20 February 2010
Deputy minister of trade and industry Bongi Ntuli (second from left) unveils the plaque at the opening of the NCF’s Access to Knowledge Centre in KwaMhlanga, Mpumalanga. She is flanked by Metropolitan group empowerment and corporate affairs executive Nathi Chonco (left), Nestlé South Africa chairman and chief executive Sullivan O’Carroll (second from right) and NCF chairman Thami Bolani.The National Consumer Forum has been urged to ensure the success of its pilot Access to Knowledge (A2K) centre in KwaMhlanga near Pretoria, so that the concept can be duplicated in underprivileged areas all over South Africa.
Opening the centre on Friday 19 February, deputy minister of trade and industry Bongi Ntuli praised the NCF for its initiative, and encouraged local residents to take responsibility for life-long learning to improve their skills and contribution to society.
The A2K centre is based in municipal offices in KwaMhlanga, and will offer training in financial literacy, computer skills and nutrition among other fields; it will also carry out research to help prioritise local needs and appropriate responses.
“The central aim of this pilot facility is to empower consumers with knowledge in a range of basic life skills,” said NCF chairman Thami Bolani. “We all know that a better-informed consumer is less likely to be abused in the marketplace.”
Wearing ceremonial blankets bestowed by the KwaMhlanga community, deputy minister of trade and industry Bongi Ntuli (centre) and NCF chairman Thami Bolani listen to speakers at the A2K launch; on their right is Sullivan O’Carroll, chairman and chief executive of Nestlé South Africa, a sponsor of the centre.The deputy minister said government was keen to see consumers becoming more demanding, especially with the recent passing of the Consumer Protection Act. “We want to see more consumers being prepared to say ‘No’ to sub-standard products and services – whether these come from business or from government,” she said.
She said the new law regarded state organs like municipalities as providers of services, just like those in the private sector; as such, municipalities needed to deliver quality services and “treat citizens with the respect they deserve”.
Pro-active consumers were also vital to keep the economy strong and competitive, she added. “Consumers must play their role in helping service providers to raise their standards,” she said.
Bolani also announced that well-known consumer activist Ina Wilken has joined the NCF and will be taking a leading role in ensuring the successful piloting and roll-out of the A2K programme.
The A2K centre is being financially supported by food giant Nestlé South Africa and financial services company Metropolitan.