Mthente helps find opportunities for SMMEs in SEZs

The Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) appointed Mthente to conduct a study on the “Identification of Opportunities for SMMEs and Co-operatives in Strategic Value Chains within Special Economic Zones”. The premise of the DSBD study is to improve the integration of SMMEs and co-operatives into global value chains, using SEZs as the vehicle for these entities to access global value chains. Based on this premise, the focal point of the study is identifying specific modalities and mechanisms which increase the number of SMMEs and co-operatives participating either directly or indirectly in SEZs in South Africa.

Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are geographically designated areas set aside for specifically targeted economic activities through incentives and infrastructure support, with business and trade laws different to the rest of the country. SEZs exist globally, with an estimate of 5 383 throughout the world. South Africa has 10 SEZs, in varying stages of maturity:

  • Coega (Eastern Cape)
  • East London (Eastern Cape)
  • Richards Bay (KZN)
  • Dube TradePort (KZN)    
  • Saldanha Bay (Western Cape)    
  • OR Tambo (Gauteng)
  • Maluti-A-Phofung (Free State) 
  • Musina / Makhado (Limpopo)
  • Atlantis (Western Cape) 
  • Nkomazi (Mpumalanga)

If South Africa is to build on the successes of the recent SA Investment Conference, these SEZs will play a critical role. With the country no longer the investment choice it once was, the incentives provided by SEZs are an increasingly powerful factor in luring foreign direct investment. 

When most of South Africa’s SEZs were formed, they were classified as Industrial Development Zones (IDZ) that focused on attracting higher value-added, large-scale manufacturers who produced goods for the export market. Given the legacy of most SEZs, they are geared to attract high-level tenants targeting export markets, which is difficult to consolidate with the Department of Small Business Development’s developmental agenda. This does not imply that SEZs cannot be agents for socio-economic development (in fact, the study found that SEZs have made progress in developing programmes to support small businesses with little guidance from other government departments), but policymakers need to acknowledge that SEZs were originally not designed for supporting Local Economic Development (LED).

As such, we our study looked at how more Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) and cooperatives (which are referred to as small businesses) can get involved in SEZs either directly, as tenants, through incubation or as contractors; or indirectly through being a supplier to an SEZ’s tenants. This issue is primarily explored by identifying bottlenecks and barriers across South Africa’s SEZs that make it difficult for SMMEs and co-operatives to participate in SEZ -related opportunities and suggesting recommendations to solve them.

The study identified six strategic areas for interventions. First, ensuring more effective government coordination at the policy and programmatic levels. Second, creating a more balanced commercial-developmental mandate for SEZs. Third, building up a critical mass of the “right” SEZ tenants. which also includes achieving a diversified portfolio of tenants in an SEZ required to support targeted industry clusters. Fourth, getting more small businesses “ready” for SEZ-related opportunities. Fifth, creating business conditions that motivate SEZ tenants to form long-term relationships with small businesses. Lastly, introducing a more focused “match-making” activities between small businesses and SEZ tenants.

SEZs play an important economic role for multinational companies and the relevant global value chains. Government’s challenge is to facilitate the spill-over of these economic gains to South African SMMEs and the broader communities where the SEZs are situated. 




Hope amidst heartbreak: Cape Town business woman crowd funds au-pair’s retirement home

Overwhelmed by the extent of need in South Africa, we can lose sight of the individual in the crowd. In consultation with the community, Mthente has this year decided to initiate a fundraising scheme to assist Boniswa Mtlomelo, affectionately known in the community as Sboni.

Sboni is a person who continues to bear the scars of the apartheid system.  Without access to resources or a formal education, she supports three generations of her family in a crammed, rented township house in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, on the salary of a domestic worker.  Facing the harsh socio-economic conditions and violence that plagues the townships of Cape Town, her son was murdered a few months ago.    

