Hope and Prosperity in Johannesburg’s Townships
From Startups to Expansions: How Siza’s making an impact in Johannesburg Townships
By Tess Murphy
Siza Capital is a microfinance institution that offers low interest loans to entrepreneurs in Johannesburg. A few things make Siza stand out from a traditional micro finance bank.
First, they are mission driven; they want to reduce poverty in the townships by helping to expand businesses and employment opportunities. Second, they aspire to measure impact. The employees at Siza want to know what makes these businesses unique in their communities, how they are filling a need, how they are accessing a hard to reach population and most importantly, how this loan can help solve problems. Third, they offer a human touch. They operate down in the grassroots to establish relationships with their clients and ties with the community in order to sustain long term economic growth. For these three reasons and many more, Siza stands apart from traditional MFIs.
I was lucky enough to accompany the employees of Siza on a field visit. Our first stop was the creches of Freedom Park. Creches, or day cares, offer an engaging, educational distraction for children who’s parents work all day. We visit Margaret, a creche owner, who took out a loan through Siza to expand her business. She added chairs and supplies to the day care center.
When we arrived, the children were in lessons, learning letters and numbers. Engaging and encouraging children to learn is crucial to early childhood development and success later on life. These creches are making an impact on the children and their futures. Margaret hopes to take out a second loan and add an office.
Next we visit Delisile, a twenty four year old field agent of Siza who decided to start her own clothing business. Siza encourages young entrepreneurs to start businesses by using a loan to help them purchase stock or equipment. Siza has helped Delisile purchase a sewing machine so she can make clothing and help with repairs. Delisile hopes to attend a tailoring college to expand her skills. After talking to Delisile and looking over her beautiful handiwork, I decide to buy a skirt to bring home with me.
We continue on to Gladness’s horticulture farm in Soweto. After selling her liquor store, Gladness decided to start her organic farm, offering a cheaper and healthier alternative to her community. Gladness is a wonderful example of Siza’s high impact, flexible term loan product. She originally needed her loan to buy a windmill, to be able to pump water from her well. She wanted a windmill because it is a natural, renewable resource that won’t have negative impacts on the environment. However, the well cost more than Gladness expected, so she used her loan to purchase an electric pump.
Because she was concerned about her ability to make the repayments, she planted a smaller patch of crops that will use fertilizer and grow quicker. As she makes repayments from her first loan, she will continue to grow her organic plants. Gladness has become a pillar of support for the community, who seek her out for natural ailments to treat sicknesses.
Loans to clients like Margaret, Delisile and Gladness not only help to bolster their business, giving them access to low interest capital, but help strengthen the overall community, through providing goods at an affordable price and employment opportunities. With each loan, these enterprises grow and the townships that host them, become centres of commerce and stability.
Tess is a fellow through Kiva.org, a crowdsourced funding micro finance site that helps Siza access the credit needed for the loans. Many of Siza’s clients are featured on Kiva’s site where lenders from around the world can help support their businesses. Tess has a background in Marketing and International Development. Prior to serving as an international fellow, she interned with Kiva’s marketing department. You can read more about the impact of Kiva and what it means to be a fellow at tess-murphy.com.