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In what is described as a milestone in its transformation journey, Astron Energy has announced a R220 million development fund to empower small businesses in the fuel giant’s value chain and its linked communities.
Astron Energy operates the second largest petroleum retail network in South Africa with over 800 Caltex retail service stations which are in the process of being rebranded to Astron Energy. The company recently completed the rebranding of its 24th site as it continues with the mammoth project.
Chief executive Thabiet Booley says the Astron Energy Development Fund (AEDF) is an “incredibly exciting year for Astron Energy as we launched the roll-out of our new brand across the country, while our refinery in Milnerton is in the process of being restarted.
“The launch of the AEDF is the next major step for us as a company which is committed to making a meaningful difference in the communities in which we operate.”
According to Booley, the AEDF was established in line with commitments made to the department of trade industry and competition.
Astron Energy recently achieved Level 1 BBBEE for the fourth year in a row, but Booley said the company’s aims extended far beyond transformation scorecards.
“For us, this is about seeking to create sustainable and meaningful change and prosperity for small businesses in the Astron Energy value chain and in under-resourced communities around our facilities.
“We understand that the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (SMME) sector is crucial to economic growth, job creation and shared prosperity in South Africa and we are committed to playing our role in this regard,” he added.
According to Debbie Parker, head of the AEDF, the aim of the fund is to support the establishment and/or growth of existing or potential local SMMEs that will create employment as they grow.
The AEDF also supports inclusive economic growth and employment through the development of digital and business skills for unemployed youth and by developing high school students to become ethical and economically independent leaders of tomorrow.
Astron Energy will support new or existing small businesses in the fuel and lubricants value chain through the provision of preferential rate development loans and/or business development support. Priority will be given to beneficiaries from disadvantaged groups, but no race group will be excluded.
Black-owned businesses in the refinery by-products (LPG & Bitumen) and retail sectors of the liquid fuel value chain are a focus area.
Furthermore, small business support includes distress or bridging finance together with business development support for key small business suppliers and retailers from disadvantaged groups.
Business development support extends to training and mentoring in the areas of leadership, strategy, marketing, safety standards, as well as the provision of finance, tax, legal and other services to help establish a firm foundation for each business.
According to Booley, the launch of the AEDF is over and above the R100 million in interest-free loans granted to small black-owned enterprises through the company’s enterprise and supplier development fund which has been going since 2015 and remains a priority programme for the company.
“The Astron Energy Development Fund is a key part of our efforts to help create a better, more prosperous and inclusive future for all our people and the communities in which we are invested,” Booley concluded.
Click here to read more about the AEDF and eligibility requirements, or to apply for AEDF support.