Technology will help townships come out of dark ages

Image: MAYEDWA NJILANA

Township residents should be confident not only in earning their livelihood in their neighbourhoods, but also in making economic progress there.

Although extensive improvements have been made to infrastructure in recent years, especially in road construction, electrification and the emergence of small businesses, these do not provide sufficient employment and income-generating opportunities for the people living in these regions. Something has to give.

Let us recap: The township economy underpinned black business during the dark days of apartheid. There was a plethora of services rendered within that environment.

Lest we forget that the late Dr Nthato Motlana and a group of black investors opened Lesedi Hospital - the first private hospital in Soweto.

The late Marina Maponya, one of our role models in business, was an eminent business woman who, together with her husband, ran a flourishing business in the township.

Myself and a group of doctors built Legae Clinic in Mabopane.

Many black professionals thrived by doing business in the townships, serving the township community.

Following the birth of democracy in 1994, there was a shift into corporate SA and the emergence of black economic empowerment, sadly and regrettably leaving township business to decay.

Now, for the townships to continue to survive, it is important that they become more connected to the global marketplace rather than serve as labour reservoirs. This requires investments in infrastructure such as high-speed internet, transportation and even more shopping malls.

The availability of basic amenities and certain infrastructure such as around-the-clock electricity and drinking water, adequate street lighting, proper drainage, waste recycling, good education and health facilities and good administrative practices are naturally imbibed in the concept of a model township.

Super-fast internet connection and advanced communication networks could at least put Soweto in the same playing field as Sandton, as advanced technology allows companies to put parts of their business in any location.

Other methods to improve livelihoods include the promotion of industries producing goods from handicrafts to processed food, which utilise agricultural produce and other locally available raw materials. However, growth has often been stunted by the lack of expertise and knowledge in entrepreneurship, management, finance, marketing and technology.

Indeed, townships should actually be catalysts through the following interventions:

. Bylaws should be amended to enable township businesses to thrive. Fresh produce should be promoted in the township and there's plenty of arable land around. Food should not be trucked into the township if we can produce enough and only if we cannot, should it be permitted;

. Locals should be encouraged to open stores in township malls to create employment;

. We must have policies that offer equal opportunities to women.

. Locals should be supported in real estate and there should be a fund for equity support; and

. We need partnerships with state financial institutions such as the National Empowerment Fund, Industrial Development Corporation, Public Investment Corporation - and Gauteng enterprise propeller should play a significant role in funding these.

X