Summon the spirit of ubuntu and support kasi businesses

Residents stand outside a spaza convenience shop in Cape Town's Imizamo Yethu township. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Residents stand outside a spaza convenience shop in Cape Town's Imizamo Yethu township. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 7, 2022


By Wendy Bedforth

“Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu,” the call for humanity towards others translated as “I am because we are” in Isizulu, has often been used in a more philosophical sense to call for a belief in the universal bond of sharing that connects families and communities to survive the hardships in South African townships and villages.

It is not surprising that for centuries, this idiom has been used to rally for untapped business opportunities in townships and usher in the benefits of collaboration between big and small businesses to connect South Africa’s formal and informal economic sectors.

So, how can this concept of common humanity and oneness help create a business environment that supports Small, Medium and Micro township Enterprises’ (SMMEs) growth, and sustainability while enabling townships to prosper? Through synergies between large businesses and SMMEs to combine respective offerings and deliver unique value to customers.

History of Townships

A quick reminder of the history of the townships is relevant to put things into perspective. As some of the most visible and lasting scars of the apartheid system, the townships, which were created to segregate black South Africans from whites, were developed on the periphery of larger cities to separate them from the economic bustle of city centres.

According to Statistics South Africa, there are more than 500 townships with over 21 million residents. Soweto, in Johannesburg, is the largest with about 2 million residents, followed by Tembisa in Kempton Park, with around half a million residents, and Katlehong in Germiston, with more than 400,000 residents.

Townships today contain about half of South Africa’s urban population and 38% of its working-age citizens but as much as 60% of its unemployed according to the World Bank.

Township economic sector

This socio-economic isolation has resulted in the development of what, today, is considered a township economic sector containing nearly six million businesses such as kiosks, shisa nyama (barbecue kiosks), spaza shops, roadside clothes stalls, and other vendors selling a variety of goods.

The 2021 South African Township Marketing Report published by RogerWilco, found that spaza shops contribute as much as 5.2% to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employing 2.6 million people, this expanded economy of these informal convenience shops at around R600 million in constant GDP numbers.

While township dwellers are normally low earners or living in poverty, they play a significant role in growing their economy and boosting local brands.

Celebrating the good in communities

That is why more investment and progressive participation, in an often-forgotten sector of the economy, will lead to more economic growth and improved livelihoods for many people living under the toughest circumstances.

For example, as a brand, Castle Lager recognises that our townships are where the good is happening and is a place of excellence where people are choosing to do business in their local neighbourhoods.

This November, we launched the #KeepItWithin campaign, a small businesses campaign about celebrating the good that lies within our communities aimed, at empowering South African township businesses.

As part of this campaign, we are rallying South Africans to keep it within and nominate their favourite businesses. Every quarter, 16 of these will be chosen to receive marketing support and skills training and business development training through a digital entrepreneurship programme. At the end of every quarter, one of these selected businesses will get to take home R40 000 to use towards the development of their businesses.

For us, this is the spirit of umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, by telling stories of, ingenuity and resourcefulness, determination and self-belief, courage, and optimism to show what it is that drives kasi business owners.

Our Kasi (township) SMMEs are characterized by a divide between more formal urban enterprises located closer to developed business and financial hubs – and less formal peri-urban or peripheral enterprises located in townships, informal settlements, or among rural communities.

Our goal is to grow over 50 Kasi businesses by 10% at the end of 2023, through business development, funding, and marketing support powered by the Castle Lager brand.

Sharing the resources, expertise, and technology of our formal business segment such as marketing local businesses in our 500ml branded cans, can help bridge the gap and create even better-performing small businesses nationwide.

Recognising Kasi Resilience, Grit and Courage

We commit to giving away our marketing assets to the value of R34, 5 Million towards the success of the small businesses.

As a company, we are simply recognizing the resilience, grit, courage, and determination forged by many small business entrepreneurs around us. SMMEs continue to face a difficult business environment, which is why big businesses have a responsibility to help start-ups make a positive contribution to the economy through enterprise and supplier development such as the campaign.

With unemployment being one of the key social issues in this country, we challenge South Africa's big companies to be part of the solution, to provide hope to South Africa by supporting local businesses.

Summoning the spirit of umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu

The township economy is crucial to our country’s long-term development. More investment and progressive participation with local SMMEs will lead to more economic growth and improved livelihoods for many people living under the toughest circumstances.

Through our campaign, we aim to help create a business environment that supports the growth and sustainability of township SMMES enabling them to prosper. The end goal is that our beneficiaries become valuable partners in our supply chain.

Township businesses run by entrepreneurs are a beacon of hope for our economy. They provide job opportunities and contribute significantly to the economy of our nation.

That is why as a collective, big businesses should summon the spirit of umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu to support Kasi business through targeted interventions.

As the private sector, we must show our commitment to helping grow sustainable, successful businesses. Kasi businesses and entrepreneurs, such as our beneficiaries, are key to building the prosperous South Africa we all dream of.

* Wendy Bedforth is Brand Director for Castle Lager.

*Views reflected here are not those of IOL*