The Expanded Public Works programme – with technical support by the ILO - is a national government initiative to address socio-economic objectives such as reducing unemployment and creating assets for economic and social services. It can especially provide poverty and income relief through temporary work for the unemployed.
Kuruman, in the province of Northern Cape, is a vast area with limited resources and infrastructure, as well as a high rate of unemployment. The Expanded Public Works programme set up an innovative road sealing project in Kuruman that utilises concrete blocks paving.
“This project started while we were trying to pave our premises, “said Nomatyala Ellen Modise, district manager from the South African Department of Roads and Transport in the Kuruman area.
“We couldn’t get the bricks that we needed, as a result we decided to come up with a brick-making project under the Expanded Public Works programme. Almost 80 per cent of our road are gravel roads. We decided that we should manufacture these bricks to reduce the gravel, create job opportunities and provide skills to our community for the future,” she added.
Providing jobs and skills locally
Concrete paving blocks can either be purchased from a manufacturer or manufactured near the construction site. Manufacturing concrete bricks nears areas of high unemployment and the use of labour intensive paving methods can provide income for participants and transform their lives. They can also acquire skills that will enhance their future employability.
“I was depending on the social grant. Now I am working for the Expanded Public Works programme. I am happy for the work. Every month I can get a salary as an independent woman” said Boitumelo Tamose, a young lady working for the brick making project.
“Since finishing school, this is my first job. I had never worked with machines before so at least I have gained a little bit of experience. If I find a similar job offer, maybe I can apply and get another job,” added Nkosiinathi Khulule, another participant.
Government-initiated programmes are usually not intended to offer services that can be provided by the private sector. However, in some cases, participants can be equipped with business skills and, when they leave the programme, they can create their own business or co-operative.
“I need to work hard for my kids. One day, I am going to buy my own machine and make bricks at home,” said Naomi Mokgothu, another woman involved in the brick-making project.
“These participants who are currently in the programme will be encouraged to form co-operatives and small enterprises. They will receive training in business management and mentorship,” said Gamelihle Sibanda, ILO Chief Technical advisor for the programme.
“The ILO recently trained 27 trainers around the country, including in the North Cape province. The idea is that these trainers will be in a position to train entrepreneurs, members of co-operatives and other people who need business training and mentorship,” he concluded.