Importantly, Sboni is more than a victim. She is a survivor, a person of dignity and a hard-working woman who has spent her life helping others. Her fear is what happens when she is no longer able to work. This has persuaded us to assist her in securing a house of her own.   

To read more about Sboni’s story as well as for details on to how to contribute to our fundraising efforts for her: Click here.

Recognising there are so many people to assist, we nevertheless thought you may also be interested in contributing to a fund in support of Sboni, a deserving African mama, who is part of the DNA and backbone of a depleted and divided South African community. This fund will be maintained, audited and reported on by Mthente Research and Consulting, who has agreed to promote the initiative.

Tshikululu – Due Diligence: NGO Early Development Expansion Programme

Early Childhood Development (ECD) encompasses the full spectrum of development, from birth (or, some researchers say, conception) to age 6.  This includes a child’s cognitive, emotional, sensory, social and physical development. This is a time when the child’s brain is most susceptible to environmental influences and as such, experiences in this time set the foundation for future learning, health and success.

National and international research have shown that access to quality ECD programmes (such as ECD centre-based programmes, and Grade R programmes) protect children against the effects of poverty, poor nutrition, inadequate healthcare and lack of education, thereby allowing them to develop to their full potential.   Therefore, appropriate and timely provision of ECD allows children to learn through play thereby developing their cognitive and social abilities.

If this window of opportunity is not seized, it is incredibly costly for children to catch up to their peers later in schooling. As such, the urgent need for investment into this period of development cannot be overstated.

Tshikululu Social Investments commissioned Mthente Research and Consulting Services to conduct a due diligence evaluation of a Faith-based Non-Government Organisation (NGO) based in Pretoria, and their ECD programme. The programme works with 43 early childhood development (ECD) centres and was proposing to expand working with 150 ECD centres in the next two years and 750 ECD centres in the next 6 years.

In order to make decisions on funding this programme, the due-diligence evaluation conducted research with the NGO, as well as research with the ECD centre beneficiaries of the ECD programme. In so doing, the NGO’s structure and overall financial, human resource, and governance capacity was reviewed, as well as the structure, content and impact of the ECD Programme.

The objectives of this due-diligence study were to:

  • Define and analyse the organisation’s proposed operating model
  • Identify whether the model is worth replicating
  • Ascertain if the organisation has sufficient resource capacity
  • Understand the organisation’s finances and costing (financial due diligence)
  • Observe its impact on beneficiaries.

The Demographic Picture of Children in South Africa

Currently, there is approximately 19,5 million children under the age of 18 in South Africa, with 6,24 million of these children being under the age of six.  Just over one million children are born each year,.

This significant portion of the population is also the most vulnerable. At present, the majority of young children are negatively impacted by the country’s Apartheid and colonial legacy, and the resultant socio-economic inequalities, depriving most of South African’s children of their fundamental right to education, healthcare, social services and nutrition as well as rights which are protected by South Africa’s Constitution and international conventions. This is demonstrated by the fact that approximately 4 million children (0 to 5 – year olds specifically) live in the poorest 40% of households in the country. Roughly 1.8 million children live in households with no employed adults and 22% of children (0 to 5 – year olds) live more than 30 minutes away from the nearest health facility.

Research has found that more than 40% of children in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of not attaining their full developmental potential with poverty being highlighted as the major contributing risk factor (World Health Organisation, 2018). This is understood through the critical link between income poverty and a reduction in access to services, such as early education and healthcare services. According to the South African Early Childhood Review (2017), for example, currently 21.3% of children under five in South Africa are stunted, and 13% of children suffer from hunger daily. Furthermore, they found that children from low-income households are significantly less likely than children of wealthier households to participate in early learning programmes.  Only58% of 3 – 5 year olds in the poorest quintile access ECD, compared to 83% of 3 – 5 year olds in the wealthiest quintile.

The consequences of these inequalities are that children enter the formal schooling system with huge variations in their development and school readiness levels. Children then often go through a dysfunctional schooling system which widens these differences.  As such, it is important to intervene early in a child’s life, in order to reduce the inequality that can persist and worsen as they go through formal education.

