Enterprising the Pavement, Township Economy & the Taxi Industry

You have to wonder about what entrepreneurship means to those who assert it as a means to circumvent poverty and address joblessnessness. This week will be marked by polished looks, grand quotes from billionaires and venues filled with CEOs and managing director from big and emerging businesses. It is the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Week and in the South African context, there is a high rate of employment: as a result, the government is pushing for its citizens to move towards entrepreneurship.

Historically, South Africa has a business character i.e; township and pavement economy and the taxi industry. Measuring the size of the South African informal economy has received inadequate attention, making it difficult for policy-makers to assess the impact of policy measures to stimulate informal economic activity. The pavement economy is typified by people who sell foodstuff. This sector is said to be valued at R404 billion according to MoneyWeb. For the most part, people who are in the informal food sector have been described as survivalists i.e; being in business purely as a source of income because they are unemployed or unemployable.

How can the buzz of enterpreneurship move this person from being in business purely for bread and butter? The Gauteng Economic Development Development through the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller has made attempts at formalising kota (bunny chow) makers, spaza shop owners and those who make atchaar and condiments (termed agri-processers) manufacturers in townships with the mind that having necessary equipment and non-financial assistance may assist to move these business to grow and access bigger markets.

What about the taxi industry? The University of Western Cape in 2014 calculated this industry to be worth R40 billion with an estimate of 60% of the South African population as its client base. This is a huge chunk of the economy that falls outside of policies governing business, it would be interesting if Minister Lindiwe Zulu and her counterparts will be touch on this. If enterpreneurship is about  intentional scaling, taxi owners should be in these huge convention centres speaking about how growth is possible without funding as long as you have access to a market and you make sales. This industry is also in great need of innovation similar to countries like Kenya where for safety commuters no longer use cash as a means of payment but rely on basic technology. This would be a huge shift that would require those who lead the industry to be part of the Global Enterpreneurship proceedings.

Township economy has been the talking point for years, recognising the potential of the peri-urban areas as a point for businesses to thrive. This economy has builders, hair and skin care manufacturers, clothing and furniture manufacturer and repurposers etc. There is a need to develop technologies that make access to market for township entrepreneurs. Though on the first contact, these entrepreneurs who are generally in the start up phase of their business are constantly asking enterprise development bodies for funds, there is evidence that shows that if they could test and access their markets with ease then their businesses are likely to grow. There’s hope that Tech day of the GEW 2018 has this kind of solution.

It is risky to require a people who would rather be employed to start businesses, however, one hopes that the policy session at the GEW 2018 reveals an environment that is enabling for the unemployed to start businesses and to learn how to be enterprising so that their businesses grow.  As we put on our suits and heels, one can only hope that the conference rooms and convention centres will be filled with people who need the inspiration to see themselves beyond one fruit stand.

To follow proceedings: https://genglobal.org/gew

GEW 2018 will be held  from 12-18 November 2018

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