#Unemployment, lack of township economy a concern in FS

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Boosting the Free State economy and addressing high unemployment rates remains a top priority in the province. This is according to the Free State Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affair’s (Destea).

Spokesperson Kgotso Tau tells OFM News it is because of this reason that the department is embarking on a new township revitalisation programme aimed at ensuring that the local economy remains in the hands of local entrepreneurs. Tau says small business ownership by locals has been diminishing over the years due to the influx of big retailers and foreign-owned shops in the townships, resulting in high unemployment rates. His statement comes exactly a week after Stats SA released its quarterly labour force survey for the third quarter of the year, indicating that the unemployment rate has increased to 30.8% with approximately 6.5 million South Africans now without a job.

OFM News reports, according to the report tabled by Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke, the number of discouraged job-seekers increased by 225 000 (9.1%), while the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement, decreased by 2.9 million (15.8%).

Maluleke said most job losses were observed in trade, manufacturing, community and social services, and construction.

Tau confirms the department acknowledges high unemployment rates in the province and country at large and are now partnering with the private sector in efforts to redress this and other socio-economic issues faced in the province.

“Concerned by what local businesses call the ‘hi-jacking’ of the township economy, Destea engaged with some major retailers on how the situation can be addressed. This engagement resulted in the partnership between Destea, Pick n Pay and ABSA to establish an exciting Pick n Pay Market Store. This concept combines the support of Pick n Pay’s supply chain with the store owner’s discretion to procure certain locally produced items directly from their own suppliers. Similarly, following a careful study of retail patterns in the township, Destea has developed a Distribution and Wholesale Programme. This initiative is meant to provide bulk buying support through distribution and wholesale for informal businesses in the townships,” said Tau.

He says they are also working closely with local municipalities and the Home Affairs’ migration office to ensure that the foreign-owned shops operating illegally in Mangaung and across the province are closed down.