5 Great Opportunities in South Africa’s Social Sector

By Nizenande Machi – Emzingo

If South Africa had a Facebook profile, its relationship status with its citizenry and economy would read: “It’s Complicated”!  This is attributable mainly to a turbulent political history, predicated upon a racially oppressive Apartheid system. Unfortunately, the economic effects of Apartheid still linger 21 years after South Africa was declared a democracy.  Poverty, high income-inequality – GINI coefficient is 0.65 – poor public education, resource constraints and high unemployment are a few of the socio-economic ills that plague our nation today.

But, the situation is not grim. We have a number of lively citizens who have taken it upon themselves to combat these ills.  South Africa has an extensive social sector, which boasts close to 200 000 registered and non-registered non-profit organisations, which work collectively to provide services to alleviate poverty and build societal capacity. Given that South Africa is an emerging market, there is still a landmine of opportunity that lies within the nation’s the social sector, and these opportunities should be considered and exploited.

So if you are planning to start a social organisation in South Africa or already have one, listen closely to the prospects that are within your reach.

1 – Social Entrepreneurship: With the global paradigm moving towards one of sustainable innovation, there is an increasing need for social entrepreneurship – social enterprises that do not rely on grant funding but generate income internally to survive in the long term. This growing focus is on organisations that are not only working from an altruistic standpoint in order to address economic challenges, but also those that employ robust business modeling principles in order to demonstrate an enduring mission.

2- Larger Funding Pool: Private corporations in South Africa have been forced to have comprehensive corporate social investment spends as indicators for triple-bottom line reporting and social consciousness. This means social organisations have a broader funding pool to apply to, which extends beyond government grants and includes private sector funds. This also exposes these organisations to hybrid model funding, including debt and equity, which may encourage better performance and reach.

3- Skills Training & Development: With the private companies becoming more active in the social sector, part of their mandate is to up-skill the employees of the organisations that they fund. They are encouraged to fund with incubation, training in the areas of business management, finance, human resource management and other business practice modules. Government-led funding organisations, although to date have offered skills development services to social enterprises, there is now a formal plan to incubate small-medium enterprises, even those with a social focus. So for you who wants to start an NGO or social enterprise, don’t worry too much that you may lack the business acumen to make it sustainable, that you can learn along the way… you’ll get by with a little help from your friends!

4- Job Creation: The National Development Plan states that part of the South African vision is to create 5 million jobs by 2020, mainly through small-medium enterprises. These small businesses and organisations have greater capacity to grow and expand, thereby creating ample jobs over a short period.  This alone, even though it may not be an objective for a particular NGO, is inadvertently a gain that positively influences the nation and contributes to societal good.

5 – Partnerships: The South African government is encouraging social organisations to collaborate amongst one another and create more meaningful impact to society. Not only with each other, but also working closely with government and local municipalities to address the challenges facing various communities.

Social EnterpriseThe South African social sector is thriving! Of course, as with any newly industrialised economy that is trying to remain competitive in an increasingly globalised world, there are some challenges and hurdles to overcome. But, there is an opportunity for you to add to the greater good of South Africa. You who are stirred to “make a change” can start a social enterprise with low barriers to entry. You have access to a wide funding pool; you will be up-skilled, and you can go ahead and collaborate with your friend who has the same urges!
So what are you waiting for? Do it! Be a contributor to a lively South African social sector, be it in your community, your school or your family.  Go ahead and make that difference!


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