5 Questions: Jobs Fund head on employment, jobs and building an inclusive economy

Najwah Allie-Edries is the Deputy Director General for Employment Facilitation at National Treasury's Jobs Fund.

The Jobs Fund was established in 2011 and was capitalised with R9 billion. According to Allie-Edries, the objective was to catalyse innovative thinking about how the country could create more jobs and support a more inclusive economy. She spoke to Fin24 in this edited interview about what goes on behind the scenes and how to build an inclusive economy.

Fin24: Why is the national Jobs Fund important?

NAE: Our mandate is to facilitate the creation of sustainable jobs, this means we do more than facilitate internships and short-term jobs. By sharing risk and encouraging the commercial viability of initiatives, we create space for innovation and sustainability.

The tough economic conditions and seemingly intractable challenge of unemployment require some out-of-the-box thinking if the country is to find systemic and evidence-based solutions.

The impact and results thus far achieved through the fund's support for innovative employment creation models indicate that the strategy remains relevant to addressing the challenge of unemployment in South Africa.

More than 170 000 permanent jobs have been created as a result of the interventions of our project partners.

Fin24: What are the challenges?

NAE: There are many factors that impact the creation of new jobs in the country and many of these are not within the control of the Jobs Fund. It is within this context that we must still encourage people to create new jobs in the economy.

We need a supportive regulatory environment and supportive policy to encourage new investment. In order for the Jobs Fund to be successful, private investors must be willing to invest in the country, we require new firms to enter our markets and therefore we should look into the ease of doing business in the country.

The other challenge is that our unemployment levels are so high, and we know that there isn’t one single answer to reducing unemployment, that all of us need to work together and that the country needs to have a multi-pronged approach to tackling unemployment.

To create a new job takes time but we do not have that luxury because of the pressing need to employ people now.

Fin24: What have been some success?

NAE: We have incredible partners in the agricultural sector, where small holder farmers have been assisted with everything from finance to technical inputs and they have clearly demonstrated that if you provide a holistic and comprehensive package of support to smallholder and emerging farmers they surely can make a difference and contribute towards food security in South Africa.

Examples include the Sernick Emerging Farmers Programme in the Free State as well as the industry-specific funding mechanism (Hortfin) launched in partnership with the Deciduous Fruit Producers Trust.

We have had similar success with regards to incubating small businesses and facilitating entry of new franchises. These entities have gone on to create enterprises of their own and have become net creators of jobs in the economy.

There has also been success with guarantee schemes that crowd in pension fund investments in order to de-risk investment in SMEs.

Fin24: What lessons have been learnt?

NAE: Implementing job creation projects is a high-touch endeavour. We have learnt that if you are going to be supporting job creation, you need to have partners that share your vision and that have the ability to develop an ecosystem of support for their project beneficiaries.

It is important for all parties to have a common vision and purpose, but most of all you need to be willing to work hard and stay the course.

Fin24: What is the road for the future?

NAE: The first priority is to complete the appraisal process funding for the 8th funding round. We then have to communicate what we have learnt – which models work – and provide policy briefs on how best to tackle the issue of job creation.

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