Expo set to boost entrepreneurship to revitalise township economies

In a bid to revitalise township economies, an inaugural conference and expo to ignite entrepreneurship and drive inclusive growth has been launched.

The event aims to present a distinctive opportunity to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship and enable SMMEs to access skills development, leading to long-term growth and business opportunities.

The theme for the 2023 event is Creating Growth Entrepreneurs, and will serve as a catalyst for enterprise development, aiding the growth and development of Township Economies to deliver not only more jobs but business growth and economic activity.

Siyenza Management which organised the conference said with an estimated 17% of South Africa’s total employment emanating from the informal economy, the conference is set to offer a lifeline for countless families without formal employment.

“The Township Economies Conference and Expo will provide a platform for SMMEs to showcase their products and services, thereby exposing them to other market sectors, and offering opportunities for government and big business procurement. Additionally, it will empower service providers to showcase skill-sets, access financial mechanisms, and facilitate trade between SMMEs,” Siyenza management said.

The conference also had expert speakers who imparted knowledge to address the challenges faced by SMMEs and enable them to sustainably grow their businesses in South Africa’s townships.

Mastercard South Africa customer solutions vice president Shabir Ahmed, one of the panellists at the conference said the current state of township economies in South Africa presents a dynamic landscape with a combination of challenges and opportunities.

“These historically underserved areas face issues such as high unemployment rates, limited infrastructure, and socio-economic disparities. However, it is crucial to recognise the significant untapped potential within township economies, as they can play a vital role in addressing pressing socio-economic challenges,” he said.

According to Ahmed, despite often being overlooked, township economies have the capacity to tackle obstacles such as inadequate education, pervasive poverty, and alarmingly high unemployment rates, which currently stand at 39.9%.

“To fully harness this potential, it is crucial to address existing barriers, including the lack of digitisation and heavy reliance on cash-based transactions.

“Recent research highlights the considerable market value of township economies, estimated at R900 billion, with approximately R150 billion spent annually in cash at spaza shops alone. These contributions constitute 5.2% of South Africa’s GDP and provide employment opportunities for 2.6 million individuals,” he said.

Ahmed said formalising and digitising the sector holds tremendous potential for South Africa’s GDP.

“As informal businesses transition into the formal economy, economic activity and productivity surge. With formalisation, businesses gain access to formal financial services, facilitating increased investment and expansion,” he said.

Sage Small Business Africa & Middle East vice-president Viresh Harduth said by leveraging digital transformation and embracing technology, township businesses can overcome challenges, unleash their full potential, and thrive in today’s dynamic business landscape.

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