Early Childhood Development Models in South Africa

There are several models of ECD provision, delivered directly to children, which are currently being provided in South Africa. These can be divided into two categories: centre-based programmes and non-centre-based programmes.

Centre-based programmes comprise those ECD programmes offered in specific facilities, and include ECD centres, Grade R classes in formal schools, as well as crèches, formal playgroups, and pre-primary schools. This would include programmes run by private individuals, private companies or institutions, public institutions (such a government primary schools) and community-based programmes (usually run as non-profit organisations) and includes both registered and non-registered facilities.

Non-centre-based programmes, on the other hand are programmes offered to children that are not traditional ECD centre programmes, and comprise “any ECD programme, service or intervention provided to children from birth until the year before they enter formal school, with the intention to promote the child’s early emotional, cognitive, sensory, spiritual, moral, physical, social,  communication development and early learning”. These non-centre-based programmes include informal playgroups, toy-library programmes, mobile ECD outreach programmes, as well as family outreach programmes that are specifically designed for parents and caregivers to receive support, guidance, and knowledge on early learning stimulation and development of young children to be implemented in their homes.

What Mthente Research and Consulting Services’ Study Revealed

Since joining the ECD programmes reviewed by Mthente the ECD centres have received positive feedback from parents who stated that they have seen an improvement in their children’s language skills and engagement with their everyday environment. Parents reported that their children were talking to them more about the things they learnt at the ECD centres. This included being able to point out everyday objects and naming them.

Some ECD centres reported that parents have been so impressed with the academic and developmental progress of their children since the introduction on the ECD programme that they have begun recommending the centres to their networks. There has also been an increase in parents paying their children’s school fees timeously. Other ECD centres have noted a reduction in the number and frequency of complaints from parents about their children’s progress.

Recommendations were made by Mthente on specific areas of the implementation of the ECD programme as well as recommendations on funding considerations.

It was clear from this study’s beneficiary interviews that the ECD programme was highly valued by its beneficiaries. The participants interviewed expressed affection for the NGO staff and the programme as a whole. The qualitative feedback was resoundingly positive. It is clear that theECD programme is achieving good results and continually improving the ECD centres with which it works. Despite this, the funder decided not to proceed with the proposed expansion of the ECD programme due to weak links to government, inconclusive evidence of rigorous ring-fencing procedures and an absence of a history of proven programme impact (through external evaluations and a mature monitoring system).

While there were several important insights to come out of the research, among the most important were the need for structure, stakeholder advocacy, and continual monitoring and evaluation.


Without a clear start and end point; structuring the programme to long-term, scaled up implementation becomes a challenge. Also challenging is knowing how to recognise and move resources from an upskilled ECD centre, to another ECD centre in need of the training. A rigorous Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system in any programme would provide data on the ideal time-frame for ECD centres. This could then be tailored to suit ECD centres operating at different quality levels.

Stakeholder Advocacy

It is important to ascertain whether an intervention programme looking to scale-up has the requisite buy-in or potential to achieve buy-in from relevant stakeholders. The size of any one initiative is not necessarily a problem for implementation, however a lack of large-scale specialist partners might not allow for quick and smooth growth of the programme on a large-scale, across the province, and later, across the country.  Tied with this is the need to strengthen internal capacity and form partnerships with other ECD NPOs which might be beneficial in the long term to achieve scale.

Continual Monitoring and Evaluation

Players in the ECD space should hold regular health check meetings to discuss the programme’s progress towards achieving the planned outcomes. The programme’s financial well-being, the team’s efficacy and stakeholder relationships should  also be discussed. These health check meetings provide a mechanism for the early detection of any issues which might arise, and allow the organisation to put into place corrective actions to resolve these issues.

