File photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi

The Black Business Council (BBC) has cautiously welcomed Absa’s announcement that it will fund entrepreneurs in townships who wish to open Masscash retail outlets.

Speaking from the US where he is attending a conference, Xolani Qubeka, the chief executive of the BBC, said: “It is difficult to comment without having all the information because the devil is in the detail.

“All I can say is that we have had franchises like KFC and Chicken Licken in the townships before, but they all disappeared.”

Absa said on Tuesday that Masscash would flood the townships with as many as 2 500 retail outlets over the next three years. The bank would provide funding to the township entrepreneurs.

Absa said Masscash, which is a cash and carry wholesaler, was diversifying and moving into the retail sector by aggressively expanding into township areas, using its own retail brand, Fair Price.

Masscash is a division of Massmart, which in turn is majority owned by Walmart, the world’s largest retailer.

Sisa Ntshona, Absa’s retail and business banking head for enterprise development, said he was excited that the agreement, which had taken many months to put together, had finally come to fruition.

He said: “As Absa, we have always said creating an environment that would enable the growth and development of sustainable small enterprises is one of the methods to resolve the poverty and unemployment challenges our country faces.

“That is why Absa, in its efforts to assist with the development of entrepreneurs, has teamed up with Masscash/Walmart. We will initially assist with the funding of a targeted number of Fair Price stores, with the option to extend the programme to all of the planned 2 500 stores over the the next two to three years.”

Absa said it would not only provide funding for the refurbishment of existing outlets or the building of new stores, with the option to provide working capital, but also provide access to products such as deposits, point of sale devices and ATM machines.

Patrick Wadula, a spokesman for Absa, said the size of the stores would either be 120m2 or 240m2.

He said the Department of Social Development in Gauteng had also come on board to provide funding in order to wean people off a reliance on social grants.

Among other strategic partners involved in the project is USAid, which will provide assistance to the entrepreneurs.

AJ Bruwer, the business development manager at Masscash, said in order to ensure these stores were sustainable, Masscash had identified other partners, including Builders Warehouse, to provide all the required materials to build or refurbish a store; the University of Pretoria, to assist in training all entrepreneurs in store management; and National Integration Solutions Services, to assist the entrepreneurs on a daily basis.

Massmart shares closed 0.1 percent higher at R187.71 on the JSE yesterday.