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There is continual, extensive discussion concerning South Africa’s financial state and its negatively contributing element, large scale unemployment. But what about Newcastle?
As a community, residents continually direct such questions to the local municipality, and rightfully so. But when looking at economic development, it would make sense to approach two local business chambers, asking, are they focussing on growth and if so what are they doing in the local sectors to elevate the financial state while successfully reducing unemployment levels.
Firstly, on the matter of the local economy, Newcastle Municipality Speaker, Samukelisie Yende stresses, “The economy is the biggest concern at the moment, as is looking at ways in building employment.”
According to Yende, “When looking at job creation by the government, people often look first at the EPWP (Expanded Public Works Programme). But this is not the only way the government is looking at improving the situation.” The Speakers elaborates, other methods of bolstering the economy and employment rate include forming relationships with the private business sector, inviting them to invest in both the community and the country.
But, what are the organisations’ focusses and do they include developments in the private sector?
The Newcastillian – Online News approached the Newcastle Sakekamer and Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, being two long-standing business chambers within the community.
Vice president of the organisation, Mornè Seaman, reports Newcastle Sakekamer is taking a proactive stance in strengthening the local economy and improving the employment rate. He points out, “We have recently affiliated with Sakeliga. We are hoping that through this relationship, we can bring more business to our town.”
This he states can be achieved by finding like-minded businesses outside of Newcastle, providing them with services from our town, while encouraging them to bring their services to Newcastle. Sakeliga is a non-profit company and a public benefit organisation, focusing its money, time and energy in formulating a vision for organised business, offering a home to business people, businesses and supporters who help develop and achieve this vision.
In conjunction with this, Seaman highlights that the Sakekamer’s members are also responsible for employing numerous people in town.
While formulating strategies to bring in business from outside towns and cities, he adds that the Newcastle Sakekamer also has its sights on international trade. “We will be meeting with a delegation from Japan, where we will do our best to bring further investment into the town.”
But as the organisation strives to fortify the town’s economy, Seaman does feel the Newcastle Municipality can assist in enticing investment.
Saying, this can be accomplished by resolving infrastructure issues, making it more affordable for people to rent and buy property, as well as minimising red tape hampering business development.
He feels communication between the business sector and the local government is also key to the town’s success. “We really want to build a good relationship with the Newcastle Municipality, which is why communication is so important.”
While the Newcastle Sakekamer is setting is sights on development and growth, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry is not as optimistic.
Andrew Chen, the secretary of the organisation, explains, “2020 was a terrible year for the Chinese Community. Every business was hit by COVID-19, then there are some politicians who have been inciting racial hatred. This resulted in three Chinese employers being murdered.”
Due to these circumstances, he says it has been unfortunate that many factories were forced to reduce their production scale for safety reasons. Chen adds dejectedly, “Many others want to leave, despite our best efforts in assuring them that things will improve.”
Moreover, the number of factories in Newcastle has fallen by 30% since 2019 seeing the Chinese Chamber looking at ways to prevent the current businesses from shutting their doors, ensuring more local people are not left unemployed. From there, they will establish initiatives to encourage further development.
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