Nico Ferreira, a pioneer of Small Business Development and Local Economic Development, died peacefully in Hermanus on 16 June at the age of 90.
He was born in the Free State town of Odendaalsrus and studied political science at the University of Pretoria. From a very early age Ferreira had the belief and vision that unity and social renewal needed to come to South Africa and Africa, and he had a role to play.
As a young man he met and became a lifelong friend of PQ Vundla when he tried to mitigate the conflict during the infamous removal of residents from Sophiatown. A bond was built between these two – seasoned ANC political and community leader and young Afrikaner. In years to come, they travelled the world together speaking of the change each had undergone in the quest for a new South Africa.
Ferreira became an international participant in the work of Moral Re-armament (MRA) and was for many years involved in actions to solve conflict in post-war Germany, Brazil, Nigeria and Kenya.
In the late ’60s he and his wife returned to South Africa and founded a youth development programme, “Springbok Stampede”, which toured the country and neighbouring states with musical productions that voiced a message of reconciliation.
Ferreira was convinced small business development, and in particular manufacturing, could play a key role in economic upliftment in the country. He travelled the length and breadth of the country identifying small industrial workshops – brickyards, furniture makers, clothing manufacturers, fencing material specialists and farmers and worked with these entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. He initiated the establishment of the National Industrial Chamber (NIC) and the National African Farmers’ Union (NAFU). He organised group study tours for entrepreneurs to the USA, Japan, Singapore and Europe. Out of this grew the idea of Local Economic Development (LED).
In 1982 he and his family moved to Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape to concentrate his efforts in the region and work in the rural areas he loved so.
In the late 1980s the volatile political and socio-economic future of Stutterheim was on the brink of breakdown. Ferreira, as Mayor, mediated a programme between black residents, who staged a mass consumer boycott due to lack of service delivery, and the town council and white residents.
The Stutterheim Development Foundation was registered, and its far-reaching programmes included housing and infrastructure, improved schooling, agriculture, small business enterprises and rural development.
He retired to Hermanus in 2003, but continued to involve himself in a variety of community activities. Ferreira was a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Enlighten Education Trust founded by Henry Kuiper.
He was a visionary leader with a keen understanding of the present, at the same time building a conceptual model of the future and bringing it into being.
Ferreira’s actions inspired others. His lively interest in current affairs and abiding interest in the activities and lives of the hundreds of people with whom he had contact will be sorely missed.
In 2013, during an overseas trip, Ferreira suffered a severe brain haemorrhage, which incapacitated him. A year ago he was admitted to the Onrus Care Centre, where he passed away in his sleep. He was married to Loel Rubidge from Graaff-Reinet and they have a daughter, who lives in Vienna with her husband, and a son and family in the Cayman Islands.
Q 28 September 1929-16 June 2020
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