SA’s Social Entrepreneurs Need Support to Succeed

South Africa’s 141,500 social entrepreneurs are both solving the country’s most pressing problems and contributing to the economy in the process, with the creation of nearly 600,000 jobs and an estimated 76,000 more by 2030[i]. Sadly, however, approximately 70% say they struggle to raise funding due to a lack of networks[ii] and40% don’t even know what type of funding to raise[iii]. What’s more, their choice of business model could be impacting the amount of funding they raise[iv].

“These entrepreneurs need support and guidance if they are to succeed,” says Ashleigh Sibanda, Programme Manager: Business Incubation at business growth specialists Fetola.

Together with FNB, Fetola has recently opened entries for the 2021 Social Entrepreneurship Impact Lab™(SEIL) Programme. Running for the second year in a row, SEIL supports the growth and investment potential of organisations that are tackling social, environmental and economic issues in South Africa.

Sibanda explains that, with more than 50% of social entrepreneurs having less than five years of relevant experience before starting their enterprises[v], they need mentoring and coaching from more experienced entrepreneurs who have negotiated the fundraising landscape. “In my experience, they also typically need help with refining their value proposition, testing operational assumptions, strengthening their business model and improving investment readiness. Moreover, they need assistance with business basics such as strategic planning, building their costing and pricing model, developing their sales and marketing strategy, pitching as well as leadership and people management. Most importantly, they need introductions to potential partners and finance providers. All too often these entrepreneurs are left to fend for themselves, making it unsurprising that 70% of small to micro and medium enterprises in South Africa fold within the first five to seven years[vi].”

She highlights how this kind of support has benefited previous SEIL Programme participants Kusini Water and Bella Legacy.

Since the inaugural SEIL Programme, Murendeni Mafumo, owner of Kusini Water, which makes over three million litres of clean drinking water available to communities in need across the country per month, has successfully secured partnerships and contracts with DHL, the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation, the US Embassy, and DuPont. The enterprise’s innovative sponsorship and third-party funding model has made it possible for the team to scale its reach and implement solutions at over 30 social impact sites across the country, including schools, clinics and even a night shelter. Despite COVID-19 impacting several of its sites, the business boosted its turnover by 352% and increased its job growth by 500% in the past 18 months.

In South Africa, it is estimated that roughly 3.7 million girls and women cannot afford sanitary pads[vii]. Bella Legacy equips low-income earners and schools in poorer communities in South Africa with affordable sanitary pads. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, founder Matefo Morakeng expanded her business. Working closely with her mentor, she started selling her products on large e-commerce sites like Takealot and Loot. Bella Legacy sanitary products are also now available in select Dis-Chem stores nationwide and Morakeng recently entered into a partnership with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital to supply sanitary pads to young girls.

“As Bill Drayton, the person credited with first coining the term ‘social entrepreneur’ back in 1972, said, ’The life purpose of the true social entrepreneur is to change the world’. Sometimes, they just need a little help doing so,” concludes Sibanda.

Applications for SEIL 2021 close on Wednesday, 24 November 2021. Click here to apply, or here for more information.

About Social Entrepreneurship Impact Lab™(SEIL)

SEIL is a dynamic, 18-month programme aimed at accelerating the growth of 50 South African social entrepreneurs wanting to scale their business models and improve their investment readiness. The programme is split into two phases. During the initial 12-months, entrepreneurs get access to targeted and practical business growth support along with an introduction to investment readiness. Twenty high potential enterprises will be selected from the original 50 to receive further investment readiness support during the six-month second phase. For more information, go to