As mines have reopened with the easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, they are experiencing many challenges, not least of which are those relating to social labour plans (SLPs).

These include declines in SLP budgets, practical difficulties in engaging with stakeholder communities and the continued, effective delivery of business-development programmes, among others. The fact is, though, that SLP and B-BBEE Mining Charter regulatory requirements remain in force and mines must still fulfil their obligations.

The economic impact of the pandemic also means mines have growing concerns about committing SLP budgets to physical infrastructure for business-development services (BDS), along with the associated health and safety challenges. Some initiatives are at a complete standstill while others have attempted to make the move to digital delivery, but these efforts seem to have been mostly reactive and often disjointed.

The head of sales at top business incubator Raizcorp, Dylan Baxter, says, “We’re seeing a proliferation of so-called ‘online solutions’ but, while digital technology can definitely be leveraged effectively for BDS, it has to be done in a constructive, meaningful way that delivers real value. It really isn’t as simple as putting a talking head in front of a Zoom meeting because that just boils down to ‘digital talk and chalk’ which is usually ineffectual. The offering needs to be comprehensive, programmatic and far more dynamic.”

If you are considering making the move to digital BDS, Baxter advises engaging with a reputable service provider who can tailor a solution that suits your specific needs and context. You should also consider the amount of personal (albeit digital) interaction the solution offers individual beneficiaries. Not every beneficiary is in the same industry or experiencing the same challenges which is why one-on-one mentorship is such a critical component of effective BDS.

Finally, don’t forget the true purpose of your SLP, namely, supporting the community. If you are investigating alternatives to bricks-and-mortar initiatives, you should also consider equipping your beneficiaries with the necessary tools – internet-enabled devices and data – to enable them to participate fully and meaningfully.

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