Minister Zulu said in her three years of experience at the department, SMMEs don’t get an opportunity to be part of the bigger projects.
“When you talk about all these mega projects, the issue we need to ask ourselves is where the opportunities are for SMMEs within those large infrastructure projects. For me it’s also about SMMEs being ready for those opportunities and for the SMMEs to prepare themselves.
“There’s a lot of experience out there for companies in the infrastructure build, who are black, and have passed the test through trying to build themselves. They know the right processes and have a lot of experiences [which] I think they can share with the SMMEs,” said Minister Zulu.
She said that the best way is to try and connect those that are successful with the one in the middle, bottom, and even the start-ups, in order to improve the people system of support of the SMMEs, with regards to legislations and regulations.
The Minister was speaking at the Water Infrastructure Investment Summit (WIIS) held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
The Department of Water and Sanitation, in partnership with the Water Research Commission (WRC), convened the summit to facilitate a conversation and programme of action that aims to shift the water and sanitation sector investment landscape to a space that is open and enabling for investment and inclusive growth opportunities.
Improving support for SMMEs
Minister Zulu, who was making a presentation on “creating an investment friendly policy environment”, emphasised the importance of improving the ecosystem of support for SMMEs, saying that it is about political will on government side, private sector, and SMMEs themselves.
She also touched on the need to strengthen interdepartmental coordination, strengthening local structures, as well as local economic development offices.
“We do have the local economic development offices, but they don’t have the right people. They [offices] should be the first point for SMMEs, but the challenge is that people who work there lack proper understanding of the economics of the areas to advise the SMMEs on the best businesses that they can work on.
“We see a huge potential for cooperatives and SMMEs, and investment should not lose sight of SMMEs,” the Minister said.
Water-energy nexus for development
Energy Minister David Mahlobo, who spoke on the “importance of the water-energy nexus for development”, said that investing in water infrastructure and energy infrastructure is a wise thing to do.
He said that water-energy nexus is a platform for growth, adding that for water systems to work, they need energy, and for energy to work, they need water.
“We share the question of policy, and the discussions should be on what we can do to improve our policies. The two resources [water and energy] are joined together, where they share destiny, and through our small way, we can re-energise the economy. Water is life and energy compliments that.
“Africa is a destination for investment, and if u are in Africa and have a foresight as an investor, I can tell you, you are in a right place. We want a partnership to provide solutions to African problems. Investment will ensure peace, stability, development and prosperity,” Minister Mahlobo said.
He also noted that South Africa is not developing water or energy infrastructure only for itself, but also developing it for the region.