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07 June 2023

South Africa

#GrowYourBiz Township Enrepreneurship Programme

#GrowYourBiz Township Enrepreneurship Programme

Partnership Category:

External partnerships to enhance SDG-centric research activity – e.g. research consortia, collaborations

Name of Partner:

Walmart Foundation

Name of Partnership:

#GrowYourBiz Township Enrepreneurship Programme

Primary purpose:

Business training and coaching to entrepreneurs with a research project and monitoring and evaluation component.

Contact for this partnership:

Prof Kerrin Myres

Practical involvement:

The purpose of the project is to expand entrepreneurship reach and to provide education and support to one of the most vulnerable groups in the country.

The programme provides targeted support to the growing township and/or small businesses through business development and training and provides peer-to-peer coaching interventions aimed at helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses into viable entities.

It comprises training of entrepreneurs, research studies and programme evaluations. One of the main elements is the scholarship funding for the township entrepreneurs to attend the training.

The training was designed by Prof Kerrin Myres, faculty member at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), and the training was delivered by the GIBS Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA).

Sponsorship is provided by the Walmart Foundation in the form of grant funding.

Since its inception in 2018, the programme has trained 360 entrepreneurs in townships across South Africa. This submission focuses on the 2021 period in which there were 52 graduates.


The Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA) is a pioneering and stimulating environment for small and growing enterprises, building and regenerating entrepreneurial spirit amidst a culture of innovation and social change.

The EDA #GrowYourBiz township entrepreneurship programme, in partnership with the Walmart Foundation, provides targeted support to growing small businesses across South Africa. This is done through business training and peer-to-peer coaching aimed at helping entrepreneurs to grow their businesses into viable entities.

In addition to the training and coaching, there is also a research project. This submission focuses on the work conducted by the faculty team in 2021 and early 2022, culminating in a workshop launch of their recent research findings on 30 March 2022.

The current #GrowYourBiz township entrepreneurship programme outcomes include:

  • The completion of entrepreneurship training of 52 township entrepreneurs in the areas of Athlone (Western Cape), New Brighton (Eastern Cape) and Nkowankowa (Limpopo) in 2021.
  • A follow up survey and report on the 2021 participants.
  • A research project conducted during 2021 entitled: Pivot or Perish: How entrepreneurs overcame lockdown uncertainty in South Africa’s townships
  • A research workshop on 30 March 2022 to present a Working Paper on the findings of the research. This was in person and also live streamed on Facebook.
  • Programme evaluation report in 2022.

The programme and its beneficiaries were extensively and individually promoted on social media. In this way, GIBS EDA recognised and acknowledged the partnership with the Walmart Foundation and recognised and amplified the SMMEs in the current cohort by giving their businesses exposure to grow their markets and customer bases and to help them compete in an e-commerce world.

The training programme was design by Prof Kerrin Myres and trainers are engaged by GIBS EDA to deliver the programme in townships across the all the provinces in South Africa. The fourth cohort of the training was delivered in 2021 and early 2022.

The 2021.22 research project focused on the impact of Covid-19 on township entrepreneurs and explored the research question: How do entrepreneurs overcame lockdown uncertainty in South Africa’s townships.

The published Research Working Paper: Myres, K., Smith, S., & Mamabolo, A. (2022). Pivot or Perish: How entrepreneurs overcame lockdown uncertainty in South Africa’s townships. GIBS Entrepreneurship Development Academy and Walmart Foundation.

What is a township? Whittaker and Kruger (2019) describe a ‘township’ in South Africa as a “formerly segregated urban residential area created under Apartheid to house Black people who were restricted from residing in ‘White’ areas. The most famous township in South Africa is Soweto, the name of which is an acronym of South Western Townships”. Whittaker, L. & Kruger, G. (2019). Turning on the township: Financial Inclusion in South Africa. European Business Review, 31(3), 420-446.

Benefits of this partnership to the institution as a PRME Champion:

  • A published working paper on the research project conducted during 2021 entitled: Pivot or Perish: How entrepreneurs overcame lockdown uncertainty in South Africa’s townships.

A copy of the research working paper isavailable here.

  • A research workshop on 30 March 2022 to present a Working Paper on the findings of the research. This was in person and also live streamed on Facebook.

Workshop recording available here:

Benefits of this partnership to the partner institution(s):

The partnership includes a monitoring and evaluation report for each year focusing on 5 Goals/ Outputs specified by the Walmart Foundation. Some highlights from the assessment report include:

  • Goal/Output 1 - To provide training to 120 respective township entrepreneurs for the 2nd phase ( the period 2020 and 2021)

As part of Cohort 2 of phase 2, we have onboarded 101 delegates but due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and level restrictions, our numbers have decreased between onboarding and the safe resumption of classes. The impact of COVID-19 has introduced uncertainty and has had a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of the delegates. Many enterprises were faced with the very real prospect of having to close their doors. As such 50 % of delegates have not returned to class because they either were affected by the pandemic or the recent looting in our country. However, in the absence of in-person contact sessions, the delegates were encouraged via the WhatsApp groups to engage with educational content such as podcast series on SME survival.

