In a recently online survey, 60% of respondents agreed their biggest challenge remains unemployment. This was followed closely by 40% identifying high cost of electricity as a major obstacle. With Youth unemployment approaching 50% in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro according to 2011 Census data, three entrepreneurs will launch the Uitenhage Business Hub on Friday 30 August.
“Many students after graduating with a degree or diploma relocate to Gauteng or Cape Town to find employment and opportunities that is not available in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro,” says Elaine Camoetie, a single mother, and co-founder of Uitenhage Business Hub. “Most of those who leave Uitenhage never return and therefore economic growth is either flat or declining in real terms.”
Since the merge of the municipalities 10 years ago there’s been a growing resentment among the people of Uitenhage. Most of their frustration is because economic development is skewed towards Port Elizabeth. Uitenhage has produced many talented people like Bala Brothers, from the Kwa-Nobuhle township; Deshun Deysel, the first black woman to climb Mt Everest, and Enoch Sontonga – composer of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. However, it is not known for it’s entrepreneurs, and the Hub seeks to change that.
The combined population of Kwa-Nobuhle and Uitenhage is estimated at 200,000 from Census data. The biggest employers are Volkswagen SA, Goodyear and factories providing products to the motor manufacturing industry. “High unemployment among the youth is likely to reinforce apathy, increase crime, teenage pregnancy, drug alcohol abuse,” according to Ramon Thomas, an entrepreneur and research analyst at NETucation, who relocated back to Uitenhage after 15 years in Johannesburg. “Entrepreneurship teaches you to take responsibility for creating your own future, your own opportunities, before expecting anything in return.”
The Uitenhage Business Hub co-founded by Elaine Camoetie, Yusuf Moses, and Ramon Thomas has a mission to create 20,000 jobs over the next 20 years. The Hub provides company registrations, business plan development, low-cost shared office space, and Internet literacy training. In 2014 a large scale Learnership programmes from mICT SETA is planned. Axxess DSL, the largest ISP in Eastern Cape, has sponsored a 10mbps Uncapped ADSL line, making it the fastest Internet connection in town.
Informal partnerships with NYDA, Raizcorp, Nedbank, The Media Workshop and other organisations will ensure the sustainability of this venture. Thomas confirms, “with only 30 respondents it is by no means a statistically conclusive survey, and a follow-up study is planned that will reach at least 1,000 people via cellphones before 2014.”
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