De Beers Voorspoed Mine Incubation Support Programme was launched in June 2017 in Kroonstad with 35 entrepreneurs with potential.

Preparing for success in business

A busy and complex mining operation such as Voorspoed needs a range of suppliers. Whether it involves transporting workers to and from work, catering or maintenance, there is a great deal of work to be done that goes beyond the core business of diamond mining.

This presents an opportunity to support and develop the local economy where the mine operates. But simply making a decision to use local suppliers is not enough, because the skills needed to do the work (or run a business efficiently and profitably) may not be there. This is where an enterprise and supplier development programme becomes a key element in the plan to support local entrepreneurs and service providers.

Incubation

The Voorspoed Mine Enterprise and Supplier Development Manager is Theodor Moeti. He explains the underlying concept as incubation. “This is where we equip people with business management skills.”

The incubation programme aims to create independent businesses that are able to go beyond a craftsman using their skills or someone having a product to sell in a once-off transaction, to becoming thriving businesses that will last and grow. “All applications were from Fezile Dabi district and then a shortlist was compiled from those applicants. This ensures that the successful candidate is also local.”

Other business ideas that have been raised in the Incubation Programme include agri-processing, bio-diesel manufacturing, compost manufacturing, landscaping and waste recycling. The key, as Moeti stresses, is that they should be “stand-alone businesses”, independent of the mine and mine contracts.

Supplier development programme

The company that supplies the specialist training for business management skills is TrioPlus Development. Eight local companies have been identified to learn more about business skills such as financial management, pricing and costing, human resources, marketing, operational management and entrepreneurial awareness. Also included are the key skills of management and leadership.

Moeti notes that the appointed service provider is responsible for mentorship. “We appointed TrioPlus Development to ensure that the businesses succeed, and they become sustainable in the long run. During this mentorship the service provider addresses and develops and trains the business owner.”

Important objectives are to make sure that they render a quality service to the mine, and that the business remains sustainable even after the life of mine.

Not all training is outsourced. Says Moeti, “Say for instance if we see that a contractor is taking too long to replace a bolt, we then get one of our engineers internally, a mine employee, to come and train on site. In this way we also give support.”

A shining star

In 2016 four people wanted to apply for the plant cleaning and maintenance contract but they were not registered as a business. The Voorspoed enterprise and supplier development unit assisted them with business registration and with an application to get the capital to buy equipment. A significant discount was negotiated on the machinery and the loan was obtained from Zimele, the Anglo American funder of small enterprises.

With funding of R3.2-million, Blue Motion General Construction went from strength to strength to the point that they now employ 26 people. The four-person team (including one female and two youths) are now in discussions with mentors about how they might expand their range beyond the mine.

One way of stimulating local supplier development is to ensure that contracts are awarded to local suppliers wherever they can offer the pre-requisite skills.

The transport sector is another area of opportunity. For example, Mmetlakgola Transport, a company formed by 36 members of two Kroonstad Taxi Associations, owns a 26% share in Multi Transport through an empowerment deal facilitated by De Beers for the transportation of its employees. Anglo Zimele has recently approved a loan of R4.2-million to assist Mmetlakgola Transport to purchase busses. A small dividend has already been paid by the venture.

A contract was awarded in 2016 to Lekoa Technologies to run the mine’s conveyor belt maintenance. Voorspoed and Dunlop Industrial have since conducted specialist training sessions for employees of Lekoa, where certificates of competence have been awarded.

Looking ahead

Voorspoed is looking ahead to the future. Incubators are no longer focussing purely on construction and catering and mining-related sectors. Local residents are being assisted to prepare for a broader range of employment and business opportunities.