Gugulethu, the urban sprawl 15kms from Cape Town in South Africa, is a vibrant township pulsating with the beats of Africa.
Mzoli’s, the popular shisa nyama here that barbecues meat to mouth-watering perfection, is almost synonymous with the township, attracting droves of locals and tourists to Gugulethu.
On weekends particularly, the action spills on to the streets with vendors selling anything from slogan t-shirts to recycled glasses of ciders and beers, to hats and tattoos.
The ‘church of meat’, as Mzoli’s is often referred to, famously attracts over a thousand people every day, as they enjoy their braai and drinks in a convivial setting to heart-thumping music. It’s not just the grilled meats that’s the attraction here, but the tantalizing sauces used to barbecue them.
“They call us the ‘church of meat’ because instead of being at church, [people] are here,” says Sisanda Mangele, the outlet’s operations manager. Her father, Mzoli Ngcawuzele, owns the place.
Mzoli’s started in 1998 when they were selling tripe in the back of the garage in their home. Today, they have grown from butchery to bastion of meat, turning over R10 million (about $710,000) annually with 20 employees.
“We had four freezers for our stock. We grew from that and raised capital and we also received a loan. We didn’t realize that this could be a tourist destination. It started with the locals, then it spread out. People started coming in with their associates, colleagues, friends and family,” says Mangele.
Mzoli’s is a magnet not just for ravenous tourists; they are also a case study for aspiring entrepreneurs hungry for ideas.
“People come here for advice when they are about to open their businesses. We advise them on passion, and investing in something they are interested in,” says Mangele.
Part of the counsel they give is that nothing comes easy, even now.
“The fluctuating rand affects us as well as unemployment. With unemployment on the rise, crime has increased but there are people watching out for them,” says Mangele. Despite the odds, it’s the perfect example of how business can thrive in a township.
There is a growing demand to maximize the potential of South Africa’s township economies estimated to be worth billions, although there are few records to quantify the amount of money moving within the industry.
Moipone Molotsi, Director at the Centre for Small Business Development (CSBD) at the University of Johannesburg, says business is booming especially among the new generation, but the shortcomings are many.
“It’s just that it is not captured for people to understand what is happening in the townships. You have people that have branched into clothing manufacturing, retail, and information technology. When you go into the township, you see a lot of people manufacturing products for major companies but they are undocumented,” stresses Molotsi.
Molotsi recommends an innovative and competitive mindset in order to make it in this market. But she says that’s not always the case.
“You still have the masses who are managing the business because it was passed on to them, so they are not business-minded hence we see a number of those businesses running down,” she says.
Township enterprises fail to take care of their businesses, one of the reasons they fail, so they need to up their game.
“The market understands itself, they do not want to go into a shop that is smelly and is not well taken care of, and the service is bad. That is why you see them moving onto the shops in the suburbs, because they demand a service which is lacking in most of shops in the township,” she says.
The township is involved in diverse economic activities, ranging from spaza shops, street vendors, hair salons, shebeens and minibus taxis, to mechanical services, manufacturing, burial societies, stokvels and childcare services. These are largely micro enterprises with low capital and a low skills base, however, a proper business model is needed, says Molotsi.
The Alexandra and Soweto townships in the Gauteng province of South Africa are no different when it comes to being examples of thriving informal economies: common sights are vendors selling everything from fruit to fat cakes.
“Whether they understand the business or not, it does not matter for them [entrepreneurs], and that is why their businesses are not always a success. But if people were to come together and work as a team, things would be different,” says Molotsi.
Aspiring entrepreneurs should make a point of asking themselves how they intend making a profit with their business model and if the model is not already in existence. The government has taken strides in ensuring growth in this market, but the industry seems to be at a halt.
“The government is doing far much more to support entrepreneurs and the township in general. You have a lot of counterparts out of the country that do not have the same programs in place. The heart of the country is in the right place, but you could say that they lack implementation. In as much as there is training and mentorship programs, entrepreneurs are still not making progress. The question we should be asking ourselves is why?” says Molotsi.
She reckons the country should redirect its focus.
“We are more focused on being quantity-based rather than being quality-based. We have not prioritized as a nation what sectors we should be focused on developing; like how China was with and their technology enterprises [sector]. They focused on that sector and they invested more in that market,” she says.
Another trend is that some businesses do not have financial records, deliberately, because they do not want to account to authorities how much they are making.
“This becomes a problem when they need to access funding,” she says.
Township entrepreneurs also have issues owning properties. Fanny Mokoena, an entrepreneur in the Meadowlands suburb of Johannesburg, testifies to this.