  • Goal/Output 2 - To show evidence of having run masterclasses and business clinics

As a result of COVID-19 and related lockdowns, the program start date was delayed. When the restrictions were lowered, cohort 2 commenced in April 2021, immediately after cohort 1 graduations. A blended approach was taken to deliver the program content, with masterclasses augmented by online and mobile learning tools. The first day of each block covered business-related material, while the second day focused on personal mastery topics.

  • Goal/Output 3 - To provide these interventions across 6 under-served regions of South Africa

For phase 2 of the programme, which was between 2020-and 2021, the EDA successfully deployed programmes in six underserved regions of South Africa, despite the complications caused by Covid-19. Below are the regions covered:-

Phase 2

2020 Mamelodi (35) Botshabelo (35) Chatsworth (21) 91

2021 Athlone (17) New Brighton (36) Nkowankowa (14) 52

Total: 143

  • Goal/Output 4 - To offer an innovative digital learning experience for all 120 beneficiaries.

As part of this hybrid approach, in-class face-to-face training sessions were conducted alongside online learning sessions. The content designers were encouraged to design practical training material which would help learners apply the frameworks and models learned in class. This was accomplished through multiple exercises and activities, syndicate groups, and online multiple-choice quizzes given at the end of each module. The aim was to test their comprehension of the topics discussed in class. Free broadband access was made available in all classes to ensure that participants are able to access and download the relevant material. All participants were able to access the online modules via a smartphone, even those without laptops or iPads. A zero-rated Learner Management System (LMS) platform enables participants to access the site without incurring data charges. Access to the LMS platform was granted to students through a unique login password. The material could also be downloaded to their own devices for later consumption.

  • Goal/Output 5 - To implement peer-to-peer learning capabilities that can be sustained after the programme is complete.

The Personal Mastery content was designed in such a way that it incorporated an element of peer-to-peer coaching. The programme included creating a personal vision, setting goals, and continuously developing oneself to achieve these. Each delegate received a copy of the personal mastery coaching manual, which has been designed to assist entrepreneurs to grow personally, and as their businesses grew. The content for both cohorts was divided into eight (8) modules in which entrepreneurs could coach each other or work in a group with a facilitator to work through the personal mastery themes. By the end of the coaching programme, delegates were in a better position to develop their very own Personal Development Plan (PDP) that they could continue implementing to grow their business and self. The delegates were taught how to coach each other in the areas mentioned so that they will be able to support each other even after the programme ends. This will enable the sustainability of the learnings post-programme.

The personal mastery coaching manual was one of the leave-behind tools that entrepreneurs can continually refer to, thereby ensuring the longevity of the learnings.

Spillover effects/cross pollination/impact of this partnership:

1. The #GrowYourBiz entrepreneurship training of 52 township entrepreneurs in the areas of Athlone (Western Cape), New Brighton (Eastern Cape) and Nkowankowa (Limpopo) in 2021.

The scholarship programme allowed entrepreneurs with existing businesses with a retail focus to grow their personal and business confidence. We believe that personal mastery and personal initiative were critical to business success and therefore this was a major focus of the 16-day programme.

Despite COVID 19 and the associated reactionary lockdowns having affected the South African economy negatively, the EDA continued to run this programme in the six townships mentioned above. Our experience in classrooms and peer-to-peer coaching sessions has led us to believe that despite these challenges, especially the earliest stages of lockdown, some entrepreneurs seemed to be thriving, making their businesses work in the most difficult of circumstances.

2. Some quantitative metrics:

As regards quantitative metrics, delegates experienced numerous improvements and increases in their personal abilities and outlooks. These included a 14% increase in those developing new products, a 20% increase in those expanding their operations, a 22% increase in partnership formations, and a 14% increase in the adoption of new systems and processes. The delegates’ ratings of their own business skills has also gone up, with 67% now rating themselves as good or very good – up from 49% previously. Entrepreneurial self-efficacy in terms of specific business management aspects also improved across almost every metric.

Delegates provided feedback on what they had learnt and how they can share these within the community. This means that the knock-on effects of the programme will be felt across the regions in which the delivery of training materials and education took place.

Employment levels within the businesses remained stable at approximately 2,5 employees per enterprise. Given that these cohorts were recruited and the programme delivered under constrained conditions and lockdowns, the fact that businesses retained employees is a testament to a positive community impact.

The average increase in the business monthly turnover was approximately R3 000 – or R36 000 annually.

3. More specifically, there is a follow up pre and post survey and evaluation report. The latest report is on the 2020. 2021 participants and provides some qualitative feedback from entrepreneurs. Some extracts are provided below:

Entrepreneur 1:

“When I started with the GIBS programme, I was down and out. When I got the opportunity to present for the catering tender with GIBS and got it, I knew that my life will never be the same again. I never received any business training in my life, since I got married when I was still very young. I mean, I got married immediately after matric, and never got any technical training. So I operated my catering business without any business training. I was happy when GIBS coordinator confirmed that I can do both – i.e. attend training and provide catering for the group. The business was going well, but then COVID hit us so badly, that was then I realized that God was not on my side. During the early stages of COVID, I still did not want to believe what was happening. I just thought it was something that will pass by, but then I only realized the extent and the magnitude of the problem when we were on level 5 of lockdown. With no class attendance, which was depressing for me.”

