U.S. Congressional Delegation To Visit New Entrepreneurship “Hot Spot” In Soweto
“Box Shop” Showcases South Africa’s Entrepreneurship Potential Amid High Unemployment
Johannesburg, South Africa – A U.S. Congressional delegation led by Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) and Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) will visit an innovative new retail outlet in the Soweto township on Thursday, highlighting an ambitious effort to revitalize entrepreneurship in South Africa and to grow township economies.
The Box Shop opened last month on the historic Vilakazi Street, once home to both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. An incubator program for 15 of the region’s most promising entrepreneurs, it houses fashion, furniture, accessories, and food shops.
Despite an unemployment rate of nearly 30 percent, South Africa’s entrepreneurial sector remains relatively undeveloped. Last year, the country’s rates of early-stage entrepreneurship activity were about half of the regional average for Africa, at 9.2 percent, and only about 11 percent of the surveyed population expressed intentions to start their own business (compared with nearly 40 percent for Africa as a whole).
The Box Shop program is a collaboration between the global nonprofit TechnoServe, which develops business approaches to reducing poverty, and the Citi Foundation. The initiative builds on the partners’ longtime efforts to support entrepreneurship, connect local enterprises with wider markets, and link them into stable supply chains.
It also highlights a larger effort by the South African government to grow the country’s entrepreneurship sector and its township economies.
“Together, we have a duty and responsibility to support and develop an emerging class of entrepreneurs that are developing new brands and products in competitive and closed industries,” said South Africa’ Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu at the launch event last month. “This we must do as part of our commitment to ensure that small businesses grow and thrive into profitable enterprises that create jobs and help us fight poverty.”
One Box Shop business, Kofi, identified a market opportunity in high-quality coffee, and now sells African-grown coffee and tea. “We are bringing something new to Soweto. There's no culture in Soweto for coffee,” said Lawrence Murothela, a Kofi co-founder.
Sagay Moodliar, TechnoServe’s South Africa Country Director, noted: “Unemployment is a grave problem in South Africa, particularly for youth. Efforts like the Box Shop program and our other entrepreneurship development programs help build small businesses into engines of the local economy, reducing poverty and unemployment but also contributing to a sense of local pride.”
Added Dennis Evans, Citi Country Officer for Citi South Africa: “We are living during a period of unprecedented urban growth, and the challenges facing cities and the people living in them cannot be underestimated. Access to financing, innovation and new partnerships are needed now more than ever, and Citi is well positioned to help finance and scale solutions with impact. We are incredibly proud of the excellent partnership that we have established with TechnoServe. Our collaboration has resulted in a positive and tangible contribution to small business development in South Africa.”
In addition to Senator Coons, Chairman of the U.S. Subcommittee on African Affairs and Representative Hoyer, House Democratic Whip, the Congressional delegation will include Representative Bradley Byrne (R-AL); Representative John Lewis (D-GA); Representative David Cicilline (D-RI); Representative Marc Veasey (D-TX); Representative Stephen Cohen (D-TN); and Representative Suzan DelBene (D-WA).
About Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant cities. The Citi Foundation’s “More than Philanthropy” approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfill our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation. For more information, visit www.citifoundation.com.
TechnoServe is a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. A nonprofit organization operating in 29 countries, we work with enterprising men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses and industries. By linking people to information, capital and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities. TechnoServe has earned a 4-star rating from independent evaluator Charity Navigator for the last 10 years, placing us in the top 1 percent of all its rated nonprofits.
With nearly 50 years of proven results, TechnoServe believes in the power of private enterprise to transform lives.