We are sure that you have heard the words “Township Entrepreneur / Township Economy”. With the high unemployment rates and the saturation of business in urban areas – there has been a big push towards reviving the township economy and township entrepreneurs are deemed to be part of the solution. We say “reviving” because during apartheid, due to the movement restrictions, the townships had to be self-sustainable.
There were a number of businesses that thrived during that period. But once the country opened up to everyone, many affluent and middle class township citizens moved to the suburbs and so did their money. Even those who chose to stay, spent their hard earned money in town, therefore more money left the township. Thus the support for township business dwindled and slowly the township economy declined.
Over the last couple of years this has been changing. Although there are higher poverty levels in townships than most urban areas, many township infrastructures are improving. Township property prices are rising faster than the rest of South Africa’s residential market, according to the First National Bank house price index published last year. Upwardly mobile income earners are also staying or moving back to the township. People no longer feel they need to leave the township once they move into a certain income bracket. This means more opportunities for businesses to start up.
But what kind of businesses are taking off in townships?Here are four that are making township entrepreneurship work for them.
#1 Mama’s Spices & Herbs In 2011 Mikie Monoketsifelt she had lost everything – her call centre business and marriage – but this is how she dealt with the challenges:“I decided to stop worrying about the future and how to turn things around, and just start with something in the now.” So with a R10 000 loan she began Mama’s Spices & Herbs and has now helped 71 people establish their own “business in a box” across South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Lesotho.
#2 Soweto Gold Ndumiso Madlala is the entrepreneur who began Soweto Gold Craft Beer. He says of his original idea: “As I was travelling Europe when I was a student,I saw every little town had its own beer. Here townships are big neighbourhoods, I saw it as necessary they have their own local beers.” The business has gone from strength to strength, spreading from Gauteng to Durban and Cape Town and ushering in a new era in South African by producing the first regional township-branded clear craft beer.
#3 Soweto Outdoor Adventures In 2012, at the age of 34,KgomotsoPooe started Soweto Outdoors Adventures. The business began in a small shack with only quad bikes for hire. Now the adventure centre has a list of activities that were, at first, surprising to find in a township. From corporate activities such as paint-balling, team building boot camps, bird-watching for environmentalists, and tours to noteworthy landmarks around the township. When asked about running a business in Soweto, Kgomotsosaid: “The township is like no other place. It presents opportunities everyday; we just have to open our eyes to see those opportunities.”
#4 Ziyahlanjwa Laundry Services In 2010 Sivu Mongo began a laundry service from her house in Khayelitsha using one second-hand domestic washing machine. She is now the 2015 Sage One and CapeTalk Small Business Awards winner. Sivu’s plan is to start another branch in a different area of Khayelitsha, employing additional staff and growing the business further. Her words are inspiring for any entrepreneur: “I saw a need in the community for my services. Before this I was working as an admin clerk and I love what I do now.” Sivu Mongo
P.S. Any township businesses looking to receive a financial boost can now enter the 2016 Township Entrepreneurship Awards (TEA). Entries close on September 16. Information can be found on at www.townshipentrepreneurshipawards.co.za.
Matoyana Business Solutions is a boutique business consulting company located in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is targeted at start-ups, small and medium enterprises across Africa.