“When we resumed classes again, after restrictions were slowed down, I then regained my hope. Because class attendance made me realize that I wasn’t alone. We managed to share our daily challenges as entrepreneurs and one was able to get advice and tips from my colleagues. This programme was really a life-saver for me and my children. Besides, I was not only getting business knowledge, but I was also providing a catering service to GIBS, meaning, I could also retain two staff members because we had a continuous income from catering. GIBS has taught me how to be the real me. Equipped me with personal and business skills which I can share with my children and peers. I now understand that there are different kinds of customer segments and that you have to treat each customer with the most respect - everything that you put towards a business must have a return, no matter what it is. And creating strategic partnerships and not just linking up with people because you like them, there has to be a reason that’s going to drive your vision forward. So, my understanding of the basic principles of running a business I say improved a lot. Thank you Walmart and GIBS for giving me confidence and a boost to grow my business.”

Entrepreneur 2:

“I started my business of photography during family meetings and gatherings. We use to meet up as a family, and because I was the oldest of the three boys, I was asked that I should take pictures, and capture different family members – since we were losing elderly members. I started taking pictures then, and my father encouraged me whenever I wanted to quit. Thinking back before the program started, I didn’t have a business bank account nor took my hustle as a business. I mean I was even using my personal account for business. I was employing relatives, which didn’t work out for me, and now I can say that what we learned from GIBS helped a lot, because things are done now professionally. I’ve got a business account, I’ve got files, everything in my business is being filed, and there is professionalism.”

“Before the program started, I was actually frustrated in my business, because I had challenges that I was facing, but I wasn’t quite sure as to how to go about addressing them, and how to solve them. The main challenge was the lack of growth in customer numbers. But then after doing the program I learned about customer segmentation, which helped me then to see that this is how I need to focus. And also, my business was not registered, and it’s now fully registered, because of the help of one of my lecturers from GIBS. New doors were opened, and opportunities were that people were beginning to migrate to digital platforms. I think this is where the opportunity came in for me because I’m creative so if someone wants certain things done digitally then I could provide the service.”

“I have since diversified my business from photography to opening an internet café, where I use digital platforms to market my business, but also advertise my photography business on social media. I am now capturing memories and events digitally and most clients appreciate this venture of doing digital albums I have also incorporated videography in my business. The GIBS programme helped me to think out of the box and expand my service. I have diversified and will never look back. The programme also helped to support me emotionally. I lost two members of my family due to COVID, but because I was attending GIBS classes and sessions, my peers were able to comfort me, and also discussed challenges that we were experiencing individually, but collectively we could encourage each other, and also I got a lot of referrals in class. Thanks to GIBS and Walmart for being there for me when I was going through a lot – especially during COVID.”

Entrepreneur 3:

“I was in the bakery business and when the opportunity came for me to attend the GIBS programme I was ecstatic. The reason being I could learn more about business expansion. But then COVID hit us and now people do not feel free in making parties, big weddings, and stuff. Before COVID the business was booming. Sometimes if I checked the money I made a month, I would have made about R50000 but during COVID I battled. Thank goodness that the GIBS programme was never put to a halt completely. Even though I was a bit down, my peers in class helped me in getting customers. When we learned about digital marketing, I then got an opportunity to learn how to market my business online.”

“The fact that I did some of my activities online, I acquired skills on how to use social media and virtual advertising, which then started opening doors for my business again. I also learned about collaboration between different businesses. My fellow brother in the class had a delivery business – so I collaborated with him, so he could do deliveries for me whenever I get orders, as clients were no longer willing to come to the bakery, I had to find a way to ensure that I deliver on time.”

“When I first came here, I was expecting – I thought it was the program just like other programs because I used to attend programs. But this program stands out because it was like concentrating on the business and you as yourself. So that’s what stands out to me, in this program. I’ve learned more about customers & relationships management – I had to create relationships with my customers and address their needs. I have expanded my delivery services because customers can now order, and we will deliver. This programme has taught me to think differently, be innovative, and deliver value. I have also learned to collaborate with my competitors and buy in bulks, and they are now my partners. Since I started at GIBS I started with one employee, but now I have one permanent and two temporal employees”

3. The broader impact of this project are noted below in terms of how the entrepreneurship programme impacted job creation and growing enterprises.

The #GrowYourBiz township entrepreneurship programme addressed the following SDG targets as described in the Research Report.

SDG target 8.3

Promote policies to support job creation and growing enterprises

Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.

SDG target 4.4

Increase the number of people with relevant skills for financial success.

By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.

Lessons learned from the partnership:

Details provided in the research what paper and in the workshop event.

The research white paper summarised key lessons learnt from the experiences of the township entrepreneurs.

Further lessons learnt were shared during the workshop event.

Duration of partnership:

This partnership was established in 2018 and is ongoing.

Communications about this partnership:

A copy of the research report is available here:

Workshop recording available here:

Walmart Foundation

PRME Faculty Award 2022


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