SA’s SweepSouth launches $642k fund to help workers through COVID-19 crisis

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South African online cleaning platform SweepSouth has launched a ZAR12 million (US$642,000) fund to help provide domestic workers on its platform with food and other basic essentials during the national lockdown.

Launched in 2014, SweepSouth is an online platform providing on-demand home cleaning services, operating across seven South African cities.

The startup, which took in almost US$4 million in investment last year, is launching a fund to support workers on its platform, or “SweepStars”, who are unable to work until at least April 17 because of the lockdown imposed by the South African government to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“Like everyone else, domestic workers in South Africa rely on their income to put food on the table for them and their dependants. But of course, the cost of basic necessities such as electricity and other utility expenses all add up. Our research suggests that most domestic workers are single mothers, and that many are primary breadwinners,” said SweepSouth co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Aisha Pandor. 

“If these workers aren’t paid during the lockdown, they face worsening poverty and mountaining debt. We simply cannot allow SweepStars and their children to be left to this fate.”

SweepSouth has seeded the fund, which has also received a ZAR6 million (US$321,000) from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, an investor in the startup. This initial injection of funds will enable SweepStars to receive weekly financial support in the form of top-ups, but Pandor said SweepSouth’s ambitions extend further. 

“Our aim is to raise up to ZAR12 million in order to contribute to SweepStars’ living costs for a three-month period. Their financial difficulties will extend far beyond the 21-day lockdown, so it’s important to mitigate this as much as possible. We’re calling on all businesses and able individuals across South Africa to join us urgently in helping these domestic workers,” she said.

Dean Villet, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation country director in South Africa, said the initiative couldn’t have come at a more vital time. 

“Having access to work opportunities with SweepSouth is imperative for the SweepStars to provide not only basic necessities for their families, but to continue toward the ultimate goal of achieving better education and opportunities for their children. The loss of income during this time will be detrimental, making SweepSouth’s fund critical to the communities we serve,” he said.

SweepSouth is also giving its customers and the general public the chance to contribute to the fund via a Thundafund campaign.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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