Posted by: bevmeldrum | September 16, 2009

Is Social Enterprise the answer in South Africa?

I suppose it depends what the question is?

If the question is What can create employment, improve public services and make the most of the inherent entrepreneurial spirit found in communities within South Africa? … then yes, one of the answers will be Social Enterprise.

I’ve have a growing interest in South Africa – mainly due to the fact I’ve had the opportunity to visit twice this year and meet social entrepreneurs working out there, and because we are based in South West London where there are more South Africans than Brits. We are well-versed in the ways of the braai and Springboks.

All of the staff past and present, bar one, at The Tool Factory have been South Africans. But more on that another time.

My interest in social enterprise in South Africa has been re-awakened with the launch of UnLtd South Africa and their upcoming study tour there. I’ve booked my place already.

I am a big fan of UnLtd. What seems like many years ago, The Tool Factory’s predecessor 2amase was founded with an UnLtd Level 1 award. I really like the way they work with on the ground with social entrepreneurs, providing a mix of finance and support – both more general mentoring and access to technical support. If you haven’t kept up with what they are doing just spend some time on their website reading through the profiles of their Award winners for inspiration.

There are some very interesting things happening over in South Africa in relation to social enterprise already:

Me’Kasi Clothing Range – supporting a housing project for teenage boys in Cape Town [we’ll be launching their t-shirts here sometime before Christmas]

Hillcrest Aids Centre Jewellery – amazing beaded jewellery made by the women who are part of the project [we still have some jewellery left from an event we ran – contact me for a price list]

Social Entrepreneurship in South Africa – the brainchild of Max Pichulik, a mixture of post from South African based social enterprise and other things going on across the world that are useful to social entrepreneurs based in South Africa

Southern Africa Sustainable Development Initiative – the guys here are also very involved at the University of Cape Town teaching on their enterprise programmes and supporting entrepreneurs (including those of a social persuasion), one of the projects they are working with is a construction social enterprise to based in one of the townships

Connect-123 – this organisation runs volunteer and internship programmes across the world in February 2010 they are running a semester long social entrepreneurship study programme with the University of Cape Town.

These are just a few of things I’ve come across happening around social enterprise in South Africa – does anyone know of anything else we can add to the list?

What I’m hoping for from the study tour next year is the opportunity to see what is already happening in the way of social enterprise in South Africa. Consider if there’s anything that we’ve learnt in the UK that would work, and what things we do here that just won’t work over there.

And of course, it’ll be the middle of summer when we go so it would only be right to spend some time on the beach!



  1. Very interesting post Bev. I’m looking forward to reading more! I write about the upcoming World Cup and corporate social responsibility so am very interested in social entrepreneurship in South Africa. Please feel free to check out or follow me on twitter @WorldCupCSR.



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