Nelson Mandela Bay’s township economy is set for a major boost with 106 mechanics inducted for the two-year Informal Automotive Service Centres Development Programme. An initiative of the Uitenhage Despatch Development Initiative (UDDI) in partnership with Filpro, an enterprise development company established to empower informal automotive entrepreneurs in South Africa, the programme is the first of its kind for the Eastern Cape. The programme covers theoretical and practical training to over 1 000 informal service centres. A group of generalist mechanics, tyre repairs and panel beaters from Kwa- Nobuhle, Khayamnandi and KwaLanga are the first beneficiaries of the programme in the region. “Bringing the programme to Nelson Mandela Bay is Filpro’s way of giving back to the region as township automotive businesses in the area regularly make use of automotive products manufactured by our parent company, G.U.D. Holdings,” adds Mahlalela. An induction workshop, held at the Nelson Mandela Bay Science and Technology (Uitenhage), marked the official kick-start of the two-year programme. Workshops are set to continue at Khayamnandi Hall (Despatch), Babs Madlakane Hall (KwaNobuhle) and Langa Hall (KwaLanga). Acting UDDI Enterprise Development Manager, Wandisiwe Nondlazi says, “Interactions with township-based enterprises showed that mechanics were capable of repairing cars but did not have formal qualifications or training to professionally conduct such services.” “Hence, we [UDDI] approached Filpro as an implementing partner as its core mandate looks to develop 100% black-owned small businesses in the automotive sector by providing business development support and procurement opportunities.”Nondlazi explains that the initial attention of the programme will be on basic business management and entrepreneurial skills development which will focus on financial administration, customer care, sales and marketing. The next phase will be hands-on and cover product training on automotive filters, brake pads, lubricants and spark plugs. Entrepreneurs will also learn the importance of using genuine automotive parts, laws of product, the Consumer Protection Act, as well as environmentally-friendly methods for recycling used car parts and oil. UDDI’s strategic partnership with Filpro was driven by the shared vision for empowering township based businesses as a way to accelerate economic activity and employment opportunities in the Nelson Mandela Bay townships. Owner of Kwano Auto Repairs in Kwa- Nobuhle, Sipho Mkayo (29), is elated to have made it to the initial intake. With no formal training since he started working on cars 14 years ago, he managed to establish his business in 2013 and today employs eight people. Mkayo says, “You can never stop learning! With this opportunity, my employees and I will be professionally trained in dealing with motor vehicles. I am also hoping to learn ways to effectively market my business.” All participants are running operational automotive-related ventures and were selected at UDDI and Filpro roadshows held in Uitenhage and Despatch. Upon completion, these automotive entrepreneurs are expected to offer a professional service that creates sustainable job opportunities and thus contributes to the upliftment of the local community.