The Annual General Meeting of the Grahamstown Business Forum is scheduled to take place on Thursday 16 March at 17:30 at the Graham Hotel. As prescribed by our constitution the agenda for the AGM includes a report by the Chair on the activities of the organisation over the past year and a financial report showing the income and expenditures, and current financial situation of the organisation. While this year’s agenda will also include amendments to the constitution, the election of office bearers for the next term is an important item on the agenda.
Over the last couple of years the GBF worked hard establishing itself as a major role player in making Grahamstown a home for all who live, work and study here. The GBF is keen for Grahamstonians to feel cared for.
Since the livelihoods of many Grahamstonians are dependent on a prosperous local economy, the GBF is primarily concerned with creating conditions in which business can thrive. All of us need existing local businesses to be sustained. We need entrepreneurs to start new micro and small businesses and we need investors to bring new businesses to our City.
It would be easy to become overwhelmed or paralysed by the myriad of challenges facing business in Grahamstown. For this reason the GBF took a strategic decision to focus on the “low hanging fruits” of a clean and safe central business district, which, if we get that right, would enable us to move on to bigger challenges. A clean and safe CBD is probably the one single aspect that has the potential to have the biggest impact, not only on the way in which visitor’s experience Grahamstown, but also how we as businesspeople and citizens see ourselves.
Over the past year this quest for a clean and safe CBD has taken us on a journey which included a collaborative clean-up project with the Grahamstown Residents’ Association, negotiations with Makana Municipality around a parking system service provider, a recycling bin project with local schools, a dust-bin project which offered businesses advertising space and a service level agreement with Makana Municipality that allowed the GBF to monitor and report on aspects related to cleaning.
On a grand scale this clean and safe mission culminated in high-level turnaround strategic discussions involving the Office of the Premier of the Eastern Cape and officials from the provincial government, representatives of Makana Municipality, Council, the Grahamstown Foundation, local NGOs, churches and schools. While clear action tasks with timelines are still being formulated, only time will reveal the impact of this rather ambitious undertaking.
On a smaller scale the emergence of a sustainable parking system in Bathurst Street holds much promise for our dream of a clean and safe CBD. Working collaboratively with the Community Policing Forum, businesses in Bathurst Street are sponsoring a system of car guards who will “look after” your vehicle while you are doing business in the area, without demanding a parking fee. These car guards will be easily identifiable by their neat uniforms and name badges and will be trained to act as ambassadors, not only of the businesses they represent, but of the entire City. In addition, they will keep the area in which they operate clean of rubbish and also keep a watchful eye for any suspicious activity. Negotiations are currently underway with students enrolled in the Postgraduate Diploma in Enterprise Management of the Rhodes Business School to work with participants of the Assumption Development Centre’s SocioNext Entrepreneurship Programme to implement the parking system across the City and sustain it into the future, and in so doing, create a business-opportunity for local youth.
In order to sustain the work of the GBF, the current chair, Trevor Davies, has established a number of sub-committees, each focussing on a particular aspect that will contribute to creating an enabling business environment, and which taken together, have the potential to bring about huge positive spin-offs for everyone in Grahamstown.
The work of the Clean and Safe Committee, headed by Steven van der Merwe of Hyundai Grahamstown, has already been described above. Chaired by Monde Mafane, the Business Development Committee works closely with the Assumption Development Centre to develop micro and small businesses through entrepreneurship courses and aims to collaborate with stakeholders to bring investment to the City. The Hospitality Committee led by Eugene Repinz of Afri Temba Leisure, works closely with the hospitality and tourism industries to attract visitors to our City whereas the Creative City Committee, chaired by Grant Meldrum of Connect Africa Communications aspires to work with Makana Municipality, the National Arts Festival and the Grahamstown Foundation to develop Grahamstown as the creative capital of Africa. The Membership Committee is tasked to develop the GBF membership base using communications media such as our Web site and social media platforms as well as through networking events such as our business breakfasts.
Common responses to local events are either to complain about the negative or to propose solutions to these challenges. As much as the latter is appreciated, perhaps the one thing that an organisation such as the GBF really is in need of is “hands” – people who are willing to put in the time and the effort to also “do” whatever it takes to implement their thoughtful and well-considered ideas. Each of the above-mentioned sub-committees needs such people – those with the drive and passion to commit to implementing those ideas, for the benefit of everyone.
If you’re one of those people who “just do it” and if you are ready to contribute to the wellbeing of our quaint little City in any of the areas described above, please contact the GBF administrator, Marlene Mitchener on firstname.lastname@example.org.