The second annual official launch of the Free State enterPRIZE Job Creation Challenge was held on 18 March 2014 at the Windmill Casino and Entertainment Centre in Bloemfontein. This exciting competition is aimed at job creation through the development of small and medium enterprises in the Free State. The competition which is a partnership between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DETEA), the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and the Flemish International Cooperation Agency (FICA), will see contestants compete to win one of 75 prizes totaling R 7.5 million.

This year’s Challenge will be offering a combination of financial support and technical assistance, along with business management coaching and mentorship which will be valuable for entrepreneurs experiencing difficulties in obtaining funding. Furthermore, sponsors including Nedbank, Microsoft, Deloitte, Blue Pencil, Microsoft Bizpark, Free State Agriculture, PETCO, Gramercy Millenium Group, Development Franchising, Sport for All, PVC, New Africa, UFS,Cut, Inobits and ViGO will be providing tailor made prizes to category winners.

Jens Dyring Christensen, ILO Chief Technical Advisor, provided an overview of the initiative stating that “one of the important means to address the very high levels of unemployment in the province is through the stimulation of entrepreneurship and innovation allowing potential and existing entrepreneurs to identify and exploit new market opportunities thereby creating more economic growth.”

Other speakers for the evening included: ILO Director Vic van Vuuren, FICA’s Anne van Autreve – Global Director of FICA, Jackie Ntshingila of Head SEDA, David Uwah of the Black Management Forum as well as DETEA Head of Department, Mogokare Seleke.

A series of road shows will be held throughout the Free State with the aim of assisting and informing entrepreneurs on the competition’s workings. Thereafter semi-finalists will be selected to participate in business training sessions with adjudication taking place in the first week of June. Three finalists in each of the 25 categories will be announced at a gala dinner to be held on 19 June 2014.