This morning I drove into Khayelitsha to visit Luvuyo Rani, self-made social entrepreneur of a quickly-burgeoning business called Silulu Ulutho Technologies. It’s the first solid, homegrown social enterprise in the Cape townships I’ve come across, and one that looks healthily profitable and growing quickly.
The idea is simple. Originally a high-school teacher, Luvuyo started out refurbishing PCs from the boot of his car, but soon realised that while the wider world was increasingly powered by the Internet, people in Khayelitsha were being left behind. He not only opened one of the first township internet cafes, but also begun a mission to help people become tech-savvy, with training courses, learning modules and, simply, access to IT without having to travel miles.
He took me on a tour of four or five of the sites in Khayelitsha alone (he has 16 in total in the Western Cape, with 58 staff). Every centre we went to was packed with learners at the PCs, taking tests on PowerPoint and Exel – funding themselves (approximately R50/ £5 per month) to get skilled up.
In one of the shops, he showed me a pile of handwritten CVs – often one of the main reasons young people come to the internet cafes – and we strolled around some of Khayelitsha’s new shopping malls, where the Silulo shops are possibly the only homegrown chain amongst the ubiquitous Shoprites and Pep Stores.
I was interested to hear his thoughts on how young people have a lack of entrepreneurial role models, something that resonates with our experience of poorer communities in London, and also how he felt there was a great need for much more sustainable skills development work in the Western Cape.
While I was driving with him, he took a call from a major SA retailer who had contracted IT training to Silulo for their staff. The company can’t seem to grow fast enough (even their own website hasn’t caught up with the number of stores). His next mission: bringing Silulo stores to the more challenging Eastern Cape townships…