Social Entrepreneurship, Majora Carter and Township Transformation

Social Entrepreneurs, Majora Carter and Township Transformation

This month Matoyana focuses on how entrepreneurs can tackle sustainability issues, so who better to feature in July than Majora Carter, US Activist turned Urban Revitalisation Strategist and Social Entrepreneur. She is founder and co-founder of the following organizations and initiatives: Sustainable South Bronx; Green for All; Bronx Tech Meetup; Startup Box Software Services and Best of the world. Wow – Right? We stumbled upon her TED talk sometime last month and we thought we definitely need to make July a Marjora Carter themed month.

Why? Well, you have to be living in your own special insulated cocoon if the social issues we face in SA aren’t scaring you a tad bit. The inequality gap and almost 30% unemployment rate, aren’t sustainable and we need to be finding solutions to fix this. For some of us, we’re faced by the negative effects of inequality and unemployment every time we go home to the township.

Marjora Carter comes from a similar socio-economic neighbourhood, the Bronx USA. A community riddled with unemployment and crime issues, like we face in SA townships. What made us fall in love with her story (yes, in love and in awe) is that she was able to find opportunity in the social problems her community has faced. This got us thinking what if, instead of driving this entrepreneurship / start your own business message, we focus on driving the message “solving your problems”. Just that. Solve the problems you are faced with on a daily basis AND find a way to monetize these solutions.

It’s the same thing really, but by looking at it from this perspective, could we possibly get more innovative and sustainable businesses in the township? Businesses that aren’t focused on making a quick buck; ones that aren’t a replica of the five other guys in the kasi; ones that aren’t created around alcohol and late night fun disturbing neighbours and causing more social problems?

Majora first came into the spotlight over ten years ago through her powerful discourse on Urban Renewal – “Greening the Ghetto”. Her talk in 2006 was one of the first six publicly released talks launching the, now iconic, website. Since then she’s gone on to be an emotive spokesperson for sustainability in business. This TED-talk is definitely worth watching, as it is so relevant to South Africa and the world today.

Stumbling across Marjora Carter’s Ted talk was like stumbling onto a goldmine. Marjora is a social entrepreneur who has done great work, and hence she talks from experience. By combining social activism and entrepreneurship, she’s has been able to positively impact her community and earn a living. Her talk showed us the potential that poor and disadvantaged neighbourhoods have. It’s about having the right mindset and thinking of the greater good.

Here are three lessons which we believe any entrepreneur (township entrepreneur in particular) can take from her:

Lesson One: “Realise your own potential to improve the quality of life for yourselves.”

Sometimes those of us who are faced with poverty and other social issues on a daily basis, find it difficult to see the potential in our lives and surroundings. In SA, we are too dependent on someone else to solve the problem to the point where we disempower ourselves by waiting for someone else to fix the problem for us. What we like about Marjora is that she is from this community. She talks about the suffering she has experienced and seen living and growing up there. But she realised her potential to bring about change. By doing so, she managed to challenge and lobby those who were responsible and had more resources to help her do just that.

Lesson Two: “A sustainable, community friendly development can still make a fortune.”

When she said this, we wanted to shout, “Can we get an AMEN”! Seriously though. It is so frustrating going from township to township and seeing how taverns thrive. And yes, we are not ignoring the wider and historical issues behind this, BUT we really need more community friendly businesses. Socially focused businesses can make a lot of money and because they are making people’s lives better, people will want to support these businesses and make them thrive. This comment makes so much sense!

Lesson Three: “Now is the time to act in our own communities, where we think local and we act local.”

This comment hit the nail on the head for us. Think about it – if we act and think local, we build solutions that meet the needs of the people in the township community. This means that they spend their money in the township and the money circulates within. In SA we wait for government or someone else to do something for us.We need to be taking a lead in our own community’s development. Yes, having government as a strategic partner and enabler is great but there can be so much more impact if this is led from within the community.

Nokwazi Mzobe, Founder of Matoyana


Matoyana is passionate about creating and supporting sustainable entrepreneurs on the African continent. Since 2013 Matoyana has interacted with over 1000 entrepreneurs though various projects and initiatives. We provide personalised support which is tailored to meet our client’s business needs.


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