Growing township economies: Lessons learned from internships in South Africa

By Kate Rau

Washington and Lee University rising juniors Jon Pezzi and William Hardage completed their internships in Cape Town, South Africa this summer as part of the W&L Shepherd Poverty Studies Program. The program’s summer internship gives exceptional students an opportunity to engage with multidimensional issues surrounding poverty in affected communities abroad.

For Jon and Will, working in Langa township in Cape Town irrevocably changed their lives and their understanding of poverty and its impact on communities.

Internships in Cape Town, South Africa
Jon and Will at their internship with their Washington & Lee Program Supervisor, Denny Garvis.

Langa, meaning “sun”, is the oldest historically black suburb in the Western Cape, established in 1927 as a designated area for black Africans. Today the largely impoverished community languishes at the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder and needs support in the areas of economic development, enterprise development, provision of jobs and education. 

Jon and Will spent their summer internship working with an inspirational social entrepreneur who lives and works in Langa.

“The focus here is on economic rejuvenation of the area, one small step at a time, by championing tourism and small business development in the Langa Quarter, an area of 13 streets housing 7 000 people and countless businesses. I helped formulate a business plan, which will be submitted to a national fund to secure resources for a tourism business unit within the Langa Quarter,” said Jon.

“A big part of my internship was about meeting people and understanding the work already being done in the Langa Quarter. A highlight for me was attending a business breakfast hosted by the Norwegian Embassy. The focus of the event was social innovation and investment interests in Langa, where it was decided to pilot a digital currency project in the Quarter,” he adds.

“The best part of the internship was having a supervisor who gave me the freedom within the organization to delve into what interested me. I was given an opportunity to pursue a line of work that was not only fulfilling and aligned with my skills but also had the potential to make a positive contribution to people’s lives.”

Internships in Cape Town, South Africa
Will and Jon stand next to a map that highlights the Langa Quarter, a 12-street area of Langa that is home to some 7000 residents.

Will’s internship focused on digital marketing. He spent eight weeks developing two distinct online platforms for the Langa Quarter – a business to business directory of small and local enterprises, and a consumer-facing website to help drive tourism.

“The idea behind the Langa partnership digital platform is to showcase the range of businesses in the Langa Quarter and highlight opportunities for businesses and individuals to work together, perhaps becoming suppliers for each other, ultimately to offer people a better life,” says Will. “The other website is more of a centralized marketing tool to promote tourism in the area, the Langa Quarter specifically.”

Both Will and Jon were grateful for the opportunity to get involved in a meaningful way with a local community in need.

“I would recommend this internship to anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur or work in consulting. There are so many things that need to be fixed, and there really isn’t an easier place where one can start a company or make a difference,” says Will.

Connect-123 facilitates internships in Cape Town in a wide variety of industries. If you are interested in an internship in Cape Town, click here to get in touch!

Click here to read testimonials from our Connect-123 alumni.

Kate Rau

Kate is no stranger to international internships and studying abroad. After submitting her Honours thesis in French socio-linguistics and literature in 2003, she completed a program abroad in Reunion, where she learnt a lot about litchis, island-style living and French. She returned home with two degrees – one in journalism and one in French – and decided on a career in media. Fast-forward some 15 years later and Kate has enjoyed a few career highlights: She’s edited a number of consumer and trade magazine titles, she’s worked with some of the most influential international brands looking to save the planet, and she’s managed a full-house digital marketing agency in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Today Kate works as Marketing Manager for Connect-123 in Cape Town, which means she gets to share great stories about the excellent work we do every day.

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