Social Entrepreneurship in South Africa

Updated on 20 April 2022

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Social entrepreneurship in South Africa

Social entrepreneurship is becoming an increasingly important area in South Africa’s economy. In a country that faces many social injustices and environmental issues, social entrepreneurs have a large opportunity to start businesses that create a positive change in the world.  

Unlike regular entrepreneurship which only looks for gaps in the market, social entrepreneurship looks toward problems in society.  

In this guide, we’ll break down exactly how this works, and what social entrepreneurship looks like in South Africa.  

What is Social Entrepreneurship? 

Social entrepreneurship is the process of recognising social problems in society and addressing this social change through entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs find a specific social issue that they want to change and create a business venture to improve this issue.  

Unlike traditional entrepreneurship which solely aims to make money, social entrepreneurship is designed to create a positive impact on society or the environment.  

For example, an entrepreneur may want to address the issue of the lack of female entrepreneurs, so they develop a female entrepreneur development and funding venture. Someone may also want to implement a positive change in the environment, and so they develop a business that is focused on disrupting an environmentally irresponsible sector and driving a positive environmental change.  

Social entrepreneurship can take many different forms. Whatever the case, the main idea is that it is an entrepreneurial venture designed to improve a problem in society, empower certain people, or address environmental issues. Social entrepreneurs put their social responsibility first and achieve this through an entrepreneurial approach. 

Social Entrepreneurship Examples in South Africa 

As South Africa faces many societal inequalities and challenges, this provides many opportunities for social entrepreneurs to empower communities and help to alleviate certain problems.   

Here are a few examples of social entrepreneurship in action in South Africa: 

  • SiyaBuddy: SiyaBuddy is a venture focused on recycling and waste management. The company buys waste from local collectors and sells it to recycling companies. SiyaBuddy creates jobs for waste pickers while helping to clean up the environment. 
  • Ebonoko Foundation: Ebonoko was started in 2012 as a way to empower the youth through education. The social venture empowers young people through mentorships, bursaries, donations, expos, and book donations.  
  • Repurpose Schoolbags: Repurpose Schoolbags is a for-profit enterprise in South Africa that addresses the problem of school children living in rural areas that don’t have access to proper school bags. The company creates school bags from up-cycled plastic bags to help school children while creating a positive environmental impact at the same time.  
  • Maths Centre South Africa: An organisation that aims to improve maths, science, and technology education in South Africa. The organisation provides learning methods, programs, and resources to improve the impact of South Africa’s education system. 

Social Entrepreneurship Ideas  

Wherever there is a problem in the world, there is an opportunity for social entrepreneurship. Some common social entrepreneurship ideas for South Africa could include starting a business that addresses: 

  • Unemployment in townships and rural areas 
  • Environmental issues 
  • Women empowerment 
  • Education 
  • Developing important skills and knowledge within the economy 
  • Helping digitise rural communities 

Various funding schemes are available for social entrepreneurship. This includes funding for specific sectors, like agricultural funding, or more general funding opportunities, like TREP 

Social entrepreneurs can look towards both private funding options, as well as government funding schemes, to help them get started.  

Social Entrepreneurship Challenges  

Starting a social enterprise doesn’t come without its challenges. Some common social entrepreneurship challenges include: 

  • Difficulties accessing funding 
  • Difficulties in creating a sustainable social entrepreneurship venture 
  • Being able to turn a profit while still making a positive social impact 
  • Competing with larger enterprises 

Entrepreneurship is always challenging, but creating a business that is aimed at achieving a social impact as well as operating as a business brings about a whole new set of unique challenges.  

On the positive side, many people are more willing to support social entrepreneurs thanks to the positive impact they make. 

In a world that faces many environmental and social problems, social entrepreneurship is one of the best ways to make a difference. South Africa is brimming with budding social entrepreneurs. While there may be many challenges to getting this kind of venture off the ground, the opportunities for using entrepreneurship to drive social change are huge.  

Social entrepreneurship shows us that it’s possible to create a successful business while still achieving more than just profits. This gives many entrepreneurs a whole new kind of inspiration to succeed. 

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