One post at a time is how a young Port Elizabeth blogger aims to change perceptions of townships in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Khanyisa Melwa (23), a Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University public relations management graduate, has a blog focused on creating hope in the townships and showing how to establish thriving small businesses.
“I chose to start a blog to tell township stories in an authentic manner. It was a means of disrupting the single story narrative about townships that always focuses on social ills – crime, unemployment, strikes and other negative things,” Melwa said.
“Yes, these stories can be told but they are not the only things happening in the townships. I want to feature the untold stories about township arts, township business and township people – how they manoeuvre through their tough day-to-day lives. I want to change the often-held belief about township life.”
His blog, aptly called Kasifixation, started two years ago and mainly centres on small entrepreneurs operating from street corners in the townships.
Kasifixation, a clever combination of the word kasi (slang for township) and fixation (passionate about something), has gained huge mileage on social media, and is opening business opportunities for those featured in the form of sponsorship and funding.
Melwa, who says he is a social entrepreneur, said: “I am very passionate about the township economy, and I believe this is one of the solutions to boost this sector.
"Most of the businesses I have featured on my blog have since increased their revenues because of the exposure.
“There is a lot of business potential in the townships, [but it needs] to be tapped to the maximum.
"For example, the creative arts is a huge sector which, if tapped into, and supported by government, will create many jobs and improve the lives of township people and remove that stigma of townships being thought of as places of crime.”
He said the creative arts sector could also bring tourists to townships and boost their economy, adding that shebeens are the prevalent business.
“By my small contribution through my blog, I want to grow the small business which, in turn, will boost the township economy,” he said.
His next big idea is to set up a “creative agency” that will help township entrepreneurs market themselves and their products to ensure growth.
Melwa also intends starting Kasi Bioscope – a pop-up cinema project which will be found in all the townships of Nelson Mandela Bay metro “just to introduce people to consuming creative art”.
“I like township people to celebrate themselves, like their blackness, within the context of township life,” he says.
Two of the businesses that have increased their bank balances because of the exposure from Kasifixation are 469 Enterprises, now a holding company of five businesses, and Bambanani Fresh Art, a leather products manufacturing company.
Siyabulela Mandla, the owner of 469, told City Press this week that ever since appearing on Kasifixation, he has featured on national radio and in newspapers and magazines.
“I have other businesses under 469 and these are in the transport, car wash, shisa nyama sectors. My annual turnover has increased substantially, from R800 000 in 2013 to R2.3 million in 2015.
"So, that first exposure from the blog opened up some doors for me,” he said.
Mandla employs 20 people.
He says that he was interested in business from childhood.
“I always wanted to know how the business industry works ... I used to make and sell wire cars at street corners in Motherwell where I grew up,” he says.
Last year he won the Eastern Cape SAB KickStart competition.
Mandla has also started a programme called Kasi Talks Business, where, along with other entrepreneurs, he teaches and trains employees business skills – from financial management to full entrepreneurship development.
Mandla says the euphoria of independence made people forget about the township economy and the import of starting small.
People, he explains, thought that after independence they would get everything on a silver platter, earn large amounts of money and start big businesses.
“It is only after 22 years that they have now realised that the dream will not materialise and are now thinking of spaza shops and other small township businesses,” he says.
Masibulele Matshaya, the owner of Bambanani Fresh Art, also attributes his growth to the blog.
“We are now in talks with the department of trade and industry with a view to getting a sponsorship. After reading about us in the blog, the department contacted us asking for our profile, but we are still waiting,” he said.
The company makes leather shoes and accessories such as belts, bags and wallets.
It employs three people, but hopes to increase the figure in the near future.
Their annual turnover as per last year was R48 000.
“The problem is that there are no support systems in the township economy. The potential is massive. Government must assist this sector,” he said, adding that they make 30 pairs of shoes a month.
He says they receive financial support from the Small Enterprise Development Agency, the Eastern Cape Development Corporation and the National Youth Development Agency.Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter: