Support vital to spur growth of township entrepreneurs

By Harold Maloka

2 May 2016

In the townships, functions are incomplete without three-legged pots, tent and chairs, meat, veggies and of course scones. These scones are traditionally baked by a group of women in the week leading to the function as a gesture of good neighbourliness. It may be a wedding, funeral or even a tombstone unveiling, an expected practice looked up to that it raises eyebrows if it is not undertaken.

It is the same as coming together to prepare vegetables for cooking, or when men of the community come to assist in pitching a tent and slaughtering of beast to feed the masses that will gather for the function.

However, this practice seem to be changing as a result of developments which can now be attributed to a vibrant township economy. The spirit of entrepreneurship has taken centre stage and services are now provided by local entrepreneurs.

There are now local bakeries and bakers who make a living by baking scones for such community functions. From a Thursday, you’ll be late to making an order for the weekend. This observation was provoked by the speech by Gauteng Premier David Makhura during his delivery of the State of Province Address.

In his speech, Premier Makhura said “As the pioneers of the township economy revitalisation, we are making significant progress in empowering township-based enterprises, cooperatives and SMMEs. We will demonstrate that the township economy is becoming a beehive of activity with regard to innovation, entrepreneurship, empowerment and decent employment.”

Significantly is that the township economy is becoming a beehive of activity with regard to innovation, entrepreneurship, empowerment and employment. Having grown up in the township of Gauteng and frequenting most of the townships in Tshwane in particular, I asked the question: where is the activity we seem to miss and appreciate?

Driven by curiosity, I was confronted by very intriguing information of what has been achieved particularly in the 2015/16 financial year. This programme of revitalising township economy is aimed at bringing economic activity to the township that can ultimately create much-needed jobs.

I am pleased to see that township entrepreneurs have responded to the call by the province. I am equally pleased to learn that the municipalities are key to this development, as structures at the coalface of delivery are the main drivers of these programmes.

In the first full year of the implementation of the Township Economy Revitalisation Strategy, the provincial government spent R1.8 billion procuring goods and services from township enterprises. In addition, municipalities are spending R1.6 billion of their procurement budgets on township enterprises.

In his speech, Premier Makhura further said the province managed to achieve an upswing from 400 to 1 805 township enterprises benefiting from Gauteng procurement spend. The province has a further 5 321 SMMEs on its procurement database. These are startling achievements which should not escape the attention of many.

However, being a Tshwane citizen, my attention was drawn to what has been done in the city townships. In Winterveldt, the Emergency Medical Services Vehicles Repair Hub is repairing, servicing and maintaining ambulances using township mechanics.

There is the Ga-Rankuwa Eco-furniture co-operative supported by the Department of Environmental Affairs and the City of Tshwane, which manufactures school desks and other furniture, using invasive alien plants.

There is also Kgora community bakery in Soshanguve, which bakes and supplies fresh bread to residents and spaza shops daily in Tshwane.  I would expect the very same bakery supply the community with scorns come weekends for funerals and weddings.

In Mamelodi, Reiteretse Car Wash co-operative services the Tshwane Metro Police fleet. The facility which was launched by the Premier and the Executive Mayor Kgosientsho Ramakgopa last year was established with five co-operatives. Collectively, they created 55 employment opportunities with 45 sub-contractors benefiting from the construction while 30 labourers will be retained for maintenance purposes.

I am optimistic that with these developments, the economy in our townships will definitely create much-needed employment and grow the spirit of entrepreneurship.

I was also thrilled to learn that the innovation hub has presence in the township of Ga- Rankuwa where young and potential entrepreneur ideas are nurtured and modelled into business ideas which will change the face of our township.

eKasilab Ga-Rankuwa, in Region 1 of Tshwane emerged with the aim of creating co-creation space, a platform for the community to disentangle their problems and create lasting economic development.

eKasilab Ga-Rankuwa pre–incubates 19 companies. Of these, five are in the process of being elevated to a commercial stage in their incubation. Approximately 75 potential, aspiring entrepreneurs and existing businesses in the township have been trained.

This is indeed confidence in the township and its potential. These are the sort of initiatives that will enable us to indeed build our country together brick-by-brick. The capable leadership of the Premier Makhura and Tshwane Mayor Ramokgopa fills us with hope that our townships will indeed become the “beehive” of economic activity.

This vision will enable a situation where industries procure their services from the township and be part of the (solution in) dealing with our spatial development challenges. Reduce the amount of labour and capital leaving the township for cities, through procuring goods and services and transportation. 

The services provided should go beyond community functions and grow into an industry we could all be proud of. Tshwane is on the right track. All it requires is a collective community support.

Harold Maloka is the Deputy Director-General of GCIS