Mokoena is owner of a tavern, restaurant, hospitality school, and a petrol station. She says in her years of being in business, most of her challenges have been at the petrol station.
“I have been running the petrol station for 23 years and as of now, I don’t have a property lease agreement. I can’t even count the number of times I have been in and out of the City of Joburg Property Company, I have really been struggling,” she attests.
“How am I expected to run a successful business without a proper lease agreement? Who will be willing to invest in your business when you do not have the proper paperwork? Which insurance company will come and insure my business, because I am like a squatter?” asks Mokoena.
Her challenges do not end there. She says government policy changes as well as lack of confidence in black-owned enterprise have caused her businesses to spiral.
“The government’s policy changes have affected the catering company. Business is not as much as it used to be. The government barely requires catering services for their meetings.
“People as well have no confidence in township catering companies to cater for their weddings, they would rather go to the suburbs. I feel like they have been disappointed so much maybe that is why black people lack confidence in their businesses,” she says.
But she can only do her bit by delivering services to the best of her ability, and hopes other entrepreneurs in the townships are doing the same.
The lack of adequate business support from the government, lease agreement problems as well as minimal support from community members have made Mokoena lose faith in the term ‘township economy’.
“When ‘township economy’ was launched, I was there. All I know I was part of the group that was going around preaching ‘township economy’, but I never got to experience it. I don’t know what that is,” she says.
Mokoena believes these are post-apartheid terms, such as Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), that lack substance and affirmative action.
“They don’t mean anything. When these programs are being launched, they call crowds, but when it is time for implementation, we don’t see the results,” says Mokoena.
In the bigger scheme of things, most businesses in the township have had very little contribution to South Africa’s economy. This is because they are historically disadvantaged by their location and have had no manufacturing capacities, so they had a minimal contribution to the development of productive sectors.
The glimmer of hope is the private sector, with banks like Absa, supporting the market. In July, they announced R10.5 million (about $745,000) to uplift spaza shops into sustainable businesses that can compete with major retailers in the mainstream economy.
“Absa’s support will not only see the sustainable establishment of spaza shops but it is envisaged to create jobs and help these spaza shops net triple times more profit as they have in the past. The project has already seen transformed spazas record a 300% increase in airtime sales,” says Tshepo Seeta, Founder and Managing Director of eSpaza Sum.
Experts agree on the lack of recognition of the importance of social organization, embracement of social capital and the hand-holding approach in supporting township enterprises. The one-size-fits-all enterprise development strategies have further alienated entrepreneurial initiatives in the townships in the past.
Gauteng’s MEC of Finance, Barbara Creecy, reported in her 2017 budget speech the government spent R600 million (about $42 million) to boost the economy in 2014, which they then increased to R6 billion (about $425 million) last year, having 2,800 businesses benefiting directly. More needs to be done.
The purpose of most township businesses used to be about addressing the needs of the community whilst also providing the families in them basic needs. However, that has changed.
Enterprises like Mzoli’s and resourceful entrepreneurs like Mokoena have the desire to consistently deliver services successfully no matter the odds to wider markets, and they have proven they can.
Oliver Mtukudzi The Soldier With A Big Voice – Yvonne Chaka Chaka
In January, Africa lost Oliver Mtukudzi. His friend and fellow musician Yvonne Chaka Chaka fondly remembers the global icon.
In October 2012, Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi, South Africa’s Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Kenya’s Suzanna Owíyo produced Because I Am Girl with musicians from around the world.
It was released to promote the global launch of Plan International’s ‘Because I am A Girl’ campaign, marking the first UN International Day of the Girl Child, on October 11.
Dressed in African prints, they sang together, spreading the word about the empowerment of the girl child.
Mtukudzi’s bass and Chaka Chaka’s soulful voice in harmony, they became more than co-artists; they become brother and sister. It was the first performance of many for the two.
Seven years on, Chaka Chaka is teary-eyed about Mtukudzi’s death 23 days into 2019, when not just she, but Africa lost a music legend.
In a strange coincidence, Mtukudzi died the same day the continent lost the father of South African jazz, Hugh Masekela, last year.
On the phone for this interview, Chaka Chaka describes Mtukudzi as a soldier at work.
“When he was on stage, he was a totally different man. When he had his guitar, it was like a soldier. Like a soldier who has a gun at work,” she tells us.
“I think there were two different people. Offstage, he was just an ordinary man, and on stage, people ate out of the palm of his hand.
“I’ve never known Oliver to never be fit. He has been a skinny man and he would just twist that body with a guitar and that gravel voice of his. A big voice in a small body,” she says.
