Refugees Sharing their Business Skills with local Youth in Townships.

According to media reports, compared to anterior years, the violent attacks and looting on foreign owned shops in South Africa increased in 2013, mainly because of competition of resources. Foreign Africans are well established in townships of Cape Town as they own most of the small-scale businesses. On the other hand, many locals continue to face challenges to start their own businesses in the townships. This in most cases results in violence directed to African foreign nationals operating small businesses in different townships.
Recently in July 2014, many shops owned by Somali’s and Ethiopians were looted during a service delivery strike in Langa township/ Cape Town,

On the 10th of September 2014, Africa Unite held a dialogue at Langa library, between established foreign Africans in business and a group of local youth who are already involved or interested in running their own businesses. The aim of this initiative was to provide a platform where refugees running small businesses can share their experiences with local youth in order to encourage them to start their own businesses – thus creating a friendly enviroment which may reduce xenophobic attacks on foriegn nationals.
Three refugee traders from the following countries Somalia, Democratic Republic of

A refugee from DRC sharing her own experiences and struggles as a refugee woman in starting her own business.

A refugee from DRC sharing her own experiences and struggles as a refugee woman in starting her own business.


Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe got the chance to spend their time sharing their experiences on how they started their businesses without any capital. The participants were mainly young people from Philippi, Gugulethu , Nyanga, Langa and Hanover Park. The three speakers were allowed to respond to the following questions:
• How did you start your business in South-Africa as a refugee?
• How do you save your money?
• How do you make your business sustainable?
• What were your challenges that you encountered in starting your business?

The guest speakers shared their experiences and challenges such as language barriers, having no capital, lack of support from families or South African government etc.

After their presentation, the audience were invited to ask some questions of clarity followed by round table discussions where the audience was split into three groups. Each speaker was allowed to spend time at each table in responding to different questions posed by the local young people.

A Somali refugee engaging with the youth during a roundtable discussion.

A Somali refugee engaging with the youth during a roundtable discussion.

Although the guest speakers came from different countries and backgrounds, their experiences inspired the audience to gain self confidence and create their own initiatives. In the small discussion rounds the local youth enjoyed the possibility to network with others and to receive first-hand-information from foreign nationals on how to start and establish their own businesses, such as shoemaking, internet café, selling fruits or vegetables, opening food outlets etc. The youth learnt that to start a business they must have discipline first and they need to differentiate – Needs and Wants.
After a fruitful discussion below are some of the recommendations made.
• There should be more structured interactions where refugees and locals can meet and form partnerships in businesses.
• More community awareness needs to be initiated in order to reduce violence and looting of foreign national shops.
• A request was made that Africa Unite should to run similar sessions in other townships such as Philippi.IMG_5835

All the youth present were very excited to listen from the horse’s mouth in starting businesses and were eager to start something similar without the intervention of the government. For those who are already in business, Africa Unite will pay them a visit in order to see if their business is improving after attending this dialogue.

For more pictures click here

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