An Art and a Science

With ECD such a critical part of a child’s development and ability to go on to successfully complete higher levels of education, as well as to contribute in a meaningful way to their family (and society as a whole) the importance and impact of programmes such as this cannot be underestimated. As a country, we dream of a fully functional population where equality of education allows for the success of each and every citizen. And as the research shows, it all starts with effective ECD.

But while there can be no doubting the importance of ECD programmes, those wanting to scale have to meet the common requirements we’ve outlined above. Current processes of ECD centre assessment, rating, and progression is in some ways an “art-form”, currently conducted and facilitated by individuals with in-depth knowledge of ECD and the centres with which they work. However, if the players in the space want to expand and replicate their programmes, then it’s clear that all stakeholders need to be as systematic as possible and apply a little science to the “art” of evaluation.

Vaana Solutions

Vaana Solutions Cape Town Healthcare Tour 2019

On Monday, 25 November, Matti Parpala and Dr. Kemal Ahson, from Vaana Solutions will arrive in Cape Town for a week-long tour of the South African Healthcare Sector facilitated by Mthente Research and Consulting Services (Pty) Ltd.

Vaana Solutions is a leading Nordic technology company (based in Finland) and works specifically within health and social care management and payment systems. It believes that effective management and monitoring of financial resources leads to improved healthcare outcomes. It currently works with over 80 municipalities, 1300 health providers, and is responsible for over 80 million Euros in annual transactions (it also works in the UK and New Zealand).

Vaana Solutions has identified South Africa as a potential next phase pilot environment and is looking to better understand how health and social care are both organised and funded here (as well as what technology (IT) architecture is used to support these activities).

In order to achieve this outcome, it will host a cocktail event on Tuesday, 26 November in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town which will be attended by professionals in the healthcare arena, from private insurance companies to companies making a difference in health in townships, doctors who own and operate private practices, and IT professionals who work for government-managed hospitals to name a few.

While here, together with the support from private and government hospitals, Mthente will facilitate on-the-ground facility tours to expose the Vaana team to what South Africa’s healthcare looks like on the frontlines.

If you (or your company) feel you would be able to positively contribute to the healthcare conversation, please get in touch by DMing us before the end of this week. There are a few places left at the cocktail event and we would love to have your voice as part of this important conversation.

Mthente is looking forward to Vaana’s visit to Cape Town and potentially working with Vaana to achieve the pilot locally (through Finnpartnership which is the Finnish Foreign Ministry’s funding support programme for commercial projects in developing countries).

Mthente to Conduct Nation-wide Research Project Concerning Climate Change: A Localised Perspective with an International Impact Lens

Climate change. What an incredibly emotive topic in our global consciousness right now. For many, it is the defining issue of our time and we are certainly at a decisive moment, where without rapid action, it may prove too large to come back from.

From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic and immediate action, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly.

While the effects of climate change affect the entire planet, on a national level we also have to mobilise to ensure that South Africa contributes positively and avoids joining a long list of countries who are just not doing enough. The first step in achieving this is to get a sense of where our citizens stand in terms of their understanding of the issue and whether a drive exists to make nation-wide steps to bring about change.

Climate change affects every country and can have devastating effects on communities and individuals. Developing countries, however, are the most impacted by climate change and the least able to afford its consequences.

The Developing Country Perspective

According to the World Health Organisation climate change is expected to contribute to approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year by 2030. The leading causes of these additional deaths are expected to be malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress in developing countries.  Besides the human impact, climate change also has the potential to reverse significant developmental gains made in developing countries.

In these countries, women and girls are also disproportionately affected by the negative impacts of climate change. This deepens existing social inequalities and threatens women and girls’ health, safety and economic well-being. Gender inequalities and development gaps increase the impacts of climate change for women, especially for those that depend on natural resources for their livelihoods.

A Global Crisis

This year, driven by the call of 16 year old climate change activist Greta Thunberg, people around the world took to the streets in a mass global movement to take a stand against global warming and to draw attention to the seamily slow and unexceptional action taken by world leaders and governments. In South Africa, protects took place in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.

