Ithuba aims to grow economic opportunities

Mayco member for economic opportunities, James Vos, at the launch of Ithuba.

A project to improve economic opportunity in the city was launched at the Granary last Thursday.

Project Ithuba, according to Mayco member for economic opportunities James Vos, will focus on five areas – investment to facilitate access to jobs; tourism diversification; sector support to enhance competitiveness; supplying skills for economic growth; and asset management.

Working hand in hand with InvestCapeTown — an investment project similar to Ithuba – Mr Vos said his department would continue to promote the city as a globally competitive destination, using, among other things, the internet and social media as well as articles in international publications.

The department’s new tourism development framework would encourage inclusive and sustainable tourism, he said.

Mr Vos said tourism should be diversified beyond standard fare such as the Waterfront and Table Mountain, and assets such as the Good Hope Centre, City Hall, the Grand Parade and Athlone Stadium should be used to their full potential.

Mr Vos said his department had also had good feedback on sector skills programmes it had continued to invest in.

“The focus is simple – placement of individuals into work opportunities, and key to this is avoiding training just for the sake of training, but to have jobs ready when they have completed training.”

The project would also see the opening of a walk-in business service hub in the Strand Street Concourse by mid-2019, said Mr Vos.

The hub will offer support for small businesses, provide networking opportunities and help iron out issues that people may have with start-up businesses.

Mayor Dan Plato said despite all the crises the city faced, Cape Town was still named a leading events destination and the best-run metro in South Africa.

“This is an acknowledgement that we do our best to make it better.”

Unemployment in the country was still too high but projects like Ithuba could help to change that, he said, adding that one of Ithuba’s objectives was to revive the Cape clothing and textile sector. Cape Town Tourism chairperson, Julie-May Ellingson, said Ithuba was an exciting initiative, and it was important to diversify tourism.

“Skills development is also important as it provides work opportunities, and even opens up doors for people to start opening their own businesses.”

Mr Vos claimed the project would not cost a cent.

“It was taking what we already had and just streamlining the process to allow more focus on key projects and delivery of those projects.”

Geoff Jacobs, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber welcomes the Ithuba Project and particularly the opening of a walk-in business service hub in the Strand Concourse.

“There is a need to help people start businesses and we applaud the direct contact which the service hub will give ambitious young people.”

Mr Jacobs said what was particularly important is that it will also give the City of Cape Town a chance to understand the real, coal-face problems faced by young entrepreneurs.

“Officials and bureaucrats are often cloistered in fancy offices and do not always understand business and how it works. In many cases, they are too removed from the practical day-to-day difficulties business people have to deal with, like where the next customer will come from.”

He said the chamber would like to see a mini red tape removal effort for start up businesses like the provincial red-tape unit which helps mainly established firms.

“The biggest problems any new businesses face are its first problems. If they are not solved, the business does not come into being. This is when help is most needed.”

He added that another vital way in which Ithuba can help is to provide information and even ideas on how to get started. One of the best ways is through casual or part-time work because it is only when you are involved in work that you see opportunities to start a business. Just being able to point individuals in the right direction will be invaluable, and if this is part of Ithuba’s game plan, it is to be welcomed.