About half of South Africa’s population lives in townships and informal settlements, in which 38% are working-age citizens (SME South Africa, 2017). Since the unfortunate apartheid regime, those negative and neglected impacts have taken a hit and affected these areas. This has caused lack of investment, overpopulation, and isolation from urban centres. SME South Africa states that the most noticeable affect in townships and informal settlements is lack of resources and infrastructure, and high unemployment levels (SME South Africa, 2017).
In South Africa, townships and informal settlements have been the hotspot of entrepreneurial activity. The only challenge has been unlocking potential to generate broader economic benefits.
These are the types of challenges we at VPUU aim to tackle and resolve. We work together with communities to try and unlock entrepreneurs’ potentials through trainings and workshops then giving them an opportunity to win funding.
On the 2nd and 3rd July, we hosted a Siyayijika Business program which is a grant seed funding competition called out to the community of Harare and Lotus Park. The programs aim was to get the best entrepreneurs in the communities and support them to the next level of personal and business growth. The funding amount to be won was up to R10 000. Prior to the selection process, we hosted training weeks for 6-weeks that equipped the entrepreneurs on skills and basic business management. The selection process was held in the two days where the entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to a panel of judges which would result to 10 winners. Winners receive a 3-months mentoring by an experienced VPUU Social Enterprise Facilitator.
The competition was hosted in Harare centre on the 2nd of July and in Lotus Park centre on the 3rd of July. We saw 60 people in total pitch their ideas with such enthusiasm and high entrepreneurial spirits. We had business ideas range from décor businesses to restaurants to gyms.
Within the 60 pitchers in the two days, I noticed how there were many women pitching more than men. They pitched ideas that resonated with their strengths.
Many of them sought funding to help expand their stall space so they can offer more food to the community, others wanted to expand their businesses to start selling different foods and others asked for funding to get more instruments for their arts and culture subject at their school. I was so proud to see how dominant the women in entrepreneurship were.
There were a couple of men that also pitched great ideas and were so passionate and enthusiastic like the women when telling us their story.
It gives me joy to be able to witness the change that is happening within these communities and to witness the entrepreneur’s way of thinking and to listen to their ideas. An example of an entrepreneurial idea I witnessed is N&N. This business is owned by a young man and is in the retail industry. He makes inners, personalised pillows, and cushions from recycled foam. He gets this foam from Isoferm in Kuyasa Village. The aim of his business is to be able to employ more people in his community in Khayelitsha and become the first black owned pillow shop. He took over the business from his parents after they passed away over a year ago. I could hear his urge to make a change and be able to become something bigger than himself in the interview.
We at VPUU have started to unlock the potential of many in communities and we will carry on doing so through various methods in the future. It starts with one person. All you need to do is invest in time and listen. “Be the change you wish to see in the world”- Mahatma Ghandi.