REMARKS BY THE KWAZULU-NATAL MEC FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, TOURISM AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS, NOMUSA DUBE-NCUBE AT THEOCCASION OF THE WOMEN IN BUSINESS DIALOGUE, DURBAN ICC, 20 AUGUST 2019
Representatives of public entities;
Representatives of women organizations
Captains of industry;
Members of the media present
Perhaps let me start by quoting one of the most powerful women on earth, American philanthropist Melinda Gates, wife of Bill Gates, the American tech mogul and founder of Microsoft. Writing in her 2019 book The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, she says: “It’s the mark of a backward society or a society moving backward, when decisions are made for women by men,”. Programme Director, kindly allow me to express my sincere appreciation to all women who are here this morning. I am very much impressed by this positive turn out. This is a clear indication that the women of this province are hungry for success.
Ladies, I am sure you will be fascinated to know that globally, women control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and that this figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next few years. Stats say the $13 trillion in total yearly earnings could reach $18 trillion in the same period.
Critically, in aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined. Given these numbers, it would be foolish to ignore or underestimate the female power. I hope you understand that !!!!!
Ladies, in view of these figures that I have highlighted, we have mandated all our entities to do more to unleash the power of women in this province. We have said all our entities must be at the forefront of women economic empowerment initiatives.
We say this because we believe that if levels of economic development are to be sustained, then - there must be a full and equal participation of women at all levels. We want women to be perpetually engaged in political and economic debates. They must drive all programmes aimed at determining how to achieve equal opportunities and a sound economy.
Programme Director, over the years I have used all platforms to emphasize that the economic well-being of a society cannot be achieved if women are massively underprivileged, particularly, compared to their male counterparts. In addition, it is my fervent belief that our economy will never remain healthy without utilizing the contributions and skills of women in different economic sectors. This is the point I made few weeks ago when I addressed Women in Leadership Conference organized by SADTU.
As we are gathered here as women, we have a responsibility to fast-track the entry of women into sectors of the economy such as engineering, construction, maritime, mining, automotive industry, information, communication and technology.
This Women in Business in Dialogue is therefore aimed at ensuring that we inform you on what we are doing as government to fast-track your entry into these sectors of the economy. We must use this dialogue to ventilate what we believe are our successes and weaknesses.
Importantly, by convening this all-inclusive dialogue, we are making a point that it is inappropriate to try and address socio-economic problems, to identify the appropriate strategies, or to implement the solutions if women are not involved in the process.
This is the dialogue for women and by women. Please be involved in shaping our programme of action of this government that you elected.
As government, we are saying, keeping women out of the economy means that we are failing to make use of all of society’s productive assets. Women are the greatest national asset. Therefore, any failure to utilize women will lead to a path of unsustainable economic growth.
Programme Director, the Theme for this Dialogue is “Think Equal, Build Smart and Innovate for Change in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” The Provincial Growth and Development Plan clearly articulates a vision of forging a social compact between government, business, labour, and civil society. This social impact is aimed at building a caring society whose task is to reduce poverty, unemployment, and inequality.
One of the sectors of the economy which we believe presents opportunities for women is ICT. This is what we call the 4th Industrial Revolution. You will recall that in 2016 during the World Economic Form meeting in Davos, it was announced that the world stands on the brink of a technological revolution that will irrevocably alter its current socio-economic and industrial, landscape. It was argued that the 4th Industrial Revolution is a convergence of the physical and digital worlds, and represents a “fundamental shift in how we produce, consume and relate to one another”.
It was further pointed out that this convergence is characterised by the speed of technological change and the emergence of new trends and sectors such as the Internet of Things, robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing. As government we have come to know that this new technology that has evolved as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution allows for digital communication between machines and entire factories.
It is actually dependent on the evolution of smart technology which have combined to revolutionise industries in some parts of the world while destabilising industries elsewhere. According to that meeting in Davos, this Fourth Industrial Revolution heralds a new dawn in modern society’s rapid evolution. One which envisages profound changes to the way society functions.
Programme Director, we want women owned SMMES in the ICT sector to play a role in positioning KZN as a technological hub in order to harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We are removing red tape, promoting competition, and supporting SMME development to reignite economic growth and development.
We are well aware that the millions of jobs that our nation need will be created by SMMEs, not government.
And we are equally aware that we need to advance an education system that prepares women for the enterprises of the future. In this regard, business incubation, especially in the growing ICT and digital economy is paramount. In this regard, we have urged established business and other sectors to come on board to strengthen and expand incubation. Addressing the inaugural South African Business Incubation Conference, President Ramaphosa made this observation “In South Africa, business incubation has an uneven history. Much of what we have come to know as a formalised business incubation model is based on intermittent 'industrial hives' and unsustainable separate development architecture. Thus we need a new model for business incubation; one that is based on strategic government intervention, coordination and redistribution.
It is a model that must also incorporate the achievements, resources and capabilities of private and non-governmental involvement in small business incubation.” In addition, our President has spoken at length about the need for business incubation. Incubation is at the centre of provincial government’s efforts to advance broad based economic transformation.
The President has made the call that South Africa must expand the national incubation programme which at present consists of “a network of 51 technology business incubators, 10 supplier development incubators and 14 rapid youth incubators” Articulating the government programme to expanding the digital hubs. The President said, “We expect these hubs to provide most needed entrepreneurial service to small and medium enterprises in the rural areas and townships but more especially to young people who want to start their businesses. Our greatest challenge is to create jobs for the unemployed of today, while preparing workers for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Programme Director, flowing from the directive from the President, as the province we have moved with speed to harness technological change in pursuit of inclusive growth and social development.”
