Bootcamp Boosts Economies for Low-Income Areas

Emerging entrepreneurs from South Africa’s less privileged areas with no existing entrepreneurial ecosystems can breathe a sigh of relief. An accelerator programme, designed especially for their needs, is finally here.  The Desert Start-up Bootcamp (DSBC) is a five-day learning programme that empowers young entrepreneurs from small towns and townships to turn their ideas into viable, high-growth businesses. The Bootcamp aims to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in those areas.

For 2016, the Bootcamp will be held at the Eco-Lodge Greyton in Villiersdorp, Western Cape from Saturday, 16 April to Wednesday, 20 April. Fifteen early stage entrepreneurs, from Villiersdorp, with bold ideas to address gaps in the local market will be taking part.

Founder of the DSBC, Mhlanganisi Madlongolwana says: “Our participants do not have to have launched a business already or have any special qualifications; we’re looking for people with great ideas and the drive to make them happen. Our hands-on approach allows them to learn, prototype a product, finalise a business model and perfect a pitch through intensive peer-to-peer learning and interaction with seasoned business leaders.

As a member of the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers network Madlongolwana is committed to his role in youth development and empowerment. ACTIVATE! Change Drivers is a network of more than 1600 young change makers or “Activators” across South Africa who are finding innovative ways to transform their communities and the country as a whole. The Network connects these young people and equips them with necessary knowledge and skills to thrive in their respective efforts. “Organisations like ACTIVATE!  Change Drivers, with an unshakable mission to reshape South African youth, are making it easier for the likes of me to follow suit,” says Madlongolwana.

The lack of entrepreneurial activity amongst citizens of smaller towns can be countered by a vibrant youth entrepreneurial eco-system. DSBC is participating in driving that change by acting as a catalyst for those communities.

However, entrepreneurs, both prospective and active, in rural areas do not see entrepreneurship as a viable mode of economic activity but survival. Furthermore, they are not exposed to new thought processes that spark innovation and they have no access to support networks and resources to help them start and scale their businesses.

So the bootcamp aims to create a vibrant culture of entrepreneurship that is ‘plugged-in’ to a national and international eco-system of entrepreneurs, experts, industry leaders and mentors, whilst still recognising the local challenges that young entrepreneurs face in our market.

The experience includes:

–          A fully developed business model that’s been tested for viability.

–          Introductory lectures on important elements you’ll need to know to launch a business (business strategy, marketing, product testing, registering a company, logistics etc.).

–          The opportunity to interact with business leaders and specialists in different fields – especially local senior entrepreneurs.

–          A chance to practice pitching your business plan.

–          Networking with fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders in your community.

–          The opportunity to meet business partners.


The pilot of the DSBC was launched in Upington in 2015, where an intensive seven-day business set-up course took entrepreneurs through a rigorous process of starting their own businesses. The pilot was made possible by a grant from the US Embasy. A total of 22 jobs have since been created by the participants who took part in the pilot. Additionally, R130 000 was collectively raised by the participants through direct investments and grant funding.

DSBC has partnered with the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading Project (VPUU) and the Local Economic Development unit of the Theewaterskloof Municipality in Villiersdorp to make this initiative possible. The partnership with VPUU forms part of the project’s Local Economic Development strategy for the Villiersdorp community. VPUU is a partnership between the Western Cape Government, German Development Bank, City of Cape Town and the National Treasury to upgrade low-income neighbourhoods. Entrepreneurship development is the project’s core element, hence the partnership with DSBC.  

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