In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C, finding that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society. With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, the report found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society. While previous estimates focused on estimating the damage if average temperatures were to rise by 2°C, this report shows that many of the adverse impacts of climate change will come at the 1.5°C mark.

But the current international efforts to achieve the above have not been enough and the world is rapidly moving towards a reality where the 1.5°C goal may not be something that will be realistically met and the impact of that could be monumental. 

With the global movements around climate change ramping up, undertaking the prescribed research in South Africa is more pertinent than ever. South Africa has many complex societal nuances that make the undertaking of this survey both important as well as challenging. Over 55% of our population live on less than R922 per person per month. With so many people struggling to make ends meet and support their families, how realistic it is to expect the average South African to care about climate change when their very survival is often at stake daily? But with so much at stake on a larger world stage, can our entire population afford not to?

South African Climate Change Education and Awareness Survey

It is against this backdrop that Mthente Research and Consulting Services has been appointed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarheit (GIZ) to conduct a South African Climate Change Education and Awareness Survey.

Mthente understands that the 2011 National Climate Change Response Policy (NCCRP) sets out South Africa’s climate change response and approach to achieving a just transition to a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy and society, advancing the vision of the National Development Plan 2030 (NDP). Key to the achievement of South Africa’s climate change response objectives, as indicated in the NCCRP, is the informed participation of all stakeholders in South Africa’s climate change action.  This is to be enabled by enhanced awareness and understanding of climate change causes through understanding its impacts and having access to information.  This is deemed to be a basis for empowered and transformative action by all sectors of society. 

Through the research Mthente’s aims to:

  • Analyse the climate change education and awareness survey results in line with international and national assessment standards.
  • Identify barriers and opportunities for enhancing climate change education and awareness in South Africa.
  • Provide recommendations to inform the development of the climate change education and awareness strategy.

Working with Mthente on this research project as lead researcher is Dr. Norman Mathebula, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Cape Town under the African Climate and Development Initiative. When asked whether he felt that the average citizen is aware and concerned about climate change, he said: “Through the manifestation of the impacts of climate change, citizens can see (and feel) that something has changed…there is less rain than there ever has been and our days are getting hotter, but linking that back to climate change is not in the realm of the average citizens knowledge base, especially in more rural hubs, which is where the challenge lies.”

He further went on to say that “citizens may blame their ancestors for this shift, thereby falling back into their understanding of cause and effect. The gap between that base of understanding and the global reality is huge and there is much work that needs to be done.”

So, what can we do right now to start moving in a positive direction? When asked this question, Dr. Matheula noted that “until we can get to a place where every citizen can say this is climate change and this is what it means, we need those who are aware to do everything they can in their individual corners. It will be the total of these individual efforts that will begin to start the tide of change we so desperately need”.

There is lots of work to do and lots of engagement that needs to happen across all sectors of our society. “It is very easy to stay paralysed by fear of how to respond to this. By conducting this research and beginning the education and awareness of the issue, we are already taking positive steps to elevate climate change to the collective consciousness of our country,” said Dr. Mathebula.

Dr. Norman Matheula and his intern, Khuthadzo Nemakononi

Mthente Research seeks Account Managers

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Account Managers

Mthente Research and Consulting Services (Pty) Ltd is a research-driven consultancy based in Cape Town.  We are seeking the expertise of two Account Managers with solid account and client management experience and knowledge of qualitative and quantitative research, to manage day-to-day contact with our clients & to co-ordinate all client projects & processes that deliver an excellent research product within timeframes and budgets.

Key Responsibilities

Business Management

  • To ensure successful delivery of all client briefs within timeframe & budget whilst delivering exceptional research products.
  • To manage processes, plans, schedules, resources, finance and presentations in order to deliver a high quality, research end-product.
  • Accept responsibility for all meetings relative to the research project, and accurate administrative recordings and filing thereof.
  • Ensure appropriate sign-off on all required project documents.
  • Ensure understanding of the effect of a deadline on the company’s and clients’ bottom line.
  • Ensure understanding of the relevant client contract and relevant legal/regulatory guidelines.
  • Work with a Senior Researcher to ensure the above by prioritising, delegating and managing each of the projects within the account team.