“He has never called me Yvonne, he has always called me Fifi… Fifi means sister.
“The man was always humble, he never raised his voice, I have never seen him angry and all he has ever wanted is just to see Africa thriving. He wanted to see Africa beautiful. He wanted to see Africa with less disease, less hunger, less corruption, a happy Africa – that was his wish.”
One anecdote Chaka Chaka shares is when Mtukudzi was made a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in Zimbabwe in 2011.
“You know he sat there with me and asked, ‘so, what does this entail, my sister? You have been a goodwill ambassador for a long time. You will tell me what needs to be done. How should I act? How should I react? How should I do things?’
“And I’m like, ‘no, but you know, you are more of a star than me and you have been in this industry long before I’. He was just so down-to-earth and had no chip on his shoulder.”
The last performance the two did together was in October last year in Harare during the Jacaranda Festival, attended by more than 2,000 people and other artists around the continent.
“Oliver was not in his changing room or at home. He stayed there and watched other artists perform, which was so great,” says Chaka Chaka.
“This year, he promised that we would do it [the Jacaranda Festival] in Bulawayo,” she said. They had planned to make it a big show and use their status as goodwill ambassadors to encourage and inspire more youth.
But sadly, that promise will never be fulfilled.
“The legacy he will leave behind is a legacy of love, the legacy of pro-African and I think for me he was a pan-Africanist. That’s what he was,” she says.
READ MORE | Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi Dies At 66
To this day, Neria is still one of Chaka Chaka’s favorite songs by him.
Mtukudzi, who died aged 66 of diabetes, was laid to rest on January 27 in his home village of Madziwa.
Thousands sang and danced to the melodies of his songs.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared him a national hero, posthumously, a status that has previously been reserved for ruling party elite and independence veterans.
He may be gone but his music will live forever in the hearts of the fans that loved this legend who soldiered on until the end.
What A Failed Johannesburg Project Tells Us About Mega Cities In Africa
Six years ago a major development was announced in South Africa. Billed as a game changer, it was meant to alter the urban footprint of Johannesburg, Africa’s richest city, forever.
The Modderfontein New City project was launched amid much fanfare, expectation and media hype.
Zendai, a Chinese developer, bought a 1600-hectare site north-east of Johannesburg for the development, which it quickly dubbed as the “New York of Africa”. Early plans showed it was to include 55,000 housing units, 1,468,000 m2 of office space and all the necessary amenities for urban life in the form of a single large-scale urban district. The cost estimate was set at R84 billion.
The developers believed that Modderfontein could function as a global business hub and would become Johannesburg’s main commercial center, replacing Sandton. The project would also change Johannesburg’s international profile by strengthening relations with Asian corporate interests.
But, despite the release of futuristic computer-generated images which led to significant publicity for the project, it was never built. Instead, the land was eventually sold off. Another developer has since begun construction on a much more scaled down project, in the form of a gated-community style housing development.
Modderfontein has faded away from the public consciousness. The story of why it failed has never been adequately told in the media.
Our research, which took place over the course of several years, sought to understand the factors which led to the project’s demise. We also wanted to find out how Modderfontein’s failure relates to the broader African urban context.
We found that the project was hindered by conflicting visions between the developer and the City of Johannesburg. Moreover, unexpectedly low demand for both housing and office space meant the original plan for the project was incompatible with the city’s real estate market.
The project’s trajectory also shows how African “edge-city” developments, which are generally elite-driven and marketed as “eco-friendly” or “smart”, can be influenced by a strong local government with the means and willingness to shape development.
Zendai’s aspirations to produce a high-end, mixed-used development did not fit with the City of Johannesburg’s approach. Rather than a luxurious global hub, the city wanted a more inclusive development – one which reflected the principles outlined in its 2014 Spatial Development Framework.
At the heart of the framework is the desire to reshape a trend that saw capital leave the old central business district for affluent Sandton at the dawn of democracy in 1994. This was accompanied by an upsurge in securitised suburbs further north towards Pretoria, the country’s capital city.
These spatial trends were incompatible with the ideals of South Africa’s new democratic government and its strategy to mitigate the effects of apartheid-era planning. During apartheid, black people were prohibited from living in more affluent areas, which were reserved for the minority white population. Instead, they were forced into sprawling “townships” on the periphery of cities, far from work and economic opportunities.
To this end, the city demanded that Zendai include at least 5 000 affordable homes in its plans. It also wanted to ensure that the development was compatible with, and complemented, Johanneburg’s public transport system. The city was willing to contribute funding for the necessary infrastructure and inclusive housing.
