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By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

Brics in Soweto: township economy dialogue launched

Minister Ramokgopa delivered the keynote address at the inaugural Township Economy in Brics dialogue.

Business owners and various stakeholders gathered at Vilakazi Street in Soweto on Tuesday for the official launch of the Township Economy in Brics dialogue.

A collaborative effort between Dirco Brics Directorate and the Township Economic Commission of South Africa (TECSA), the initiative is geared towards inclusion of township economies on the Brics agenda.

During her keynote address at the launch, Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Maropane Ramokgopa said the township economy has become a focal point for local economic development which fosters entrepreneurship and community empowerment.

“Townships have become engines of economic vitality, contributing significantly to GDP and fostering job creation,” she added.

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Multi-pronged approach

Ramokgopa said a multi-pronged approach is required to ensure sustained growth of the township economy – prioritising education and skills development, public-private partnerships and legislative efforts to accelerate township economies.

Government policies should be tailored to encourage investment, while private sector entities can offer mentorship, funding and marketing access,” said Ramokgopa.

The minister also said eliminating red tapes to create a business-enabling environment would yield business growth in townships.

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‘Townships must benefit from Brics’

Ramokgopa said the relationship between Brics and member states extends beyond governments.

“Townships within Brics nations must also benefit from opportunities of this association,” said Ramokgopa.

“Brics member countries have the capacity to leverage the combined resources, experiences, and expertise to support each other in nurturing vibrant township economies,” she added.

Ramokgopa further said exchanging best practices and sharing insights on how to nurture and sustain township economies between members would go a long way.

“By doing so, [we] can collectively uplift the millions of individuals who call townships home,” she added.

‘Step in the right direction’

Independent Economist Prof. Bonke Dumisa said the Township Economy dialogue is a “step in the right direction”, but said he was not sure of the initiative’s prospective success.

Dumisa said most township businesses are currently operated by foreign nationals, and hoped the dialogue would help enable South Africans to “reclaim” ownership of the township economy.

“Let’s try and get the [township economy] back in the hands of South Africans,” he told The Citizen.

Dumisa said however, South Africans with township businesses must be prepared to put in the work, and not chase instant gratification or overnight success.

Cautioning small business owners against entitlement, Dumisa said entrepreneurs must take responsibility for their own businesses.

“Do it on [your] own before expecting support from entities,” he concluded.

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Quick facts about SA’s informal sector:

  • Contributes at least 6% to GDP (Stats SA, 2021)
  • Makes up R184bn of the total R716 FMCG market – 26% (Trade Intelligence, 2022)
  • Accounts for one-third of local jobs (Stats SA,2021)
  • 70% of SA households buy from informal traders (Trade Intelligence, 2022).
  • 107 000 people joined sector in the first quarter of 2023 (Stats SA, 2023).

Proposed forum

Ramakgopa proposed the establishment of a ‘Township Economic Development Forum,’ within the BRICS framework – said the platform would be a repository for best practices, fostering cross-learning and cooperation among Brics member countries.

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“By creating mechanisms to facilitate investments in township projects, this can accelerate the pace of development and upliftment,” she explained.

Taking townships to Brics

Ramakgopa said townships are the economic gateway for millions of people.

“The township economy in SA is not just as story of adversity, but a tale of resilience, resourcefulness and renewal,” said Ramokgopa.

“We must be deliberate about taking Brics to townships and our townships to Brics,” she concluded.

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