Client Service

  • To have a clear understanding of the client’s operational requirements and to deliver the project components to agreed plans.
  • Through close relationships with the client, to continuously provide updated information regarding status of the project whilst always managing the clients’ expectations.
  • Control information gathered from the client through accurate reporting, clear project documentation, and secure filing.
  • Ensure client and company are kept up to date with any developments on the project via attendance of meetings and regular communication.

The ideal candidate must be results driven with the ability to work both independently and within a team.  He/she must have a flexible approach to work, with a desire to learn and grow. Previous project management and research experience is an additional advantage.

Applicants must submit a covering letter and detailed CV to Lynn Oliver at

Closing Date: 30 August 2019

Beyond Passion, Resilience and Networks: Entrepreneurs and the role of Policy

The Department of Small Business Development (DBSD) commissioned Mthente to undertake a study that would investigate the effects of economic challenges and slow growth on SMMEs and Cooperatives. We were asked, among other things, to recommend policy responses that would support SMMEs and Cooperatives during periods of economic recession. One story of a passionate and resilient entrepreneur from Hout Bay provides insight into the kinds of issues faced by the small business sector.

I am often asked: What makes an entrepreneur and what does an entrepreneur need to build a sustainable enterprise? There isn’t really a short answer, but three of the most important ingredients are definitely: Passion, Resilience and Networks.

These are more than just words to put up on a wall. They translate into real emotions and approaches to business life, and can make or break promising enterprises. Nozipho Dube from Ecogift is an example of one such entrepreneur: she is driven by passion, strengthened by her resilience and empowered by the networks she has developed and drawn on.

Nozipho is a Cape Town entrepreneur, operating a CMT (Cut, Measure and Trim) business that employs 23 people full-time. She exemplifies the traits of passion and resilience, and recognises the importance of networking as the key to her success, but faces challenges in trying to scale and stabilise the business. 

Entrepreneurship is about finding the Passion

The idea for Nozipho’s CMT business was planted while working for Embrace Dignity, an NGO that assists women wanting to leave a life of prostitution.  It was this passion to help women get out of prostitution that was the first seed for her current business venture.  She developed a business plan around making school uniforms, as uniforms are easy to make, are standard and do not follow trends.  Her vision was to use the women the NGO was working with to manufacturer the uniforms and for the NGO to sell them, believing this was a way to ensure sustainable employment for these women. The business plan unfortunately was not realised.  It was, however, when the NGO later sent Nozipho on a visit  to visit UN Women that she really started to dream big.  Being inspired by the  women she met there she decided to review her life.  Nozipho picked up her school uniform business plan, tweaked it to focus on protective clothing, and established Ecogift.

The South African Government’s National Development Plan and the Black Industrialist Policy was encouraging manufacturing as a growth area, as this sector was identified as core to the overall industrialisation process to drive economic growth. Nozipho therefore felt she was on the right track with her plan to manufacture work uniforms.

Entrepreneurship is about Resilience

Entrepreneurship has become a sexy notion, inviting us all to become the next Richard Branson or Patrice Motsepe. But a business owner takes a lot of knocks, and being a successful entrepreneur takes a huge amount of resilience. Many hard lessons were in store for Nozipho.

“I grew up sewing, since the age of 7. I sewed with my mom.  She was very stylish and made all her own clothes.  So, I have sewing in my blood, and because of this I thought creating a business around sewing was going to be easy.  Boy was I wrong … I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t think it would be this hard. Doing this as a business, there are so many moving parts to it.”

