Black entrepreneurs’ resilience highlighted 

The struggle and resilience of black business during the apartheid era is captured aptly in a new book titled The Journey of the Soweto Entrepreneur since 1905. 

The book is a compendium of stories that narrate the struggles of black entrepreneurs operating under tough conditions created by the system to deny them equal opportunities. 

One of the contributors, development economist Machete Eddie Rakabe, puts things in perspective as they prevailed in apartheid South Africa: “Business opportunities for enterprising businesspeople were not only thwarted – they were prevented and denied. 

“The period leading to 1994 coincides with the gradual relaxation of business restrictions purposely designed by the apartheid system to limit economic opportunities for black people throughout the black settlements and Soweto, in particular, which hitherto has been the epicentre of the struggle against apartheid,” Rakabe writes. 

“The enduring legacy of these restrictions, combined with the systematic spatial exclusions, left Soweto a dysfunctional space bereft of social amenities, financial capital, property rights and formal economic activities to develop the local spatial economy of its own.” 

This sets the tone of what the book is all about, retelling a painful story that apartheid was an instrument of oppression designed to put a black man or woman down. 

Despite difficulties and apartheid obstructions, these trends of wanting to reach business firmaments are unstoppable, seeking  to find an outlet or expression for black entrepreneurship excellence that no one, can stop. 

He traces Soweto’s economic development post-1994, enfleshing this development with nuts and bolts from 2001 to 2011, when a real economic boom began to show green shoots.” 

He ends his treatise by saying if Soweto has not yet reached its growth potential, this must be due to economic activities that “are constrained by a combination of apartheid legacy, social structure, and post-94 promotion of shopping economic zones to the disadvantage of infant local industry development.” 

Some of the contributors include Sam Mathe, an award-winning South African journalist, poet, magazine publisher and author who reflects on the African entrepreneurs in the apartheid era, as is Phil Mtimkhulu, a journalist and a former university professor, who gives a perspective on liquor industry in Soweto. Siza Mtimkhulu, a journalist and video editor, reflects on the evolution of the arts and entertainment sector in Soweto. 

The late father of black business, Dr Sam Motsuenyana, former president of Nafcoc expresses his gratitude in the foreword, that a book reflecting the black struggle in business will serve as a reminder that we all must play a role in developing black excellence. 

The last word comes from Mazwai: “Although most of the pioneers of Soweto entrepreneurship have passed, they are brought alive in this book. It is hoped this book will inspire youth in the townships, countryside and the rural village, and black people in general.” 


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