Media Release: Garden Route Business Advisory Forum Established
For Immediate Release
9 March 2022
The Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), Knysna Municipality, Business Chambers and business forums in the region today, 8 March 2022, connected in Knysna to establish a quarterly Garden Route Business Advisory Forum. The forum will serve to promote an inclusive business environment. Being a first of its kind in the Western Cape at a district level, the GRDM Mayor, Ald. Memory Booysen also plans to form task teams to promote critical sectors like Tourism, Agriculture, and Construction.
At the first engagement, Cllr Levael Davis, Knysna Municipality Executive Mayor, said: “The Garden Route is filled with a kaleidoscope of opportunities. He shared that Knysna Municipality understands the value the GRDM adds and the importance of the platform’s establishment. “I think it is the right time for this, and we, as the Knysna Municipality, are in full support of this platform, and we know the rest of the region will follow suit.”
Deputy Executive Mayor, Adv. Gert van Niekerk was also present at the engagement with the Mayoral Committee Members, as well as Portfolio Committee members of GRDM.
During Booysen’s overview of the advisory forum, he explained that the forum was established as envisaged in the Garden Route Economic Recovery Plan. This recovery plan is widely consulted, with both government and private sector playing an active role, and subsequently, adopted by the GRDM Council on 30 March 2021. Booysen also touched on his past experiences where investors frequently asked questions that only the business chambers representatives would have had answers to. “The GRDM does not plan to engage with international investors without business chamber representatives being present. This platform will also help us to establish which business would be the best suited for the type of investor we are planning to engage with.
“Today is a new beginning – the first steps of the ‘marathon’,” said Booysen.
He urged all political parties present at the engagement not to play dirty politics and to work with businesses to promote the region.
Paul Hoffman presented the proposed structure for GRAF, and how it fits into the structure adopted by the Garden Route to drive the implementation of the Garden Route Growth & Development Strategy and Recovery Plan. Chambers, Associations and other business Forums will form part of GRAF at an advisory and strategic level, while individual businesses and sector bodies will be more involved at the implementation level of the Strategy, and will be integrated into the 7 Priority Clusters, namely Tourism, Agriculture, Wellbeing and Resilience, Energy Transition, Water Security, Circular Economy, and a Connected Economy. Hoffman further reiterated that it is not the intention to duplicate existing structures but to be complementary to the current business structures at both a regional, as well as a local municipal level. Knowledge sharing and best practices will be key components of such an engagement, and the engagements will be driven by a “Private Sector driven – Government supported” approach.
Ald. Virgil Gericke, one of the GRDM Proportional Representative Councillors, was also at the event and said that he fully supports the Mayor in the establishment of this forum. He asked that no one stands in the way of this forum’s agenda. “The issue of transformation is critical,” said Gericke. He also emphasized the relaxation of bylaws to make it easier for businesses to thrive – currently, bylaws are not as inclusive as they should be. “The reduction of red-tape and excessively complicated administrative procedures must become a thing of the past.” Gericke said that he personally experienced startup capital as one of the biggest hurdles when he started a small business. “Many are left with loans at a high-interest rate,” he said. It is no secret that small businesses face widespread challenges with a limited cash flow when they are getting on their feet.
The forum provides a “unique opportunity for businesses to position themselves as part of the decision making processes,” said Rachel Wall, Chairperson of the Stillbay Business Chamber. She is also in full support of the advisory forum but requested for more local municipality representatives to form part of future engagements.
A member of the George Small Business Forum, Basil Myners, urged all stakeholders at the forum to help educate small businesses by mentoring them and sharing information. “I have recently registered six co-operatives in Friemersheim to boost agriculture in the area.” Cooperatives are people-centred enterprises that are owned, controlled and run by and for their members to reach common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations.
Lusanda Menze, GRDM Executive Manager: Planning and Economic Development and the current Acting Municipal Manager of GRDM, in wrapping up the session, said: “It is fitting to say this is the start of many more engagements we will have with the business sector.” He assured those present that he fully supported the newly established organized platform and sees the GRDM fulfilling its coordination role. However, he indicated that the business fraternity will need to take the leading role.
“The GRDM Mayor has planted the seed, and it is now up to us to water it so that it can grow.”
“We are building an enabling environment for business to grow,” Menze concluded.
Pictured at shortly after the first regional Business Advisory Forum – Ald. Memory Booysen, GRDM Executive Mayor (wearing chain) and Knysna Executive Mayor, Cllr Levael Davis (back-right), with stakeholders from various business forums and chambers in the region, as well as municipal representatives.