File photo: Reuters

Durban - The announcement of an NGO forum to benefit member charities to the tune of R50 million was the highlight of last night’s annual Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry dinner.

President Akash Singh announced the establishment of the forum, which he said would give opportunities to the chamber and its 2 000 members to contribute to member NGOs to develop “social capital”.

The appointment of an enterprise development desk – which was previously managed and manned by Absa Bank – was imminent.

“We want to invest our own resources in this as we recognise the importance of the growth of small and medium businesses,” he said.

Chief executive Andrew Layman had agreed to stay on until January, but the organisation was looking for someone to succeed him.

Singh said while falling membership remained a challenge, the finances of the chamber were in good health, with R1.6 million in reserves.

“We have dropped by 20 to 30 members, so that will be a big focus in the year ahead,” he said.

Peter Cowan, the chairman of Unilever and keynote speaker, told the 800 guests that South Africa was facing crises in education, health care and job creation. These were the country’s most pressing priorities. While the country had made “tremendous” progress since democracy in 1994, there remained an “enormous” mountain to climb.

* The winners of the Durban Chamber’s annual Alec Rogoff Broad-based BEE Awards were announced.

Oil refinery Sapref scooped top honours with two awards – for large BEE company of the year and the BEE enterprise development award. BEE rating agency AQRate KZN won the small BEE enterprise of the year award.

The awards, hosted by the chamber and the BEE verification agency BEESCORE, recognise the efforts of the KwaZulu-Natal companies to contribute to empowerment and transformation. - The Mercury