Electricity provision is a crisis in South Africa. The failure of a reliable energy supply to the South African economy will have long term consequences for economic growth. Most at risk from this slowdown in economic growth are the poor – and their children.
But an innovative approach by funder agency, Community Chest, has seen the door of opportunity being opened for poor people who wish to secure their own advancement as entrepreneurs.
On any given day over 10 million South Africans who have no access to electricity whatsoever. The chances of freeing themselves from poverty and contributing to the economy are greatly diminished by their lack of access to a basic service like electricity.
According to StatsSA the number of unemployed people increased in the second quarter of 2014 to 5.2 million—and increasing the unemployment rate to 25.5%. The crisis within Eskom and the resultant irregular supply of power due to load shedding further threatens the survival of small businesses and lessens the chance of entrepreneurs emerging and contributing to the economy.
It was with this in mind that the Community Chest, with its commitment to long-term sustainable solutions, decided to launch its Amandla! Project with the slogan “Power your home, Empower your life.”
Community Chest has partnered with a technology company to provide portable solar power solutions to the South African market. It believes that providing solar-powered electricity to township and rural communities in South Africa will encourage and boost economic development.
Community Chest Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Davids said the portable solar powered EcoBoxx Entrepreneur Kit will help entrepreneurs in townships and rural areas to not only “electrify” their homes but also use it as a business tool to provide an income into that home and community. 963 candidates from the larger Cape Town area will benefit from this project and will be equipped with the business skills- through basics of business training- and the tools through the portable solar power kit to start their small business.
The lightweight, portable kit, which is charged through two solar panels, provides 50 hours of power. Included in the package are two bright LED lights, a USB-driven fan, a pair of hair clippers, and a multi-device cellphone charging cable. It is easily transported and instantly ready for set up at any locale. An aspiring entrepreneur now has the ability to generate an income by opening up a barbershop and selling cellphone charging time anywhere in the community, all powered by free energy from the sun.
He pointed out that the importance of the small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMME) sector was crucial to lifting people out of the poverty trap. In 2014, 2.8 million SMMEs contributed almost 40% of the nation’s GDP and provided more than 50% of employment.
The projected earnings from utilising the kit are substantial. “An entrepreneurial barber, who had selected the right location, could earn up to R800 to R1,000 per week if they did eight haircuts at R10 and 16 mobile charges at R5 per day, over a 5-7 work day week.
Community Chest Amandla! Project’s job creation strategy encourages the entrepreneurs to look at their community and identify its needs for various products or services. These may take the form of identifying a difficulty the community is facing and determining what product or service could help address that difficulty.
Merle Mills, Project Manager said that apart from having a “go-getter” attitude, candidates ideally needed also to be aware of the needs of their community. “We are looking for self-starters,” she said. “Active citizens who are intuitive about their communities, and have ideas of how to better their neighbourhoods, such as using the kit to provide light for learners to study at night or lighting dark street corners as an increased safety precaution. It is for this reason that we look to individuals such as Faieza and Ebrahim Fourie, the founders of Women for Change – a Mitchell’s Plain based organisation participating in the project,” she added.
“Community Chest is about using donor resources to launch innovation in philanthropy that inspires change and builds safe platforms for the future of our democracy. Our children, with their mothers and their fathers, must be able to rise from the shackles of a shrinking economy and crippling disadvantage to take ownership of not just reducing poverty but of a new mind set to use these innovative ideas to become first generation wealth creators. That’s the South Africa we are helping to build” said Davids.