Although micro and informal enterprises (MIEs) can contribute to sustainable economic growth, the core issue and central barrier in the informal sector is that MIEs are isolated, poorly supported and poorly understood. The sector simply does not receive sufficient attention, access to funds and effective business development or legislative support that it deserves.

The Jobs Fund and Project Preparation Trust of Kwa-Zulu Natal’s (PPT KZN) Informal Economy Support Programme (IESP) offers customised business development services (BDS) in this marginalised sector.

Built on a pilot programme to provide training on how to run effective businesses, establishing market partnerships, accessing new markets, product refinement and access to finance, the project is selecting 105 micro informal enterprises to create an estimated 750 new permanent jobs in light manufacturing, construction, specialised retail services and agriculture.

One such enterprise is 30-year-old Zweli Mabaso’s Perfor Construction. In 2013 Mabaso, armed with the skills he acquired working as an artisan at Grassam factory, started the company which manufactures kitchen cupboards, aluminium windows, gates and doors. Located in Hammersdale in Mpumalanga Township, KwaZulu-Natial, the enterprise also offers road construction and building renovations.

Through the project, Perfor Construction was assisted in bidding for and receiving two large contracts. The enterprise was contracted to renovate Bayside Group’s various hotels, which included waterproofing and making cupboards, as well as renovating student accommodation. Mabaso was also assisted with negotiating exhibition space for his products at a ‘Build it’ branch, a full-service builder’s merchant. This visibility resulted in ‘Build it’ ordering 50 kitchen cupboards.

Although operating from larger premises than before and doubling its staff to 10, Perfor is struggling to keep up with the increased demand. Production has now slowed as they are unable to manufacture kitchen cupboards and the aluminium products at the same time in the current space.

Mabaso recognises that the future of his enterprise lies in finding larger premises and securing more clients while capitalising on the relationships he has built with the Bayside Group and ‘Build it’.

The IESP is facilitating market access, for Mabaso and others, through collaboration with the Durban Chamber of Commerce, while the eThekwini Municipality facilitates access for enterprises in the programme to affordable business space. Once trust has been built through a stable and reliable informal enterprise environment the Chamber is willing to facilitate supply chain linkages and more efficient access to raw materials.

The successes of the initiative will see the navigation of micro and informal enterprises like Perfor Construction from a survival mode into viable and sustainable enterprises capable of participating actively in local economies and creating jobs.