A revitalisation of the township economy has the potential to efficiently and sustainably boost South African financial resources. In addition, employment opportunities could get improved. 

The vibrant township economy is estimated to provide 17% of South Africa’s total employment. Furthermore, it contributes around 6% to the country’s GDP. Ballpark figures suggest 30 to 40 businesses per 1 000 people in townships. That translates into approximately 800 000 township businesses. However, South Africa performs poorly in supporting an entrepreneurial ecosystem. A Global Entrepreneurial Monitor report for 2021-2022 places the entrepreneurial ecosystem of South Africa as the sixth-worst globally. The report, among others, ranks access by small and medium-sized enterprises to finance, regulatory support, business training, research and development, and bureaucratic red tape.

But there is hope, thanks to an R80 million investment from philanthropic investors – Bertha Foundation and the Jobs Fund. Today the Cape Flats township of Philippi has the Philippi Village. Initiated by the Bertha Foundation and The Business Place Philippi- The Philippi Village offers an integrated and mixed-used economic development. It is an initiative that provides a community-centred safe space for local residents and businesses. Furthermore, the business hub includes fifty-four (54) affordable office rentals, workshop spaces or conference spaces for small businesses and emerging entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, the ‘Container Walk’ provides six and 12-metre converted containers for communal workspaces, offices or storage space. 

Bushra Razack, CEO at Philippi Village, says: “Our mission is to co-create a safe and vibrant space that connects the Philippi community to services, employment, educational opportunities and activities.”  

Philippi Village is currently home to over 80 tenants providing products, services, training and job opportunities to the local community. Sports facilities and other amenities (on offer) ensure constant activity and a buzz within the development. Local community members feel a proprietary sense of ownership of this innovative development. 

Razack, also a community development specialist, says there is potential for The Philippi Village model to get rolled out in other townships. 

“What’s particularly exciting is the potential for positive change that a development like Philippi Village offers because it is a connective tissue that links the community with easily accessible employment opportunities, training and development, and health and wellness services, all underpinned by strong social elements. Philippi Village is a place offering inspiration and engagement and positions the community at the centre of positive change.”

Today, Philippi Village is on it’s way to becoming a commercially sustainable space integrally connected to the community. In emphasis, Razack adds that the development owes its success to ongoing engagement with the local residents. The consultation allows for a better understanding of the needs of citizens, challenges and where the opportunities lie. 

A process of community engagement and collaboration resulted in the addition of various community facilities and amenities at Philippi Village. These include a basketball court, 5-a-side football pitch, BMX cycle track, running track, library, sewing school, Amphitheatre, coffee shop, health services and training facilities.