEE Act, but you also want to see them operate as independents and become tomorrow major players in industry. The Gazelles I am referring to are a feeder for the Black Industrialists programme managed by the dti.

Incubation support is crucial in this sector. Through SEDA, we have established a number of successful incubators throughout the country. We have partnered with Columbus Steel in Middleburg to establish the Middleburg stainless steel incubator (MSI), which focuses on the manufacturing of various stainless steel products. In Springs, we have partnered with Zincor and Impala and have focussed on the beneficiation of zinc and copper metals. In Richards’s bay we have partnered with BHP Billiton in the establishment of the Downstream Aluminium Centre of Technology which focusses on downstream cast aluminium beneficiation, and in furniture we have established Furtech in local municipalities, amongst others.

I was delighted to learn that SEIFSA launched a small business hub in May 2015 which focusses on helping smaller businesses with compliance, enterprise and supplier development training, amongst others. This creates the potential for a relationship between the department and its agencies SEDA and SEFA with SEIFSA – and I strongly suggest that we pursue this. The SMME’s clients in the hub could have access to SEFA funding to grow their businesses and non-financial support through SEDA as well as equipment and grant funding from the Black Business Supplier Development Fund within the department.

Since its establishment sefa has been involved in financing the steel and engineering sectors. The Aluminium Beneficiation Initiative - Specific arrangements in funding SMMEs and co-operatives with Hulamin & BHP Billiton with an amount of R100 million set aside for this purpose. R80million will be earmarked for SMMEs in aluminum beneficiation and R20million will be used to finance contractors doing business with Hulamin and BHP Billiton.

During the 2015/16 financial year sefa launched a R30million supplier credit facility with Macsteel (Pty) Ltd. The supplier trade credit facility is aimed at supporting micro-enterprises especially those located in townships with access to credit to buy steel raw materials. The facility provides beneficiary enterprises which are involved in trade credit facility up to R250,000. Sefa acts as the guarantor of the beneficiary amount in the event where the small business fails to honor payment commitments. To date a R10million pilot facility is under implementation and up to R6,5 million has been extended to SMMEs through the facility since October 2015. We have also rolled out over 50 Direct Lending loans to the value of R73million.

I would like to move beyond narrative to implementation and action – and I would like to make this sector a good example of how government works together with the private sector in the interest of all of South Africa in the creation of jobs and entrepreneurs.

To this end, I look forward to a progressive partnership with SEIFSA.