THE Jobs Fund, which was established by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan a year ago, is expected to create 108000 jobs from its first year of activities.

SA is battling an unemployment rate that hovers around 25%. About 76000 "work opportunities" will be created for people who will be reskilled and helped to be reintegrated into the workplace.

Mr Gordhan said on Friday that "this is good progress in a short period, given the time it takes to set up processes and procedures".

Mr Gordhan said that the fund was in "a piloting phase" which would "help us understand what we need before we diversify and replicate what is taking place".

However, the fund was "a unique creature" with different aims and objectives to other government job-creation funds and schemes, such as public works programmes and industry competitiveness schemes. The fund requires applicants (for funding) to match the amount of government funding they receive with their own contribution.

It allocated its full R1,8bn in the first year. A further R1,7bn had been leveraged from private and public sector applicants in matching funding, according to a year-end report submitted to the Treasury.

"The response from the private sector has been very impressive. It shows there is potential for co-funding and that people are prepared to put their own money on the table."

The fund is administered by the Development Bank of Southern Africa. The fund's head of project origination, Xolani Ndungane, said finding suitable projects had been more difficult than expected.

The fund's primary mandate is to support initiatives that pilot innovative approaches to job creation.

About 2600 proposals were received in the first round, of which 34 were considered suitable.

Among the 34 projects accepted during the first round, two themes stood out: first, an emphasis on projects that focus on the creation of new enterprises and second, an emphasis on assisting people to move into employment through a variety of employer subsidies.

Mr Gordhan said that to get job creation going, "an explosion of incubation projects" was required. "We need more enterprises, whether in the private or the social sector."

patonc@bdfm.co.za