Nozipho strategised that she would not open a factory until she had a full order book. She would outsource production for orders instead. The fledgling business got a break in October 2014 when De Beers Marine put in a large order for flame-retardant boiler suits. But then the manufacturer delayed production by a month. 

“This is De Beers. And this is my first order, and I must go and say, ‘I’m sorry, you’re getting your uniforms a month late.’ Because, you know, factories shut down in December. So that was hard for me. After that first experience, I just thought: ‘I don’t need this headache. I can’t wait until my order book is full. I need control. I don’t want the stress.’ So, in March 2015 I got my first premises and hired a supervisor to assist me with the production.”

Another order worth R250 000 was returned. This devastated Nozipho and she went into a slump. She had to dig deep and speak to herself: “It’s ridiculous for me to be lying here in bed at half past eight in the morning,” she remembers telling herself. “Nobody’s going to solve this problem. No-one’s going to do it for you.”

Her sense of responsibility toward her employees helped her to shake herself out and get going again. This was rewarded with orders being received from Sportsman’s Warehouse and Truworths.

Entrepreneurship is about building the Network and finding Money

“It’s hard to find money. It is hard, hard, hard.” Nozipho became a member of the clothing and textile cluster because she wanted to get closer to the retailers.

“I wanted to find out what they were doing, what was happening in the industry. And it so happened that I began to interact with them. So now if I don’t have an order at least I can pick up the phone and say ‘Do you have extra work for my factory?’.

“I’m also trying to collaborate with other women more and more. A lot of women actually helped me along the way – and men, too –  but there are many women who went all-out for me when I started the business.”

Because of a relationship with African Marine Solutions and De Beers, Nozipho feels that exploring the maritime space might work to her advantage. “I used to actually be a member of SAOAGA (SA Oil and Gas Association), so I think it’s time to renew that membership and start networking in that space.”

Another company loaned Nozipho a machine, delivered it at no cost, and allowed her to use their mechanic to set it up, despite not doing any work for them in the end. For Nozipho, it’s an approach built around assisting others to stabilise in the industry, which in turn grows the industry itself. She has tried to access government funds and grants but notes that such applications are time consuming to complete. “When a small business faces cash flow problems, there is an immediate need for money. If you wait for loans and grants through government agencies, your business would already be dead when the money finally arrives.”

Entrepreneurship and Policy

So how does Policy response impact an entrepreneur like Nozipho? Has the Black Industrialists Policy helped, for example?

Despite ISO9001 certification, and three years in business, she says: “I’m not feeling it yet. It’s been a real struggle. I think I can understand why. You have to prove yourself to a point before people can start to say ‘Okay’.”

Nozipho’s current goal is securing that elusive big order. It’s a catch 22, because funding is a huge barrier. But she also understands that you have to create your own opportunities. This year, she’s started looking at tenders. “It’s hard to find the money if you don’t always get the work. I’m just at the point where I think I’m ready to take the business to scale, so I’m looking for a long-term contract that will give me that stability.

“If we could figure out a way of scaling – that is the answer, because then we can also become more efficient. To do workwear with fourteen people – we are only half of a line, but to expand to a full line, we need the orders.”

A way forward

Nozipho’s story illustrates the challenges that small businesses face – with key limitations being around the access to finance and technology.  It is the partnerships and networks that they forge that assists with access to cash for operations, technology and growth. For Nozipho these relationships have been developed with big businesses through their value chains, which have opened doors for her, offered her financial support and guidance. This is what small businesses need.  It is this that assists them through economic crises and hardships. 

For government it is important to identify the root causes of small business constraints and develop policies that focus on encouraging resilience. Policy interventions need to focus on the features that make small businesses vulnerable at all stages of their growth.  These policy interventions need to focus on including quicker and easier access to finance, the provision of information and networks, funds to invest in technology and innovation, and overall skills development. If this investment is made during the stable periods, our small businesses will be more robust to confront the challenges of economic downturns.

