Call for asset-based approach to tackling poverty in Nelson Mandela Bay

At the conference are, from the left, the Revd Xhanti Mhlontlo, the Revd Andrea Potgieter, Bishop Bethlehem, Canon Claire Phelps, and Dr Bukelwa Hans. (PHOTO: Frankie Simpson)

By Ed Richardson

The creation of much-needed jobs in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro can be fast-tracked by taking an “asset-based” approach to poverty alleviation rather than focusing on the negatives, says Bernie Dolley, director of the Ikahla Trust.

She was speaking at the metro’s first poverty and unemployment summit to be organised by civil society. Convened by Transformation Christian Network (TCN) and the Ikhala Trust, it was attended by over 80 representatives from churches, non-governmental organisations and business leaders across the metro.

Two of the themes which came out of the conference were that civil society has been quiet for too long, and is therefore not being sufficiently consulted and included in the plans by business and the municipality to create jobs, and that there is insufficient information on just what is being done in the metro — and where the most pressing needs are, according to Dolley.

The need for a public database of needs and programmes already in place broken down into each of the metro’s 60 wards was identified, she says.

This will help reduce the current duplication of interventions and support in some areas at the expense of others.

It will also help with job creation as the needs identified through the database also represent business opportunities for entrepreneurs, and will identify the assets that the metro has.

These include church, school and government buildings and land.

An asset-based approach to job creation builds on these physical resources, as well as the skills within a community. “The principle behind the work of Ikhala Trust is to sow where people have already laid a foundation,” she says.

During the meeting a number of organisations, including the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, the Business Women’s Association, local churches and non-governmental organisations shared information on the work being done to alleviate poverty and support job creation.

“It always amazes me to find out just how much work civil society is doing in the metro to tackle the problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality in the metro,” says Trevor Jennings of TCN.

“What is significant about the summit is that it was organised and funded by civil society. Our voice needs to be heard by the politicians and business organisations, because we are on the ground and know first-hand what the opportunities and needs are,” he says.

A follow-up summit is planned for early 2018, at which plans for civil society to promote job creation in order to alleviate poverty in the metro will be drawn up.

“We are busy collating the views and information from the November 30 summit, and these will provide the basis for our planning — with the first priority being the database,” she says.

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