Jobs Fund: How we're putting SA to work
The career choices of Najwah Allie-Edries, Deputy Director General for Employment Facilitation at National Treasury's Jobs Fund, reflects her commitment to improving the lives of the poor and delivering economic growth and opportunity in South Africa.
No wonder her motto in life is, "Be intentional, resilient and serve the country well."
And given SA's high unemployment rate, she has an important task resting on her shoulders.
Allie-Edries is also the project officer for a research programme on employment, income distribution and inclusive growth – in partnership with the South African Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town.
Furthermore, she participates in a research programme initiated by the Centre for Social Development in Africa, based at the University of Johannesburg.
She will also be chairing a steering committee that provides oversight on a new research initiative designing a youth guarantee package of support.
Her career began as a labour researcher at SALDRU and a senior policy advisor to the National Manpower Commission. Since then, she has gained extensive experience in South Africa's public sector, with nearly 20 years of experience in key executive management positions, including leading the transformation of the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
National jobs fund
Allie-Edries tells Fin24 that the Jobs Fund was established in 2011 and was capitalised with R9bn. The objective was to catalyse innovative thinking about how the country could create more jobs and support a more inclusive economy.
"While working on social security and retirement reform, supporting the inter-ministerial committee, I was approached to launch the Fund and put in place the operating procedures," says Allie Edries.
"Essentially government wanted to encourage the private, public and non-profit sectors to find innovative job creation models that could be scaled up but we wanted to ensure that the best ideas were supported. This is why we adopted challenge fund principles."
The Jobs Fund awards grants to projects that are innovative and that demonstrate that they can create sustainable jobs. According to Allie Edries, the fund seeks to intervene in the labour market and catalyse the creation of sustainable jobs by adopting a two pronged approach. Firstly, to stimulate demand for labour through enterprise and infrastructure development. Secondly, to stimulate the supply through improving the skills match between the unemployed and employers.
The various initiatives that have been supported include everything from micro finance to support for rural women, SME development, agriculture support for small holder farmers, among other things.
"The Fund also supports projects in the informal sector," says Allie-Edries.
"The fund has also supported initiatives that have improved the skills match between unemployed youth and existing vacant positions and have thereby accelerated the transition of youth from education into employment."
One such case is that of the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator. Through its support the fund has catalysed the achievement of scale in the operations of funding partners, thereby resulting in a more inclusive economy, she says.