The Townships Project A Canadian non-profit jumpstarting business in South
African townships through microlending, microfranchising
and asset based community development.
Canadian Charitable Registration Number (86418 8420 RR0001).
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In November, 1998, Martha Deacon visited South Africa and saw the beautiful tourist spots of that marvellous country. She also saw the face of poverty in several black townships. Later she attended the World Council of Churches 8th Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she heard Dr. Nelson Mandela, then President of South Africa, issue a challenge to faith communities to help eradicate poverty. Familiar with the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which extends small loans to its clients for starting or expanding businesses, she wondered if that model could be effectively applied in the townships.  In Harare, Martha met Rev. Lulama Ntshingwa, Chief Ecumenical Officer of the Eastern Cape Provincial Council of Churches. Rev. Ntshingwa was a champion of the fight against apartheid, a former teacher, life insurance salesmen and supervisor at Mercedes-Benz, now an Anglican priest. He introduced the idea of micro-lending to the Eastern Cape Provincial Council of Churches in South Africa, where he was the Chief Executive Ecumenical Officer at that time.  In Canada, Martha spent January to March, 1999, speaking to individuals and organizations from Halifax to Vancouver to test interest in supporting The Townships Project. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Back in South Africa, in April, 1999, Rev. Ntshingwa and Ms. Deacon traveled extensively within the Eastern Cape Province to ascertain community interest and willingness to support such a project. Mdantsane, a sprawling community of over 1,000,000 people, set up to serve the needs of the city of East London in 1963, was identified as a place to begin the micro-lending project, which was officially launched on August 1, 1999, in the presence of Dr. Nelson Mandela and Mrs. Graca Machel, his wife, who can be seen in the 1999 video.

In Canada, Canadian Memorial United Church, in Vancouver, donated $15,000 and INASMUCH, in Toronto, donated $10,000 to seed The Townships Project. Since these initial contributions in the spring of 1999, nearly $2,000,000 has been raised to support the project. In the intervening years, more than 50,000 loans have been made through five different agents in five different South African provinces. Since each loan typically changes an average of 5 lives, 250,000 lives have been changed by loans facilitated to date.

In November, 2000, 23 Canadians went to South Africa on a study tour to visit clients in Mdantsane and enjoy some of the fabulous scenery and safari experiences of that country. A second tour followed in November, 2005.  Many of the volunteers and board members who are instrumental to the continuation of The Townships Project in Canada have visited South Africa. In the summer of 2003, Ms. Bongi Ndubaza, at that time Manager with the ECMFE, an agent of The Townships Project, visited with supporters of the project across Canada.  In February 2009, Ms. Yvonne Radinku, Founder and CEO of Tetla Financial Solutions, one of the two microfinance organizations The Townships Project continues to support, visited Toronto during the fundraising campaign in our support by Women in Mining.

MicroFranchising Launch

By 2010, The Townships Project realized that it could have a much more systematic and broader impact on job creation at the base of the economic pyramid if it could stimulate the creation and expansion of a series of “microfranchises”. Microloans could be used to purchase tiny businesses that are branded, systematized and easily replicated. This led to MicroFranchising Launch: Trade Show and Workshops, a 3-day event held first in Khayelitsha outside Cape Town in September 2011 and then in Soweto outside Johannesburg in October 2012. The third event is scheduled for March 2014.  It will offer microfranchises for sale for the first time - businesses that were introduced at the first Launch and have since been packaged with funding from the South African Department of Trade and Industry. Tiny business owners are at the centre of each Launch, and have the opportunity of “workshopping” their businesses to get specific advice from the broad spectrum of business people, policy makers, microlenders, community development workers and corporate social investment executives that attend each Launch. In March 2013, eight of the 13 featured businesses at the 2012 Launch reported net income increases of 50% + since the previous October. They learn, they gain confidence, their businesses grow and they create jobs. Whether they continue as stand-alone businesses or go on to become microfranchisees or even microfranchisors, they can see themselves becoming part of the mainstream business world. - October 2013.


News & Events News

2017 January/February SA Franchise Magazine Article
March 28, 2017
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2016 Annual Giving Letter
March 28, 2017
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2015 Annual Giving Letter
January 5, 2016
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