Township entrepreneurs’ battle against the odds to inspire others

Zinhle Maphanga. Picture: Supplied.

Zinhle Maphanga. Picture: Supplied.

Published Feb 24, 2023


Johannesburg - Entrepreneurs and township-based small businesses push through despite mounting challenges that put a strain on their businesses.

After enduring a pandemic, floods and devastating riots for 18 months, they have risen above adversity and have become heroes whose stories of triumph inspire others to rebuild and restore.

Zinhle Maphanga (sweets retail), Gift Sedibeng (Mexican restaurant), Bjorn Cader (printing and graphic design), Gugu Khumalo (non-profit organisation), Takalane “TK” Nemangowe (local radio station), Lance Ross (butchery), Paula Maleka (mentorship), Mlungisi Zungu (fruit and vegetables), Gift Shai (fashion and design) and Lebohang Nyandeni (LebzCafé iKoffie) doubled down on their dreams despite continued challenges.

Sedibeng is a 30-year-old chef-turned-entrepreneur who began his career with hardship, rejection and disappointment when he did not get into the hospitality courses he applied for after matric.

Maphanga has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, from her humble beginnings in rural KwaZulu-Natal selling sweets on the street to owning her speciality candy shop.

Not only did Maphanga’s business survive Covid-19 and the July 2021 riots, it also recently weathered a very real storm after overcoming the April 2022 floods in KwaZulu-Natal.

Many of these small businesses have survived by adapting, becoming innovative and reaching out for help.

These resilient entrepreneurs turned disaster into opportunity and rose above adversity.

Gift Sedibeng. Picture: Supplied.

Three non-profit, community-based organisations and social enterprises – the Afrika Tikkun Foundation, Rhiza Babuyile and Township Fleva – partnered to launch the #RevivingTownshipEconomies (#RTE) initiative, the brainchild of social entrepreneur and philanthropist, Alef Meulenberg.

The aim of the initiative is to assist small township and rural-based businesses to rise from the ashes, forging a path of resilience and innovation that will leave a legacy in the local economies of affected townships in KZN and Gauteng.

“The initiative has helped save over 5000 jobs and more than 1400 small businesses, assisting these township and rural-based entrepreneurs with grant funding, mentorship, coaching and training so that they could go back to what they do best—running their businesses and creating jobs in the process,” says Meulenberg.

“These are the stories of 10 entrepreneurs that persevered in the aftermath of a devastating global pandemic and survived both the July 2021 riots that ravaged KZN and Gauteng and annihilating floods with the help of the #RTE initiative.”

These small businesses in the heart of townships like Alexandra in Joburg and the deep rural settings of KZN each carry a unique story of an unbreakable spirit pushing against the odds.

“Through the wealth of wisdom gained in the process of rescuing these businesses, we can usher in a new era of a youth that believes in the power of entrepreneurship and how it can work for the South African economy.”

The Star