This article forms part of SME South Africa’s Township Entrepreneurship series. In the month of October we will explore the complexities, challenges and success stories of the township entrepreneurship ecosystem.
“If you want to find more black people, more black entrepreneurs, you’re going to find them in the townships,” Premier David Makhura is quoted saying in a Huffington Post article.
The township economy has been in the spotlight with both the public and private sector launching initiatives to develop township-based entrepreneurs, from government initiatives like the Township Economy Revitalisation Strategy and Tshepo 1 Million, to global giants like Mastercard and Airbnb investing also making investments.
Such initiatives aim to provide support to township entrepreneurs, many who continue to be a struggle to access resources and skills needed to launch and grow their businesses.
Elvis Sekhaolelo, founder eKasi Entrepreneurs has spent a large part of his career working to solve this challenge of access. His organisation works as a catalyst for youth entrepreneurship in townships.
This year he hosted one of the biggest township business focused events in the country, the Township Business Investment Summit & Expo, which focused on providing township based entrepreneurs with information, resources, funding and procurement opportunities.
Are we on the right path with helping to drive township entrepreneurship? We put this question to Sekhaolelo. He shares whether any progress in being made and what township entrepreneurs need to bring to the table.
What’s exciting about where township businesses are today compared to 10 years ago?
Ten years ago township-based businesses were not as formalised as they are now and they were not as innovative. They were mostly only trading business that resold products produced by other nations.
What initiatives are needed to help grow township businesses?
I think access to training and development of black or township entrepreneurs and access to markets still top the list. Those need to be addressed for growth to be evident.
What’s your advice for township business owners to help them scale?
It’s not all about looking for funding for your business. There are key factors that township entrepreneurs need to be able to uphold: ensure that you have a specific market for your product, develop a product that is needed by the market whether in the township or internationally.
Township entrepreneurs need to make sure that they are professional when they conduct their business. They need to be able to compete on a national and international level.
Township entrepreneurs need to be able to build a network. They say your network is your net worth, hence eKasi Entrepreneurs is building multiple networks to be able to support township entrepreneurs.
What’s needed going forward?
There has been a bigger move to support township entrepreneurs from both the government and private sectors, to ensure that they are formalised and join the formal economy. It’s quite pivotal to ensure that we find a solution that brings to the fore township entrepreneurs into the supply chains of big corporates.