Sept 2006



 Every year, many small businesses in South Africa shut down. This is often due to a lack of the necessary skills, technology and support. It means many small businesses are not run properly and cannot produce good quality products. To operate successfully, small businesses need skills and technology that will help them deal with the day-to-day running of their business.

To address this problem, the Department of Science and Technology started a programme to help small businesses with world class technology. The programme is aimed at businesses in engineering, chemicals, electrical, electronic, food technology, and textiles and clothing. The programme is called Tshumisano - a Venda word meaning partnership or co-operation. It is a partnership between the Department of Science and Technology, the German Government and universities of technology and technikons and universities in South Africa. The plan for Tshumisano was taken from a system used successfully in Germany, called the Steinbeis System.

The programme benefits small factories and university students. Universities of Technology and Technikons throughout South Africa are involved in the programme. Through these partnerships, small businesses can improve the quality and output of their production. This allows them to supply their products to big factories and companies. With the help of Tshumisano, the universities started 'Technology Stations.' At these stations, students get practical training and experience in the skills needed by small businesses.

Depending on the courses students are studying, they are based at particular Technology Stations. For example Electronics and Electrical Engineering, or Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. They gain skills in technology that businesses with skills shortages can use. Universities report that their former students who participated in Tshumisano have a higher rate of success of being employed after spending time with these businesses. Businesses that participate in the programme have access to various government funding schemes.

- Ndiwhuwo Khangale

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