Jan 2023

Construction leads to a better future

Written by: Nosihle Shelembe

The entrepreneurial journey of Tando (38), a Port Elizabeth businessman and beneficiary of Coega Development Corporation (CDC) programme, has come full circle.

The CDC is the operator and developer of the Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ), and its overarching objective is to boost economic growth and job creation through investment, in pursuit of socio-economic development.

The Coega SEZ  headquarters are in the city of Gqeberha, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality with a strategic operational footprint in South Africa and on the African continent.

Today, Mhlobiso is an investor at the Coega SEZ and garners investment in the energy, metals, logistics, automotive, chemicals, aquaculture and agro processing, maritime, and businMhlobiso Group Founder and Manager, Tando Mhlobiso Photo: Mhlobiso Groupess process outsourcing sectors.

Having established a construction company with no background in the field, Mhlobiso runs a successful array of businesses that deliver an integrated construction service to its customer base.

When his plans of obtaining a qualification as an internal auditor were dashed due to his father’s passing in his second year at university, and the sudden financial difficulties that his family experienced, Mhlobiso pursued entrepreneurship.

While he always had a passion for business, he undertook his entrepreneurial journey much earlier than anticipated.

“I wanted to break the poverty barriers and the cycle of not being able to afford the expenses for our family’s cost of living. I saw entrepreneurship as the gateway for us to be able to break free from poverty,” says Mhlobiso.

In 2005, he started a car wash, a mobile digital distribution company and a gymnasium but like many small start-ups in the country, these ventures failed to take off. These did little to deter him.

The following year he went into business with a business partner who had a background in civil engineering and they established a construction company. Unfortunately, they had challenges and parted ways in 2009. However, he never gave up.

“I started the current company, which is still going strong 14 years later. We started with Mantishe Construction and ended up funding other divisions of the enterprise, which forms the Mhlobiso Group,” says the Founder and Manager, Mhlobiso.

Mantishe Construction paved the way for the establishment of Mhlobiso Plant Hire, Mhlobiso Asphalt, Mhlobiso Transport, Mhlobiso Concrete and Mhlobiso Properties.

Mhlobiso Concrete is the youngest addition to the Mhlobiso Group and the company recently moved into the CDC SEZ as an investor.

According to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, SEZs are tools to help promote industrial agglomeration, build the required industrial infrastructure, promote coordinated planning among key government agencies and the private sector, and guide the deployment of other necessary development tools.

Coega SMME Development Programme

Back in 2009, Mhlobiso enrolled to participate in the CDC's small, medium and micro-enterprise (SMME) Development Programme where he learned the ropes of the construction industry.

Beneficiaries of the programme have access to economic opportunities and benefit from its skills development programme. The programme targets SMMEs that are at least 51% black owned, with a Construction Industry Development Board (cibd) grading of 1 to 7.

Established by Act 38, of 2000, the cibd is a public entity created to lead industry stakeholders in construction development.

“I registered Mantishe construction under the Coega SMME Development Programme in late 2009. Mantishe Construction is now Grade 6CE and recently registered 6SB which is classified as highly specialised works,” he says.      

Enrolling in the programme changed the trajectory of his business, providing him with the opportunity to penetrate the market, which at the time was mainly accessible to established businesses.

The programme assists SMMEs to become sustainable through raising awareness and encouraging Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment compliance; assisting Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) certificate attainment under the amended codes; and promoting the advancement of suppliers within the CDC’s supply chain.

“Coega would create packages for Grade 1 to Grade 3s to come in under main contractors and learn from the established businesses. They created an opportunity for us to learn and grow. I quickly learned about cash flow, how to manage the site and manage employees. I learned a lot during that time and it prepared me to take on contracts independently. It made me a better contractor,” he says.

His companies employ 150 people, but it took him about 16 years to get where he is today. 

To participate in the SMME programme, enterprises can register on the CDC database. Application forms are available on (www.coega.co.za > Coega Services > SMME). - SAnews.gov.za

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