Currently there are over 500 townships in the country, whose combined land mass surpasses that of Johannesburg and Durban combined1 and which are home to an estimated 40% of South Africa’s urban population.2 Much like the rest of the country, townships are plagued with high unemployment rates.3 Most township businesses are necessity-based and unable to grow beyond a store front or small-scale operation.4 Additionally, these businesses tend to operate informally, with low financial and employment returns.5 The World Bank estimates that only 15% of township enterprises are formally registered, compared with 30% of similar enterprises in urban areas6, and they generally do not provide goods or services that reach larger markets or create quality jobs.7
The scope of this report is limited to the townships, peri-urban, and rural areas of the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and Western Cape Provinces. Some of the country’s largest cities, including Cape Town, Pretoria, and Johannesburg, are in these Provinces, and they are an important economic focus for the country. The Gauteng and Western Cape Provinces contribute nearly half of the country’s GDP and one third of the country’s population. The Eastern Cape Province sits between the highly economically active Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces; and while it currently relies heavily on the automotive sector, there is significant potential for growth in other industries such as agriculture and agro-processing, manufacturing, and green industries.8
While more is understood about the small and growing businesses (SGBs) in metropolitan areas, less is known about the entrepreneurial ecosystems in the townships and how to support the primarily micro, necessity-based businesses that operate there. This report focuses on identifying the key actors implementing programmes to support entrepreneurs and small businesses operating in townships in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and Western Cape Provinces, the challenges the entrepreneurial support providers face, and the opportunities to strengthen this ecosystem.