En­tre­pre­neur Le­sika Mat­lou

Finweek English Edition - - INSIGHT: LOCAL -

Fin­week j oined en­tre­pre­neur Le­sika Mat­lou – founder of Ek Sê Tours – and saw a world of op­por­tu­nity through the eyes of the next gen­er­a­tion who will shape the coun­try over the next decade.

Born in a small vil­lage in the North West Prov­ince, Mat­lou grew up with­out ac­cess to many op­por­tu­ni­ties, but to­day he is the owner of a promis­ing tour op­er­a­tions com­pany that takes lo­cals and tourists on trips around Soweto. Hav­ing re­cently signed his f irst R1m con­tract, Mat­lou is clearly good at what he does.“There are op­por­tu­ni­ties all around us, we just need to be open to them,” he tells Fin­week as he guides us through the city

We stop in Jab­u­lani, where the pristinely main­tained parks and recre­ational ar­eas have swings and slides for chil­dren. There is also an out­door gym.

Next to t hese parks, high­lighted by the hori­zon, is the Soweto Theatre made up of three-tiled build­ings in dif­fer­ent colours, and on the same site is the pre­vi­ous theatre that closely re­sem­bles an ath­let­ics sta­dium, with a con­crete stage that makes the cur­rent theatre look pos­i­tively pala­tial. The in­te­rior has sus­pended walk­ways, with mu­rals on the walls de­pict­ing cartoon-like gum­boot dancers and other em­blem­atic scenes from the lo­cal com­mu­nity. Across the road, the lively Jab­u­lani mall f lour­ishes and at­tracts ma­jor re­tail stores such as The Cross Trainer and Wool­worths.

“This is the Soweto that I want peo­ple to see,” Mat­lou says. The last high­light of the tour is the largest taxi rank in Africa, which lies in the shadow of the Chris Hani Barag­wanath Hos­pi­tal, which is also the largest hos­pi­tal on the cont i nent a nd t he t hird-l argest in the world. From this taxi rank, I was told that for about R250 you can catch a taxi to Ma­puto and for about R350 you can catch a taxi to Harare. Mat­lou tells of when he was trans­port­ing school chil­dren in his ve­hi­cles as part of a com­mu­nity ser­vice pro­ject and had to ap­pear be­fore the ‘ Taxi Mafia’ to ask for per­mis­sion, and to present his case that he was not fund­ing an­other syn­di­cate’s busi­ness by of­fer­ing this ser­vice at a fee.

The taxi in­dus­try, cou­pled with the power of the ‘ ta xi boss’ speaks to an in­ter­est­ing dy­namic for Soweto. If the re­search from the Unilever study is to be un­der­stood, own­ing a car is im­per­a­tive for the ris­ing black mid­dle class who don’t want to sl ip back into the habit of trav­el­ling by taxi. Black mid­dle class car own­er­ship is up by 1.1m since 2004 (45%).

In an in­ter­view with Fin­week ear­lier this year, Martin Laub­scher, CEO of Bar­loworld Au­to­mo­tive and Lo­gis­tics, says that the two deal­er­ships that op­er­ate in Soweto are turn­ing over more than 100 units per month.

The taxi rank is re­plete with stalls sell­ing food and small house­hold items, and the smell of cooked cow skop and maize per­me­ates the air.

There is a fas­ci­nat­ing dy­namic tak­ing place here with small ven­dors now hav­ing to com­pete with larger com­mer­cial op­er­a­tors work­ing their way into high­growth ar­eas of Soweto.

Re­search from Ur­ban Land­mark says that while the in­tro­duc­tion of ma­jor shop­ping malls, such as Jab­u­lani, were net pos­i­tive for the com­mu­nity, 70% to 80% of those polled, who op­er­ated in­for­mal busi­nesses within 5km of the malls, noted a down­turn in their busi­nesses. The big­gest chal­lenge that th­ese op­er­a­tors faced is that they can­not af­ford the space rentals in th­ese ar­eas.

One of the con­cerns raised by the City of Jo­han­nes­burg in the orig­i­nal pro­ject road map was that there was around R4.2bn in dis­pos­able in­come in Soweto, but only a quar­ter of it was spent on the lo­cal econ­omy. The ma­jor­ity of spend was still spent in the Jo­han­nes­burg CBD and

Mu­ral at Jab­u­lani Theatre

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.