NHLANGANO – Shiselweni-based entrepreneur Nkululeko Simelane, who is a farmer and carpenter, is the regional winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in the region.
The awards that were hosted by the Small Enterprise Development Company (SEDCO) were held at Phumula Guest House yesterday. Simelane said he started his business in 2007. He recounted how he started as a forester who grew trees for later chopped them down to make wooden doors out of the timber.
When asked what made him win, he said it was commitment and hard work. He stated that he had the machinery to do the whole process. “We sell the finished product to different hardware stores in the country,” he added. He said what made his business different and profitable was that he grew the timber himself, and did not buy it.
Simelane said he was ready to represent the region in the national awards.
Meanwhile, Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Trade Manqoba Khumalo said it was pleasing to see the youth in entrepreneurship than waiting to be employed. The minister said this year was an improvement from 2019, where the youth only made up 24 percent of the total applicants. “This is good news for us because it indicates that the youth of Shiselweni is willing to pursue entrepreneurship and create economic activity in their region. This also means that we need to come together and strengthen our efforts in developing their capabilities by equipping them with entrepreneurship training, coaching, and mentoring, and by providing easy access to business development services,” he said.
The minister said the Shiselweni Region was continuously growing in manufacturing and this was great for the economy, adding that such also presented an opportunity for the business sector to strengthen linkages between local small businesses and large firms. He said this could happen by introducing measures that would mainstream local micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) into the value chains of these large firms.
Minister Khumalo added that as they continued to work on value chain integration for MSMEs, as a ministry, they hoped that MSMEs would take advantage of the available market access opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). He said they hoped that the duty-free market access would enable MSMEs to expand and increase their productive capabilities.
Khumalo shared that recently, the ministry met with stakeholders to validate the draft national handicraft policy. He said this policy sought to address current challenges faced by artisans, identify growth opportunities and also outline practical steps to enhance growth in the handcraft sector. “We are excited about this policy because our country has a vibrant handicraft sector and we believe this policy will help to achieve greater investment and support for the handicraft sector and also increase its overall contribution to social and economic development,” he added.
The minister congratulated the regional winner and announced that in the next few weeks, they would be hosting more EYA regional ceremonies, before the national awards.
SEDCO Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Khethiwe Mhlanga congratulated all the nominees who were invited. She said being nominated meant they were doing a great job. She stated they were excited that they had entrepreneurs from Hlatikhulu who had an abattoir and reared chickens. She invited more entrepreneurs to reach out to SEDCO for training. “We are going to have training at the Tinkhundla level, do make sure you attend,” she said.
Meanwhile, the main sponsor, FNB Eswatini, sponsored E1.5 million into the project. It was said that they had been supporting SEDCO for 13 years. FNB Chief Marketing Officer Zethu Dlamini acknowledged that the entrepreneurs stood firm despite COVID-19.
She shared that as FNB Eswatini when SEDCO came knocking, they came all out as they understood the initiative helping the youth and entrepreneurs reach their dreams. “Can we never forget our ‘why’ because that is the main reason we are here today,” she said.
Other sponsors include Times of Eswatini, ENPF, and FINCORP.