Yet Zendai remained steadfast in its commitment to its vision, eventually deciding against fully integrating the city’s wishes into its planning application. This saw the city draw-out the planning process.
Meanwhile, problems were mounting for Zendai. The owner, Dai Zhikang, was eventually forced to sell his stake in the project to the China Orient Asset Management Company. Rather than continuing with the project, the asset managers sold the land to the company behind the new housing development on the site.
Smart cities in Africa
Over the last decade, a variety of developments like Modderfontein, including Eko-Atlantic in Nigeria, New Cairo in Egypt, and Konza Technology City in Kenya, have been touted by both public and private sectors as panaceas for Africa’s urban problems. The thinking is that as the developments are disconnected from the existing urban landscape, they won’t be burdened by crime or informality. However, these projects can take badly needed resources away from the marginalised areas of the city.
To make them more palatable to domestic and international audiences, the developments are usually marketed as “smart” or “eco-friendly”.
But these developments can fail at the point of implementation. This is because, as speculative projects, they generally don’t recognise the need to fit in with the wishes of the local authorities or adapt to the existing city. In the case of Modderfontein, the city government had the capability to push back against the developers and, in the
-Ricardo Reboredo; PhD Candidate in Geography, Trinity College Dublin
-Frances Brill; Research
4 Ways To Develop Employment-Ready Graduates
Chris Pilgrim, the new CEO of Transnational Academic Group West Africa and Lancaster University Ghana, on the potential game-changers in higher education on the continent.
It is to a verdant academic campus in Ghana that Chris Pilgrim will be packing his bags from the dunes of Dubai. As the new CEO of Transnational Academic Group (TAG) West Africa and Lancaster University Ghana, Pilgrim will provide students across emerging markets access to post-secondary and executive education.
TAG currently owns and operates Lancaster University’s campus in Ghana, Curtin University’s Dubai campus, and South Africa-based ABN Training in partnership with the Australian Institute of Management in Western Australia.
Pilgrim, who has helped develop TAG’s expansion in Africa and has over 25 years of experience in the higher education sector, spoke to FORBES AFRICA about skills-building, STEM and job creation:
1. Are more universities looking to set up here?
A. With over half a million African students studying abroad annually, the continent has the highest outbound student ratio (number of outbound tertiary students/total number of tertiary students) in the world. Along with this annual migration of students comes capital flight, increased brain drain, and a hesitancy to build further world-class higher education capacity on the continent.
TAG partners with globally top-ranked universities to provide the highest quality of higher education in emerging market nations, thereby reversing, albeit modestly, the flow of students.
Our campus in Ghana, in partnership with Lancaster University (ranked sixth in the UK), provides world-class higher education capacity for West Africans, and it has seen students from other countries, including outside of Africa, take up enrolment.
TAG’s Lancaster University Ghana is the only comprehensive UK university campus in mainland Africa, and while TAG is undertaking steps to open similar branch campuses in other African countries, other investors and top-ranked universities have not moved to open campuses in the region.
2. How can Africa build skills, capacity and create more jobs?
A. While there has been a modest growth of employment in the formal job sector in some countries, many of Africa’s youth are more likely today to take up work in the informal sectors and in family enterprises.
Africa, as a region, has the largest youth population in the world, and with over 11 million young people expected to enter the job market each year, its economies are stretched to productively absorb Africa’s greatest asset – this youth population.
While the continent’s education capacities and output are integral to leveraging this youth population into a potential demographic dividend, investments, both private and public, into relevant higher education capacities, particularly STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) capacity, are limited.
In the long-term, addressing the underlying causes of unemployment and skills-gap lies in increasing enrolment in secondary and tertiary education, with a focus on STEM, thus enabling graduates to participate in the new economies and globalization emerging with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship are fundamental to creating the jobs of the future.
3. What is the increasing role of STEM programs?
A. While the vital importance of STEM education to infrastructure development, healthcare, energy security, agriculture, and the environment are well cited over the past decade, the role of STEM and digital skills in preparing for 4IR are potential game-changers.
African nations need to develop “future-ready curricula that encourage critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence as well as accelerate acquisition of digital and STEM skills to match the way people will work and collaborate in 4IR” (Source: WEF 2017 The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa).
Lancaster University Ghana has been delivering relevant computer science curriculum since its inception, and is set to launch programs in engineering this year, followed by additional programs in STEM disciplines.
4. How are you creating future leaders?
A. TAG Ghana works closely with Lancaster University to assure that our students receive an education that is relevant both locally, and in the global context. We work closely with industry and the community to understand their needs so our graduates are employment-ready.
– Interviewed by Methil Renuka
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