Townships are home to many aspiring entrepreneurs, but more needs to be done to help them access networks, according to Marlon Parker, founder of RLabs.
RLabs was founded in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2008, as an environment to support community-driven innovation and reconstruction in areas battling complex socio-economic challenges.
The incubator aims to empower its members to make a difference within their own communities. Its core activities are skills and training, community development, social and disruptive innovation, mobile and internet solutions, social enterprise incubation, impact investing and social franchising.
The social enterprise has expanded both across and from Africa, and is now also active in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
Speaking at the Net Prophet conference in Cape Town, Parker said the entrepreneurial spirit is thriving in townships, but the challenge is how to focus the creativity to make it something positive.
According to Parker, the key is to “increase the value of people”, and to acknowledge the value of dignity.
“Never underestimate the power of an enabling environment,” Parker said.
In particular, Parker spoke of the difficulties township entrepreneurs face in accessing networks and connections, which has a crippling effect on their success.
“For many young people and aspiring entrepreneurs, accessing the right networks is very difficult. And often we [other members of the ecosystem]are the ones making it difficult,” Parker said.
“We have to create an enabling environment to unlock the power of the continent.”