Bridging the formal-informal divide

22 November 2004

Bridging the divide between the formal and informal sectors in South Africa has always been a challenge. Now companies that do just that are being recognised for their innovation and creativity.

Proudly South African, a campaign promoting South African products, is enthusiastic about the entrants to its Homegrown Awards, describing them as “vibrant, creative, energetic and empowering”.

The Homegrown Awards showcase the diverse spectrum of South African companies, large and small, whose dynamism and innovation display a positive contribution to sustainable growth in the country.

Bridging the Divide, one of the 10 categories in the competition, targets companies that have made meaningful contributions to narrowing the divide between the formal and informal economies.

These include small rural-based projects, sports organisations, conservation efforts, learning academies, design studios and food companies.

One of the companies taking up the challenge of bridging South Africa’s divide is Monkeybiz, a non-profit beadwork initiative that has seen the sustainable upliftment and empowerment of more than 350 women from informal settlements around Cape Town.

Each piece of beadwork represents job creation, restored self-worth and a step-up for the local economy.

The success of Monkeybiz has seen the publishing of a visual educational book, “Positively HIV”, in English and Xhosa, exposing some of the myths surrounding HIV/Aids and highlighting human rights awareness in an artistic, entertaining and non-confrontational way.

The proceeds from the book, which is illustrated with Monkeybiz beadwork, led to the opening of a Wellness Centre and Aids Support Group for the artists and members of their communities.

Port Elizabeth Early Learning Centre
Another contender for the award is The Port Elizabeth Early Learning Centre (PEELC), a non-profit educational institution that provides quality outcomes-based programmes to enable early childhood development (ECD) practitioners to achieve the full ECD qualification and to follow a relevant career path.

The PEELC forms an important link between formal and informal education in disadvantaged communities around Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and surrounding rural districts.

Despite unemployment in this region being the second-highest in the country, ECD centres are mushrooming in the province, creating job opportunities for young women who would normally have been unemployed.

The Rain Factory
The Rain Factory captures the essence of homegrown innovation, believing that every citizen of South Africa has a responsibility to help create jobs, fight crime and poverty, and share skills, ideas and opportunities.

Working out of an old railway goods shed in rural Ladybrand in the Free State, the Rain Factory manufactures a range of olive oil and glycerine soaps, complimentary bath products, decorative gift boxes, candles, cane and metal furniture, hand crocheted and stitched children’s toys and decor accessories, rag rugs, tin garden accessories, wooden products and woven grass items.

The products have been successfully marketed at trade shows in New York, San Francisco, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Dubai and Wales.

Pick ‘n Pay employment equity projects
Supermarket giant Pick ‘n Pay has always been a strong Proudly South African supporter, embracing upliftment, equal employment opportunity and human development as a core focus of its operations.

The company has initiated two internal employment equity projects – the Franchise Training Centre and the Support Bakery BEE Project, each aimed at encouraging growth and BEE opportunities for previously disadvantaged people.

The Franchise Training Centre equips individuals to set up their own Pick ‘n Pay Family store. Through Wits Technikon, candidates study for their higher certificate in retail management, followed by an on-the-job programme that provides practical foundation for store management.

Pick ‘n Pay’s Support Bakery BEE Project is an innovative upliftment initiative that provides training and employment for 75 people who were previously cleaning personnel.

The highly motivated Support Bakery team supplies all Pick ‘n Pay’s in-store bakeries with freshly baked products, earning a percentage of their daily production costs.

Global Strake Security
Global Strake Security is a Proudly South African company that combats crime and unemployment through the provision of security services in the Magalakwena municipal district of Limpopo province.

Working closely with the police, the community policing forum and the local municipality, the company employs members of the community and provides security services to more than 80 clients.

Proudly South African said the entrants demonstrated the “high calibre of organisations striving to contribute to South Africa’s sustainable development”.

Winners of the Homegrown Awards will be announced at an event to be held in Johannesburg towards the end of January 2005. reporter