Access to markets and financial assistance are what’s needed to help entrepreneurs thrive in their communities. Says founder of Mama’s Spices & Herbs, Mikie Monoketsi, “It is good and well to hold various events geared at empowering and engaging township entrepreneurs, however, it remains counter-productive if the markets aren’t accessible to them. We have to really share more information and opportunities, in accessible language, and on platforms they engage with on a daily basis. There are some really great businesses in townships seeking to make meaningful contributions to the economy.”

Commenting on what more can be done to encourage and hone township entrepreneurs, Stephen Read, founder of Entrepreneur News Network Africa, recommends the following: “All financial assistance needs to be accompanied by mentorship, and entrepreneurs should receive the necessary access to market opportunities. Township residents owning businesses should receive tax-exempt status; this will result in the end-consumer receiving discounts on products. The entrepreneur should also receive additional B-BBEE points through enterprise supplier development (ESD). And lastly, ESD programmes should be situated in townships rather than where it is convenient for the corporates hosting these programmes.”

Government should also invest heavily in the growth of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) that already have a proven track record if the country wants to develop new jobs, says Karl Westvig, CEO of Retail Capital. “What township entrepreneurs lack most is access to funding to support increased stock levels, new locations and new channels to customers, all of which lead to growing turnover and more staff to handle this growth.”

According to Dr Thamsanqa Mazwai, special adviser to the Minister of Small Business, the biggest challenge for economic development in rural and township economies is transforming them from markets to active economies. “Markets entail a consumption-driven society. Townships have become a market for others, but there is little productive activity happening. We need to stimulate economic activity in rural and township areas.”

Mazwai goes on to say that SMMEs, which make up 45% of total employment and approximately 33% of national income in emerging economies, are critical in creating jobs and fostering growth.

Read more about the township economy in the latest edition of Top Empowerment, on shelves soon. Email to order your copy.