Small Business Ideas In Africa – UPDATE: This article is part of SME South Africa’s Township Entrepreneurship series. This article was originally published in October 2018, due to its popularity, it was updated with new township business ideas in South Africa on October 18, 2021.
South Africa’s townships have always been a hotbed for entrepreneurial activity, however the oversaturation of some sectors has affected their chances of success. These are typically sectors with low barriers to entry and low capital requirements.
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This is starting to change as more entrepreneurs seek to launch businesses in previously explored sectors that could yield the next million-rand business.
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Kabelo Selebalo, founder at Menzion Digital, an Ekhurhuleni-based design and development agency servicing township-based businesses, says many of these trends are driven by young upwardly mobile black professionals who are looking for more convenience and service.
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The market trend has caught on in many townships across the country, with many entrepreneurs launching their own food markets or cookouts set for that market.
These entrepreneurs are catering to a young and trendy crowd that is increasingly looking for authentic experiences – think food, fashion and music.
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The growth of this trend also means that major brands are looking to partner with such events.
The township market is starting to see the emergence of new players in the towing service business. While it’s still early days, if you have expertise in the space now is the perfect time to jump in before the market becomes oversaturated.
Rental accommodation in the township is developing to accommodate the young, working class who seek the privacy and amenities offered by complexes in urban areas, without leaving the township.
These complexes usually take the form of simple bachelor or one bedroom apartments (usually no more than 20 units) in a gated property, and some are even equipped with Wifi.
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Demand is driven by cheaper rental prices (compared to urban areas), as well as convenience. We are likely to see more growth in the Kasi mini complex which is mostly around townships not far from places like Soweto and Tembisa.
On demand services are an ever-increasing trend. Township marketing is embracing this trend in the form of laundry services.
Like the trend of kasi complexes, the laundry service trend is driven by the search for more convenience, mostly by millennials.
This market has grown significantly over the past few months with companies in this area expanding their offering and starting to add a delivery option to branded vehicles.
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Josephine Mokgwasa, owner of Mokgwasa Creations, started her bakery in January last year in Kagiso township in Krugersdorp after completing a five-week cooking course. In addition to baking for her customers, Mokgwasa also hosts cake tastings on a weekly basis, not only to introduce a new product to her customers, but also for recipe development.
Mokgwasa uses a Qhubeka bicycle, which he received from a bike project of Qhubeka, a non-profit company, to deliver smaller cakes and an Uber to complete large deliveries on time.
He said the target customers for his bakery include individuals hosting events such as weddings, funerals, parties, gala dinners and office workers. Mokgwasa says the location is important for his town-based business. He also sells his products at gas stations to take advantage of foot traffic.
Mokgwasa said his setup costs were R10, 000. This included equipment such as an oven, dough mixer, refrigerator, scale, silver steel butcher table, and a cake counter.
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Mamovie guests can experience the low-budget cinema feel when they attend Kutlwano Tlhapane’s pop-up movies and popcorn in Kagiso.
To establish Mamovie, Tlhapane had to access the following equipment: a PC with internet access, a 1080hp resolution projector, a popcorn machine, a bicycle, a foldable plastic table, extension cords and plugs, an anti- theft bag, and a white screen (a large white cloth is used).
Tlhapane said he uses Facebook and WhatsApp to market his events because they are more cost-effective. “Posters and pamphlets will be used sparingly to market a pop-up movie day long into the day [of the event]. I will also use the community radio station [to advertise]. ”
Currently, the prototype stage of film screenings takes place at home in the garage. “For a long time, I wanted to have film screenings in Kagiso primary schools, this is a way for the schools to raise funds and for me to have a sustainable business,” said Tlhapane.
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Boni And Bike, a cycling event organization founded by Doctor Mofokeng, offers bike-riding lessons and hosts monthly social rides for local residents of the kagiso community as well as tourists.
The organization recently partnered with enke: Make Your Mark, a youth development organization, Investec, the international specialist banking and asset management group, and Qubeka, a bicycle project, to launch a small bicycle repair shop, which operates from the Mofokeng garage. “We were given essential tools and spares to start the workshop,” he said.
Mofokeng said they own two Mountain Bikes. “One of our biggest challenges is getting the bikes to effectively run our initiative, we always have to hire bikes from a supplier in Soweto.”
Several town-based entrepreneurs have spoken to SME South Africa in previous interviews about how they have partnered with others to host events in their communities. These events help build brand awareness and provide an additional income stream for their businesses.
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Coffee shop owner Sikemela Dibela of Khayelitsha’s Siki’s Koffee Kafe in Cape Town says she regularly hosts collaboration events with other entrepreneurs in her community. “For example, I hosted a ghetto session with a friend for a community-based poetry event – it was to connect people to each other.”
Lethabo Mokoena, founder of a shoe and sneaker cleaning business, Walk Fresh, says they often host events with a classic township backdrop. “We also have our own bi-monthly event, ‘Don’t Trip Session,’ which we host at the shop which is a music session centered around exploring alternative sounds,” explains Mokoena.
Mokoena said Walk Fresh has also been invited to business events and local soccer tournaments, to showcase their services.
Renowned streetwear brand, the founders of Thesis Lifestyle added events to their brand in 2009. They host events like Thesis Social Jam Session where local, unsigned artists are given a platform and comedians to showcase their talent.
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The owner of Blvck Lupé Arts and Couture, Sibongile Ntamane, is an artist specializing in wall art, wall painting, photography, illustrations, henna tattoos and customizing clothes (hand painted).
“I started my business because a lot of people love art, they love to have their own sketched portrait so I want to meet their needs and give an example to other artists that you can make it big in art,” said Ntamane.
Ntamane said he started his business with art supplies and a camera. His target customers are art galleries, schools, hotels, clubs, parties and individuals. Ntamane said he is doing online marketing to promote his business.
Sifiso Moyo, founder and CEO of lifestyle retail outlet, The Box Shop, said the tourism services in demand within the townships are shuttle services, tour operators, and of course, accommodation. “I don’t think Airbnb is doing enough here.”
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Moyo said there are locals in the area who explore outside their community, so there are opportunities for entrepreneurs to create packages to help them travel outside the location.
Moyo also said they hope that The Box Shop, based in the townships will be known as the go-to place to buy African wear. “If you look at Dubai, people go there to buy.”
Airbnb Experiences arrived in Cape Town in 2017 and launched in Johannesburg in 2018. Locals have the opportunity to become “experts” showcasing cultural activities, with experiences centered around food, fashion or physical and cultural that activity.
Experiences range from Township Tour Walking in Cape Town, and urban farming in Johannesburg, to cooking classes in Durban and photo shoots in Bo-Kaap in Cape Town, as well as partying in a township in Khayelitsha in Cape Town and sand boarding in Port Elizabeth.
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Food delivery became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This is because the lockdown, which was implemented in March 2020, encouraged more people to start shopping online.
We have seen several entrepreneurs taking advantage of the digital trend and starting to offer courier and delivery services. From groceries and takeaways to acute medicine delivered by bike – there’s no shortage of innovative ideas. Other creative spins on this business model include mobile spaza shops, personal shoppers and the use of apps, such as Zulzi On Demand or Bottles.
During the lockdown, photographers have been innovative by providing photo shoots at family homes. With more people seeking to social distance and stay at home, innovative photographers are finding unique ways to offer photography services. An example of this is the photographer, Daniela Zondagh, who arranges a photoshoot through WhatsApp. Zondagh rings your doorbell and positions itself at a safe distance and takes pictures when you
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