Township Entrepreneurship, More than just Self-Employment


Written by Thabiso Machaka

South Africa remains one the richest countries in terms of culture, heritage, history, language and diversity. The distinction that sets South Africa apart from other neighboring countries are settlements referred to as townships, apart from the common urban and rural areas. According to the World Bank Group research conducted in 2014 about half of South Africa’s urban population lives in townships and informal settlements. Research states that almost every city or town in South Africa has at least one township associated to it.

The fascinating element of South African townships lies in the uniqueness of culture each upholds. Each township has a language of its own, mixture of cultures, dressing codes and the togetherness of people. Townships are also no exclusion to high unemployment rates, lack of resources, infrastructure, violence, crime and overpopulation. However, even in these socio-economic challenges some individuals in the townships chose to rise above the problems and develop their own businesses.

The drive is not only profit orientated but to eradicate the issues of unemployment and to contribute to the development of the economy. Township entrepreneurs are individuals who plan, strategize, measure results against expectations and re-adjust with the goal of helping their communities thrive. They are inventors, job creators and hustlers.

Surprisingly entrepreneurs are often confused with self-employed individuals. The two terms are used interchangeably but each has a different connotation attached to it but even the existing township entrepreneurs still struggle to identify which category they fall into. A self-employed person is not necessarily an entrepreneur. These highlights the reasons why some of the township enterprises are not growing even after years of operating.

Research by Pettit 2009 has found out that it is all in the mindset of an entrepreneur. A self-employed person is an individual with a talent or skill and has realized the potential of his product or services in his surroundings, and is therefore assured that someone is willing to pay for their product or service. While an entrepreneur on the other side grows and maintains a steady growth in their business.

It is vital that entrepreneurs know in which category they fall into in order to work with passion and focus on their intended goal of the businesses. When they move from the mentality of being just a self-employee then automatically their vision for the businesses will be on a larger scale. The most exciting thing about township enterprises in South Africa is that they are mostly youth owned, which then creates a culture of entrepreneurship and encourages other young people to have the drive to also open their own businesses and contribute to the economy mainstream of the country.

In my opinion, townships have so much to offer when it comes to opportunities. We should move from the mindset of wanting to make it on a smaller scale, our small community or even wanting to just make end -meets for our families and being hesitant to make it bigger. It is time we stop limiting our capabilities and enlarge our territories at all costs. Dedication, passion, resilience and a vision is the receipt for every successful township entrepreneur. If you can dream it, you can achieve it!