Social entrepreneurship in South Africa

Written by Vernon Cheung

December 12, 2018

Former public protector Professor Thuli Madonsela reflects on how we can
take advantage of social entrepreneurship to address the challenges facing SouthAfrica.

When the architects of our democracy drafted the Constitution, I think they
had in mind a society similar to that which exists in Massachusetts. One where the government makes a concerted effort to create an enabling environment; one that is predicated on social justice, where people believe that cruelty is wrong and kindness is the ethos.

I won’t pretend it’s a perfect system, but what I love about it is that the people who live there have a conscious desire to do good and make other people feel good about themselves. It is a society of conscious good-doers constantly looking to eliminate social injustice.

Our Constitution – one of the best of the world – with its particular focus on equality, human dignity and freedom, has all the ingredients of a society similar to the one in Massachusetts. However, we face the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, all of which need to be addressed in ways that resonate with the spirit of our Constitution.

In addressing the issue of unemployment in South Africa, human solidarity is going to be extremely important. An emerging industry in the US is social entrepreneurship. In South Africa, we need to find a way to provide services to communities; this means that government and companies offload some of their corporate social investments to genuine social enterprises.

This, in turn, becomes another source of employment and adds value to
humanity. Social enterprise at Harvard is no longer seen as something reserved only for bored housewives or good-hearted rich people. It’s seen as a niche area for alternative employment and area in which value can be added to society. You get a sense of feeling good for doing good and, at the same time, you’re improving employment, poverty and inequality.

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