One of the highest unemployment rates in the world is in South Africa. It is reported that the unemployment rate is as high as 60% in economically disadvantaged and socially marginalized areas.
Several economists and sociologists have recommended entrepreneurship as a potential, though the not straightforward, solution to the job crisis. A person needs several things, including capital, business savvy, an interest in entrepreneurship, a marketing strategy, a location that is conducive to drawing in clients, and a solid customer base, to launch a successful business.
Without money, outside of the economic center, and with few resources, there are even more challenges to launching a business. Additionally, the majority of the community’s potential customers are in a financially unstable position and have low purchasing power.
Researchers have looked into survivalist business owners extensively. However, information about singular occurrences with surprisingly beneficial results is lacking. These people substantially surpass the average performance of those in a similar predicament. ‘Positive deviance’ is the term used to describe this trend.
To meet this need To better understand the mindset of these ‘temporary’ business owners, I conducted interviews with four survivalist micro-entrepreneurs operating on the informal side. They started businesses while also trying to find steady employment.
My exploratory study only includes a small number of people. My goal was to gain a profound comprehension of the inner workings of these business owners by doing so. It also helped me get some early information about how entrepreneurs see the drivers of change in their industries. Finally, having such a compact number allowed for the development of trusting relationships with them. Based on my findings, I believe that these business owners can provide valuable insight to social scientists and policymakers looking to address the serious issue of high unemployment in economically disadvantaged areas.
The investigation of the lives of jobless people in two South African towns inspired the exploratory study. Orange Farm is located 45 kilometers from Johannesburg, and Boipatong is located 60 kilometers away; the research offered preliminary data that will be used to build a program for unemployed persons in both of these areas.
During interviews, it was discovered that some of the jobless were running makeshift enterprises to make ends meet. They did this while searching for a more permanent job. These entrepreneurs were making ends meet despite facing daunting odds. Orange Farm and Boipatong are home to a plethora of locally owned and operated enterprises. Few of these belonged to people born in South Africa.
These business owners have complained about the difficulty of functioning in today’s climate. They claimed, for instance, that the government does nothing to help out local firms. The participants’ firms were hampered by a lack of capital, as well as a lack of basic business and marketing knowledge and abilities. Each business owner had to rely on trial and error to get ahead. They lacked positive adult figures to look up to. This is because most prosperous business owners and entrepreneurs have left the region.
To provide for their families, the entrepreneurs were resolute in the face of personal, societal, and institutional obstacles. Despite their low means, they expressed a desire to be economically self-sufficient. The small number of South African-born business owners in Orange Farm and Boipatong reflects the nationwide trend of a lack of survivalist entrepreneurs in South African townships.
They Considered Providing for One’s Family a Fundamental Adult Responsibility
The business owners believed that the only way to earn money was via honest, hard work, which reflected their high moral standards. They condemned criminal activity and the expectation of charity. These business owners believed that hard work, focus, and determination were essential for reaching one’s goals. “Hard, honest work,” said one interviewee. This is the way I was brought up, the way I’ve been taught, and the way I intend to continue living my life. Every day, I put in a full thirteen hours at the office. “I work every day except Sunday.”
These normalized outliers have a fervent desire for freedom and individuality. ‘I don’t like being a beggar,’ one participant said emphatically. I’m used to taking care of things by myself. Participants valued active participation in important, worthwhile pursuits. It was not acceptable to sit around and do nothing. All four entrepreneurs’ accounts showed that they were genuinely caring people. All of them reported making an effort to reach out to locals and provide service in some form.
The ability to keep going despite obstacles, hard work, and the unknowns of the informal economy stood out. They picked themselves up after a failed attempt, like we all must do at some point, and tried again. Words like “hope,” “inspiration,” “winning,” and “motivation” were frequently used in the interviews. Their upbeat attitudes were plain to see in their descriptions of working life at their tiny firms.
Three of the four business owners admitted that they had complete faith in the divine powers of God and their ancestors for the success of their companies. These traits appeared to equip the informal, survivalist entrepreneur with the tools necessary to initiate and maintain operations in an unfavorable setting through the use of remarkable and unorthodox techniques and behavior.
The mindset of these survivalist micro-entrepreneurs could serve as a model for social scientists and policymakers. Possible outcomes include the development of soft-skill programs and solutions that are applicable in the given environment since they are currently being used.
About The Author:
Lunga Dlamini is a journalist specialising in African start-ups and entrepreneurship. Lunga’s fascination with innovative business models and emerging market trends guides his writing. He has an MBA and has been with Africa Nova since its inception.