On the 25th and 26th of March 2019, we held two-day summit on the Fourth Industrial Revolution at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC. This gathering was aimed at carving a roadmap for our province that will make sure that these new developments do not leave anyone behind.
As guided by our Provincial Growth and Development Strategy, we have launched the Richards Bay IDZ Techno Hub and Ray Nkonyeni Techno Hub. We want the two facilities to lead all efforts aimed developing a skill required to anchor the 4th Industrial Revolution. We have invested more than R35 million for the RBIDZ Techno Park. This tehno-park is the second of four science and technology innovation centres to be rolled out in this province. The total cost of developing four comprehensive and fully occupied techno hubs in KZN is estimated at R5.4 billion over a 15-year period. The associated operational costs are estimated at R6 billion over the 15-year period.
Critically, over the years, government has identified Richards Bay and Porth Shepstone to be anchors of technological advancement because of their strategic location. With government investment in the ICT infrastructure, many communities who, ordinarily, would have been left out of this ICT revolution - stand to benefit.
Since the launch of both RBIDZ techno hub and Ray Konyeni Techno Hub, there has been a groundswell of optimizing that this multimillion rand ICT infrastructure will create a knowledge-based society.
The digital economy is rapidly becoming the economy of the future and ignoring this will leave us behind. We have to understand the digital economy better, with all that it brings. We need to understand that this is likely to bring new opportunities for new skills and technology.
As government we want to ensure that our education system, our infrastructure development and our support structures are geared for this future. We are committed to ensuring that women owned businesses operate in our techno-parks. In addition, our focus is on attracting academic institutions, researchers, and innovators interested in the cutting edge technology to open offices at our Techno Parks. We want them to partner with women owned SMMEs, especially those in ICT.
Programme Director, I also wish to remind our guests that as South Africa we are part of BRICS. Because there is a strong commitment by heads of states to ensure that BRICS countries develop their own technologies, the KZN government want to ensure the involvement of SMMEs, co-operatives and people in rural communities.
The ICT infrastructure in rural or previously disadvantaged communities still remains a challenge due to the nature of the terrain. This is an area where KZN government is looking for a partnership with the private sector in the BRICS Bloc. We want women owned ICT businesses to be given opportunities.
The rate of technological advancement and the demands of the digital era is such that even the most conservative in this province has to acknowledge that there is a new dawn - dawning very fast. What seemed to not too long ago as a fixation of an over active imagination, such as an autonomous vehicle, or a car without a driver, is fast becoming reality.
Programme Director, as I draw towards conclusion I want to talk briefly about Moses Kotane and Dube Trade Port.
Regarding ICT skills development, an important milestone for KZN was the establishment of Moses Kotane Science and Technology Institute. This institute was established in partnership with the National Department of Science and Technology. This institute is an important vehicle that is contributing towards increasing the production of Maths, Science and Engineering skills. It offers science, technology and leadership programmes in the areas of adult education, bridging programmes for tertiary education. It utilises ICT to enhance the teaching and learning of maths, science and technology. Over the years, Moses Kotane trained more than 15 000 students in Software Engineering skills. These students upon completion of their studies have undergone a one-year internship programme in ICT companies in India. This programme is a joint international project between Indian Government and KwaZulu-Natal Government as within the context of BRICS.
Programme Director, I wish to inform our entrepreneurs about exciting developments. Regarding broadband rollout, our entity Dube Trade Port – has signed an agreement with Sentech.
We are also working with State Information and Technology Agency - SITA to expand our broad-brand footprint to every region in the KwaZulu-Natal through the creation of digital parks. We want women to lead and be the leading disrupters! At this stage, I wish to announce few projects which will breathe life into our Fourth Industrial Revolution aspirations. We reflected briefly on such projects when we presented our Budget Speech.
Firstly, Moses Kotane is at the forefront of the establishment of a state of the art Innovation Hub which will be housed at the Dube Trade Port. We have stated previously that this Innovation Hub will focus on creating Artificial Intelligence (Ai), Block chain technology, Biotechnology and big data analytics.
We always make an example that, since its inception, Bitcoin has taken the world by storm so much so that there are shops in South Africa that accept it as a form of payment. We are therefore saying South Africa’s next big invention in crypto currencies must come from our province. We want women to take advantage of such developments in the ICT sector.
Ladies will be happy to hear that we are also enhancing the Dube Trade port cloud computing facility to host the new applications and systems that will be built by our people. When we say our people – we are saying women must be the majority. I must also hasten to point out that plans are moving fast to establish a hardware manufacturing plant. We want this plant to build devices that will connected to the internet as part of the Internet of Things (IoT) programme of Government.
We are rolling out ICT Hubs to provide generic services like tele-centres, desktop publishing, internet connectivity (Wifi), incubation and business support, innovation support, entrepreneurship and information services to the community. In the fullness of time, we want to have public areas such as libraries, taxi ranks in townships as Wi-Fi free spots, where our people can able to connect to the internet with ease; and Critically, plans are afoot to run parallel programmes of setting up technology recycling centres, focusing on research on material used and establishing e-waste centres. This is yet another opportunity for creating new work and new economic opportunities for women.
In conclusion, we appreciate the fact that there are women coming from all corners of this province. When we talk about local communities we understand that women are the backbone of any community.
It is for these reasons that our women empowerment programmes are aimed at ensuring that women become the agents of change. We wish to thank all women from all corners of this province for attending this dialogue.
Over the next few weeks, we will be visiting all district municipalities as part of Post Budget Speech Road Shows. We want you to interact with our entities so that you learn more about economic opportunities.
We are extending an invitation to all of you to be part of a journey to prosperity!!! I thank you