The company eKasi Entrepreneurs emerged with the launch of the eKasi Entrepreneurship Conference in September 2012. In November 2013, the now annual event included a broad programme and a keynote speech by Richard Branson.
It was a huge success, says Sekhaolelo, in attendance numbers and the ideas that emerged on how to develop townships as business hubs.
“When urban people look at townships, it’s like how Americans look at Africa,” says Elvis Sekhaolelo, founding director of eKasi Entrepreneurs. They think there are no opportunities, he says, part of the reason he started this not-for-profit company to mine and expose talent in South Africa’s rural and township areas.
“eKasi” is in fact a slang word for “township”. Says Sekhaolelo: “Townships are the places that we live in and come from, but they can also be a platform for where people come and play and develop each other.”
MORE ON THE eKASI CALENDAR:
1. The Township Apprentice
It rolls out in January 2014 and runs for about three months. It’s geared towards the township’s unemployed youth – according to the company, South African youth unemployment is at 36%. Each week, 25 participants will have to come up with a solution to a challenge set by one of 10 companies who are project partners. No one gets fired, instead one company will commit to an internship for the most promising participant. Then, it’s up to that candidate to score the greater prize of a future position.
2. Shape eKasi
This campaign is designed to help residents shape the space in which they live. “If, for example, they want a tech incubator, we can connect them with some of our partners,” says Sekhaolelo. The campaign also kicks off in 2014 and will use social media to gather ideas from residents. Based on these, “we’ll look at current partners and see who can best help”.
3. eKasi Business Expo and eKasi Career Expo
These will start in Khayelitsha, but the plan is to roll out all over South Africa. The Career Expo is for high school students looking to go to university, and for companies looking for new graduates. The Business Expo is for SMMEs who can supply big busines. “We want to solve the problems for a small company that wants to do business with Telkom, for example,” Sekhaolelo explains.
For more information, visit eKasi’s website ekasientrepreneurs.co.za