Empowering township traders

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33amnaacam dunlop2 350Heeding government’s call for radical economic transformation, Sumitomo Rubber SA launched at the NAACAM Show its Dunlop Enterprise Development Programme which aims at empowering township entrepreneurs through employment creation, skills transfer and training.

Though the company has worked for the past five years to unlock small business ownership in the informal sector, the official launch of the initiative was seen as being a transformational catalyst.

Riaz Haffejee, CEO of Sumitomo Rubber SA, said the company took a decision in 2012 to pursue the programme with a view to broadening its role in economic inclusion by accelerating transformation and helping to alleviate challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

In terms of the initiative Dunlop branded containers are transformed into tyre fitment centres, providing opportunities for unemployed youth and women to be trained and mentored in tyre sales and repair.

“By fostering greater entrepreneurial activity in townships and informal areas, the Dunlop Enterprise Development Programme encourages self-employment and stimulates job creation,” he said.

Sketching the background to the programme, Haffejee said Sumitomo had become aware of many informal tyre businesses in townships which had little access to reputable tyre manufacturers – though there was a market for professional services.

“As a responsible corporate citizen, we saw it as our role to make safe and high quality products available to this market, using our iconic Dunlop brand. The programme was the first of its kind and it has become a key focus area in Dunlop’s distribution channel growth strategy.

“With the support of a widely recognised brand, the programme has already enjoyed exponential growth and success,” he said. “Though the informal economy functions according to different entrepreneurial rules, it is not disconnected from the first or formal economy.

“We have acknowledged this, and can demonstrate that, through proper skills transfer and training, township tyre traders can run profitable and sustainable enterprises that offer stable self-employment and livelihoods.”

Haffejee said since inception, 83 Dunlop container tyre outlets had been established in townships across South Africa, 17 of which were based in KwaZulu-Natal. More than R50-million worth of tyres had been sold by the outlets.

Speaking at the opening of the NAACAM Show, KwaZulu Natal’s MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Sihle Zikalala, lauded the tyre manufacturer’s efforts.

“When we talk about radical economic transformation, we are talking about programmes like this. True transformation can only take place when previously disadvantaged individuals are given access to more economic opportunities that allow them to participate in the mainstream of the economy,” he said.

As testament to the value that the programme has imparted, Smangele Dladla, owner of container-based Stormza Tyres in Ntuzuma, told the audience at the launch event: “For five years, I was a vendor selling food by the roadside. Today, I have my own business and employ two staff members.

“Since becoming a Dunlop tyre trader, my business has really taken off and I am proud to be offering top-class service with an established brand behind me.”


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