Vacancy: Operations Manager

Mthente Research and Consulting Services is looking for an experienced Operations Manager who will be responsible for the overall management of Mthente’s research and consulting projects.  This will be achieved by designing, implementing and managing internal processes and systems that will drive organisational performance and efficiencies, allowing for the delivery of high-quality research products on time and within budget.

Key Responsibilities will include:

  1. Managing and monitoring of all projects through the programme cycle, including the coordination of projects and their interdependencies.
  2. Defining, developing, implementing and managing operational systems and processes, including governance controls.
  3. Managing project budgets, including the management and utilisation of resources across projects.
  4. Managing risks and taking corrective measurements to ensure project delivery and revenue maximisation.
  5. Managing client and associate communication and relationships.
  6. Managing Mthente’s intellectual knowledge and project documentations, including key databases.

Key Skills:

The Operations Manager must have strong practical experience in project and operational management, which has been gained through managing complex research projects, preferably within a research consulting environment.  He or she must have the following attributes:

  • Excellent knowledge and handling of project management methodologies and techniques.
  • Excellent operational management skills.
  • Excellent knowledge of budgeting and resource allocation procedures.
  • Advanced IT skills, especially Excel and the ability to manage large data sets.
  • Research reporting and analytical skills.
  • Ability to work positively with a wide range of individuals involved in the delivery of Mthente’s research projects.
  • Strong leadership and management skills, with advanced communication abilities.
  • Innovative approach to work and problem solving.
  • Entrepreneurial drive and self-motivation to grow the profile of Mthente.

The idea candidate must have a post-graduate degree, preferably in the areas of Management, Research Psychology and/or Monitoring and Evaluation.  It is imperative that the applicant has a minimum of 8-10 years operational management experience.  Previous management experience in a research consulting environment and/or owning a business will be an advantage.   

Please send a full CV and a covering letter highlighting ability to meet the requirements of the job to

Closing Date: 8th July 2019.  If you have not heard from us by the 31st July 2019 you can assume that your application has not been successful. 

Nomvano Jim

This is my story: Nomvano Jim

I was born in Rustenburg in the North West Province of South Africa, but I stayed in the Eastern Cape with my grandfather’s sister whom I referred to as “makhulu” until I was 9 years old. I then came to Cape Town to live with my mother and seven siblings in Khayelitsha. I attended Ikhusi Public Primary School and Luhlaza Senior Secondary School.

I did extremely well at school and received several awards for academic excellence. I fell pregnant in Grade 11 as I knew very little about love and boys. Through peer pressure and naivety, I ended up having a baby at the age of 19.

I was determined that a baby was not going to stop me from finishing school and realising my dream of becoming an independent business woman. Despite missing the first couple of months of my Matric year, I returned to school at the end of the first term to write my exams and worked hard towards finishing my Matric in 2013.

My interest in attending university began when two people from the University of Cape Town (UCT) came to my school to identify 10 students who had excelled in their studies, so that they could become involved with a project called Wannabe at Humanities. The focus of this initiative was to encourage learners from townships to apply to study at UCT. I was chosen to be part of the project and I submitted my application to study Humanities. My application was accepted, and I enrolled at UCT in 2014 and graduated on the 6th April 2018 with a Bachelor of Social Sciences with three majors: Industrial Sociology, Gender Studies and Social Development. I was the first person in my family to both pass Matric and to attend university!

After my studies I decided I needed to gain work experience and to spend some time with my young daughter who I had seen very little of whilst studying. I sent my CV to many organisations but had very little response back from them. I could not sit around doing nothing and I needed to earn some money, so I started teaching English to foreigners. I was excited when Mthente called me and invited me for an interview and offered me the position as a workplace intern. This is the beginning of the next chapter of my life and the next step towards realising my dream. My story shows that through hard work, patience, knowing what you want in life and through perseverance anything is possible.


Abaphumeleli – Orphanage

Mthente ended off the year at Abaphumeleli Orphanage in Khayetlisha with a Christmas party for the children