Durban - The eThekwini Municipality has ring-fenced more than R3 billion to ensure small and medium businesses benefit from catalytic projects over the next five years.

Hailing the investment, mayor Zandile Gumede said it was part of the radical economic transformation plan being rolled out by the city to provide opportunities for small, medium and micro-sized enterprises as well as emerging businesses to share in Durban’s economic growth.

“The city has invested substantially, to the tune of R624 million, on current projects like the Point Waterfront development and increasing our partnerships on other projects like the Centrum site attached to The Workshop Shopping Centre, the Warwick Precinct Berea Station Mall and the large King Edward re-development node.

“Our investment as a city in the coming five years will also be used to drive the economic transformation plan through an oversight role in the skills development and financial needs of businesses that are given opportunities.

“It’s not enough to give an SMME a contract if they cannot sustain themselves financially to compete with big businesses who have the financial muscle to purchase materials and other resources for a project.

“Big businesses have the capacity and financial backing that keeps them afloat without depending solely on payment from the government within 30 to 60 days. That is the single crippling factor being faced by small businesses and as a caring city we must do things differently if we are serious about bringing about economic transformation,” Gumede said.

Investor confidence in eThekwini was on the rise, with locals and foreigners eyeing opportunities across all sectors, she said. Foreign investors included those from Malaysia, Middle East and the UK who had invested in key nodes like the Waterfront precinct and the revitalisation of the inner city with eThekwini.

“We have matched the growing investor confidence in our city by re-investing millions into key economic nodes and we will continue to do so to encourage growth and create employment opportunities for our residents. This is all part of our council approved Inner City Master Plan and Regeneration Plan to increase our current CBD resident base from 80 000 to over 450 000.

Full steam

“We have, together with other investors, spent over R100billion on other catalytic projects outside of the core CBD, in addition to investing a further R620 million in the first half of our financial year.

“We have a lot of work to do before we can really call ourselves the best city in Africa, but we are working full steam towards this vision,” said Gumede.

She took office last August, promising to “clean up” the city and restore confidence among ratepayers. This includes an overhaul of its supplier chain management processes, rooting out internal corruption and cracking the whip on service delivery.

“We have to get the city back on track and we are going to do that,” she vowed.

The Mercury