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.
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.”
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.
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