EcoBoxx helps micro entrepreneurs


amandla-project---textAn example of an entrepreneur who can use the EcoBoxx Kit is a barber. (Image: Tech Smart)

South Africa’s energy supply is in limbo, which has a huge knock-on effect on business. It can be devastating for small and micro enterprises. The EcoBoxx Entrepreneur Kit now enters the fray, allowing entrepreneurs in townships and rural areas to power their homes and businesses.

The portable and solar powered invention is a project of funder agency Community Chest. A useful tool, it will be made available to 963 people in Cape Town. As part of the EcoBoxx kit, they will also be trained in the basics of business.

The kit is charged through two solar panels and provides 50 hours of power. Included in the package are two bright LED lights, a USB-driven fan, a pair of hair clippers, and a multi-device cellphone charging cable.

Lorenzo Davids, the chief executive of Community Chest, said: “An aspiring entrepreneur now has the ability to generate an income by opening up a barbershop and selling cellphone charging time anywhere in the community, all powered by free energy from the sun.”

The small, medium, and micro enterprise (SMME) sector was crucial to lifting people out of the poverty trap, he explained. “In 2014, 2.8 million SMMEs contributed almost 40% of the nation’s gross domestic product and provided more than 50% of employment.”

His organisation has looked at the projected earnings of an entrepreneur using the EcoBoxx: “An entrepreneurial barber, who had selected the right location, could earn up to R800 to R1 000 per week if they did eight haircuts at R10 and 16 mobile charges at R5 per day, over a five to seven work-day week.”


Community Chest’s Amandla! is all about community and how the community can live off each other. Its job-creation strategy encourages entrepreneurs to look at their community and identify its needs for products or services. These may take the form of identifying a difficulty the community is facing and determining what product or service could help address that difficulty.

Merle Mills, the project manager, said that apart from having a “go-getter” attitude, candidates ideally also needed to be aware of the needs of their community.

“We are looking for self-starters,” she said, “active citizens who are intuitive about their communities and have ideas of how to better their neighbourhoods, such as using the kit to provide light for learners to study at night or lighting dark street corners as an increased safety precaution. It is for this reason that we look to individuals such as Faieza and Ebrahim Fourie, the founders of Women for Change, an organisation in Mitchell’s Plain that is participating in the project.”

Davids explained the ethos of the organisation: “Community Chest is about using donor resources to launch innovation in philanthropy that inspires change and builds safe platforms for the future of our democracy. Our children, with their mothers and their fathers, must be able to rise from the shackles of a shrinking economy and crippling disadvantage to take ownership of not just reducing poverty but of a new mindset to use these innovative ideas to become first-generation wealth creators. That’s the South Africa we are helping to build.”