Despite an unseasonably cold day on Friday 29 August, the roof wetting ceremony at the new Riversands Incubation Hub was a great success. Dignitaries present included the Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, Minister for Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, Premier of Gauteng David Makhura and Executive Mayor of Johannesburg Parks Tau. MEC Lebogang Maile acted as programme director and many other honoured guests such as representatives from the World Bank and the National Treasury were also present.
The Riversands Incubation Hub project represents an excellent example of a successful public/private partnership, with the infrastructure being a 50/50 joint venture between Century Property Developments and The Jobs Fund. The incubation programme will select small and micro enterprises (SMEs) from Diepsloot and the surrounding areas and provide on-site training to help the businesses grow to their full potential over a period of three years.
“Today is an auspicious occasion, because we are celebrating the progress we have made on the project, which is due to open later this year. The Riversands Incubation Hub is located at the heart of the Riversands Commercial Park. The idea is for the businesses in the light industrial park to have a rich source of small business suppliers on their doorstep. The incubation programme is ideal for supplier development (SD), which is a key element of the new B-BBEE codes,” said Mark Corbett, CEO of Century Property Developments.
The first batch of entrepreneurs is currently being assessed for inclusion in the pre-incubation programme. More than 150 applications have been received, with more arriving each day. The standard of applicants has been gratifyingly high. “The Riversands team assesses entrepreneurs using a range of best practice methods and are continually refining the process. The ideal candidate has walked the business journey, starting off by performing all functions from sales to marketing to banking to HR. At the same time, there are talented entrepreneurs and micro enterprises out there that lack formal business experience and can be assisted to take their businesses to the next level by the access to markets and range of support services that the Riversands Incubation Hub platform provides. We aim to have an 80/20 split of established businesses to start-ups in our final mix,” says Jenny Retief, director of the Riversands Incubation Hub.
There will be up to 160 SMEs at the Riversands Incubation Hub. An auxiliary programme for those entrepreneurs not selected for the programme will be offered to help improve their prospects.
The custom-designed and –built Hub facility includes a 450-seat auditorium, lecture halls, training room and a large restaurant. An open air auditorium with a covered stage accommodating 10 000 people will host events such as music festivals. There is also an agricultural training element to the Hub.
“The vision is to transform the socio-economic fabric of Diepsloot, which is a marginalised community where those who are employed spend up to 50% of their earnings on transport to and from work. We are convinced that this project may be replicated in other parts of the country to stimulate the economy with the public and private sectors working hand in hand,” concluded Corbett.