Some of the VIPs at the launch of the Durban Business Fair were, from left: Sbu Sithole, the city manager; Lindani Dhlomo, of the KZN Small Enterprise Development Agency; Philip Sithole, head of the citys business support, tourism and markets unit; and guest speaker and businessman, Vivian Reddy.

Small and medium-sized businesses will be given the chance to find out about the opportunities at Transnet’s proposed dig-out port in Durban.

And those who get involved in the city’s annual Durban Business Fair in September will also learn about eThekwini Municipality’s many planned strategic projects, which are likely to create thousands of jobs in the next five to 35 years.

Once known as the SMME Fair, the name of the event – which attracts 500 exhibitors and some 14 000 visitors – was changed last year to the Durban Business Fair and had the effect of broadening the impact to a wider business community, guests at the launch of the 14th fair were told on Friday.

Now this year’s Durban Business Fair, the only one of its kind in the country, is going to be bigger and better, and will be held over a week, in what will be known as Business Week.

It will start with a two-day business conference on September 18 and 19 at the ICC, and culminate with an extended, four-day exhibition at the neighbouring Durban Exhibition Centre, with September 24 being a bonus day with no extra cost to exhibitors.

Small and medium-sized businesses, corporates, government departments and non-profit organisations as well as other stakeholders are being encouraged to take part.

City manager S’bu Sithole said that despite 18 years of democracy, and all that had been achieved, the time-bomb of unemployment, poverty and income inequality still existed.

The small business sector was recognised as the source through which growth, including the creation of jobs, could be achieved, and it had many advantages over large-scale competitors.

“We need to harness our energies to make sure we engender the spirit of entrepreneurship… We want to move from the spectre of dependency on grants and see more small businesses thriving,” he said.

Sithole added that the national plan to create five million jobs by 2020, translated to one million in eThekwini, the bulk of which had to be created in Durban. Government and the private sector had to work together to make a difference and to create jobs.

Philip Sithole, the head of the city’s business support, tourism and markets unit, said the conference would discuss issues around the maritime and transport sectors as well as infrastructure development.

Referring to Transnet’s proposed dig-out port on the site of the old Durban International Airport, he said there were “so many billions of rands” being mentioned “that we feel the business community really needs to understand what the implications of this development are in terms of job creation, provision of infrastructure and business opportunities”. “We are also talking about billions of rands. We feel it is not enough for the city to say that a tender is going out. It is important that we engage with the business community, so that people can ask questions and share their frustrations, so that when we develop tender documents, we have taken these issues into consideration,” he said.

The city manager said in an interview later that the big capital projects that the city was planning amounted to R5.3 billion. There were also “a lot of opportunities” connected to the R9bn maintenance budget.

The Durban Business Week’s new highly interactive website was also launched on Friday. It is www.dbnbusinessfair.com