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Free State’s first black industrialists help to create jobs

Written by More Matshediso

A local chemicals manufacturing company is helping to fight unemployment by creating about seventy sustainable jobs in Harrismith in the Free State.

Kevali Chemicals is the first Free State black owned chemicals manufacturer of a range of water treatment chemicals, hygiene and sanitation solutions as well as adhesives.

The company was founded in 2014 by five friends who have expertise in chemicals, fast-moving consumer goods, product development, and adhesives industries.

Kevali Chemicals Executive Director Funeka Khumalo shared the journey of the company with Vuk’uzenzele.Kevali Chemicals Executive Director Funeka Khumalo says the Black Industrialist Scheme supported her company to acquire machinery and equipment to commence the manufacturing and production line for water treatment, cleaning and disinfecting as well as adhesives.

“We all had many years of working experience and skills in different industries and thought we should come together and started this company,” said Khumalo.

“In the beginning, we had to inject money to get the business off the ground but ultimately we received funding from the Department of Trade and Industry (The dti) through the Black Industrialist Scheme (BIS) as well as the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC),” she added.

The Black Industrialist Scheme supported Kevali Chemicals to acquire machinery and equipment to commence the new manufacturing and production line for water treatment, cleaning and disinfecting as well as adhesives.

The Scheme is a grant programme of the Black Industrialists Policy that aims to unlock the potential within black industrialists operating in South African economy through deliberate, targeted and well-defined financial and non-financial interventions.

Khumalo said it took about R18 million to get the business off the ground and about 11 months to start making profit.

“It was not easy to keep the business running. But we had a goal,” said Khumalo.

Today, the company has created about 70 jobs in Harrismith, from technicians and engineers to general workers and security guards.

It has the potential of generating an estimated investment value of R240m over five years.

“We saw a gap in the chemicals industry because most of the big companies operating in South Africa are foreign, so we thought we should come together and start something that is locally based,” Khumalo explained.

Although the founders of the company come from different provinces, Khumalo believes that Kevali Chemicals has a lot of benefits for the community of Harrismith and Free State residents.

The company distributes its products across South Africa as well as in various countries in the African continent including Uganda, Namibia, and Tanzania.

Khumalo said the impact that the company has on the lives of local residents is bigger than job creation.

“Over and above creating jobs for local residents, we have a social investment programme through which we assist township and rural area based women set up small business that specialise in the manufacturing of domestic hygiene and sanitation products,” she said.

She said young entrepreneurs should know that starting a business is never easy but they should not lose heart as they will later enjoy the rewards.

“As an aspirant entrepreneur, you need a strong support structure and a solid plan of what you want to do with their businesses because entrepreneurship is a tough journey. You need to be hungry for it to work out,” she said.

The official launch of Kevali Chemicals factory took place on Wednesday in Tshiame in Harrismith and was officiated by The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Bulelani Magwanishe, the Premier of the Free State Sisi Ntombela and MEC for Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DESTEA) Maki Mahasa.

Deputy Minister Magwanishe said Kevali has the honour of being the first company specialising in the chemicals, pharmaceuticals and plastics sector to have ever been approved since the establishment of the Black Industrialist Programme in 2016.

“The company is housed within the Maluti-A-Phofung Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and will provide much needed job opportunities to surrounding communities of Harrismith which are gripped by high levels of unemployment,” he said.

He told Vuk’uzenzele that he hopes that the company will help attract more investors to take advantage of the SEZ in the Free State town.

Kevali’s product description includes the provision of water treatment services, safe food and beverage solutions and the supply of environmental friendly adhesives for labelling and packaging.