According to research by the World Bank, almost half of South Africa’s urban population lives in townships and informal settlements, accounting for almost 40% of working-age citizens. Despite the many challenges faced by township-based entrepreneurs, it is safe to say that SA townships have always been a hive for entrepreneurial activity.
In an effort to solve some of those challenges, the City of Johannesburg (COJ) in partnership with the University of Johannesburg unveiled the first township incubator, Micro-Mall in Ivory Park, east of Johannesburg- an initiative aimed at breaking down barriers of entry into the city’s economy for township based entrepreneurs.
The Micro-Mall uses old shipping containers to create a business incubator where small local businesses can sell their products and services.
This first-of-its-kind township incubator is a result of the R50 million Jozi My Beginning Community Innovation Fund, which forms part of the COJ’s Jozi@Work empowerment and creation programme.
The facilities include a business training centre, internet services and off-grid electricity for all startups. It is not only a platform that will house entrepreneurs but the idea behind it is to see township startups in all sectors incubated to develop into sustainable businesses.
What’s different about this incubator however, is that 61 residents in the area have shares in the Micro-Mall, this entitles them to a share of the profits earned by businesses hosted on the site. These shareholders are claimants of the land where the incubator is located.
“Research suggests that it is creating SMEs that will help us deal with unemployment,” Johannesburg Mayor, Parks Tau said during the launch. He pleaded with entrepreneurs and the community at large to make the micro mall a success as they were the concept’s pioneers. He also said he was hopeful the number of containers would increase to 20 over the next three months.
Jozi@Work was launched in 2014 in Eldorado Park by the City of Johannesburg, the programme is designed to create an opportunity for communities to partner with the City in the delivery of municipal services in their own neighbourhoods. It is also aimed at shifting mind-sets by turning job seekers into job creators. It is in a bid to aid socio-economic transformation that will reduce poverty, inequality and unemployment in the seven regions across the City.