TRAILBLAZER: Phaphama SEDI

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By Julia Hampton

This article is exclusive to the online Edition 2 (Wrap Edition) of VARSITY Newspaper.

 

THE CONTEXT

South Africa, and much of the developing world, as we see it, is at a critical juncture in its economic growth history. The models of development and growth prescribed by international organisations, and arguably by the ANC’s shifting developmental strategies themselves, have failed to deliver prosperity for all.  As a consequence, South Africa has one of the highest Gini Coefficients, a measure of relative inequality, in the world. According to Statistics SA, our country’s poorest 20% consume far less than their fair share; a tragic 3% of total expenditure. This is while the wealthiest 20% feast on 65% (Statistics SA 2017). In other words, “democracy has brought wealth, but only to a few” (The Economist 2017).  

 

In this context, we, as Phaphama SEDI believe that the way to socially equitable, sustainable economic growth originates at a more tangible, local level: with the people, themselves. We believe that, through small and medium micro enterprises (SMEs), South Africans can claim wealth and economic agency for themselves. 

Images by Thapelo Masebe, Aaliyah Ahmed and Sipho Mpongo.

WHAT WE DO

Understanding this, it is this local, grass roots level of growth that we, at Phaphama, consider to harbour the needed potential for socioeconomic progress in South Africa. In other words, we believe that if small business owners are given the necessary skill-building, funding and networking opportunities to follow through with their entrepreneurial visions, then South Africa’s economy will be able to grow and thrive. Furthermore, this means that those brave and ambitious entrepreneurs who have taken the risk to set up their own means of income will also be able to extend the opportunity for economic independence to their families and communities. This idea was expressed well by Phumlani, one of our entrepreneurs on the programme this year, who runs a business selling beautiful traditional fabrics from Phillipi Village through Phumlani Trading. He said to me: “We can no longer depend on the wealthy to bring us growth. They have failed us. And we can’t rely on the government. It is time for people at the local level to become literally involved in the economy.”

 

We work with owners of SMEs, linking each of them up with a team of three consultants from the University of Cape Town. These teams have weekly sessions over the span of the 9-month programme as well as quarterly training workshops and networking socials.  In the weekly sessions, the teams work through carefully designed modules in skills areas such as finance, marketing, networking and public speaking to name but a few. These modules were redesigned before the new program in 2018 by our Curriculum Development Coordinators, who are working carefully with experts from entrepreneurship incubation hubs and in the areas of Black Economic Empowerment and CSR Accreditation. Furthermore, our substantial monitoring and evaluations program, as developed in 2018 by our Monitoring & Evaluations Coordinator, works to revise and inform our curriculum, and our broader service delivery program, at all times. Additionally, this programme is aligning itself to be able to offer rapid insights in a more academic context in to the workings of BOP (bottom of the pyramid), markets in the future.  As such, we are confident that our program will be one of systematic and substantial value added to all of our entrepreneurs and consultants alike.  

Images by Thapelo Masebe, Aaliyah Ahmed and Sipho Mpongo

 OUR EVOLUTION

In 2015, Phaphama began work with three entrepreneurs in Khayelistha.  In 2016 and 2017, this number grew to 20 as we built trust and credibility within this developing community. With the help of the Khayelitsha Business Forum, which is our major partner on the ground here. As of 2018, we plan to expand our relationships into the area of Phillipi as well. In Phillipi, we have partnered with Street Labs, the entrepreneurship incubation programme from the Phillipi Village business centre.  

 

Phaphama aspires to stimulate and nurture the emergence of strong networks in South Africa both within the unique economies of these vibrant, dynamic communities and without, as we link the academic and corporate potential of UCT’s top students to SME owners from these areas in an impressive array of different industries. 

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