Isaack Lesole of Buddibox joins us for this podcast, where we discuss youth (un)employment and the ways this scourge is being fought:
South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world and the latest quarterly Stats SA survey indicates a rate of 37,5% for people between the ages of 15 and 34. Education, training and innovation will be critical to cutting the unemployment rate to 6% by 2030 which is why social entrepreneurship programmes like Buddibox which launched in December, will be instrumental in the achievement of this seemingly unattainable ideal.
Funded by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), Buddibox is the NYDA’s flagship retail programme. Focussed squarely on the development of youth – so they might become entrepreneurs who are financially emancipated – it is a unique concept that expands the reach of retailers and manufacturers by delivering products and services to greater township communities. The distribution and marketing solution is operated by youth from within the community. The launch phase is being piloted in the City of Ekurhuleni with long-term plans to roll out nationally.
According to Buddibox CEO Isaack Lesole, the programme is geared towards uplifting township communities by creating opportunities for unemployed youth; contracting, training and equipping them as ambassadors within their communities. Referred to as “Buddis”, the programme launched with 100, but the goal is to have 2 024 Buddis operational by March and at least 10 000 in Gauteng by the end of 2017.
Any FMCG goods can be procured for the family shopping basket – from toiletries to fresh produce. At the outset up to 13 000 SKUs will be available for order. All the transactions happen via an ecommerce platform; the orders are captured on an android device and payments are only collected from the consumer on delivery. A cashless exchange has been set up using online apps and eWallet, thereby ensuring the safety of the Buddi and removing risk. Buddibox will effectively bridge South Africa’s digital divide with this approach.
As the face of the organisation, the Buddi’s responsibility is to engage directly with the consumer, using direct sales to secure orders, capture data and build profiles of the families they cater for. Expanding on this, Lesole says that each Buddi is allocated 200 households in the Ward in which they reside and they will need to manage this relationship and develop the trust of the community.
“Buddis will canvas communities by walking door to door introducing the service, building relationships with the households they are responsible for – signing them up for the service and future repeat orders. They will be given access to branded tuk-tuk vehicles which will be used to deliver provisions from the Local Distribution Centres (LDC) to the various homes they service in the ward.”
The programme, which according to Lesole will fast track the issue of unemployment, is intended to work alongside existing spazas and tuck shops and will not wipe them out. “Where communities may buy a loaf of bread from the spaza – using Buddibox they can place big monthly orders for supplies that are cumbersome and difficult to carry using public transport,” explains Lesole.
Offering more than just retail on wheels, Buddibox also gathers data from each household that is relevant, accurate and current and IPSOS has been appointed to verify the accuracy of the household profiling. Satisfaction surveys, service delivery checks, gather brand research and consumer insights are other services on offer through the programme. Government services like application for ID documents, registering for schools etc – all using the electronic device – is also on the cards. This basket of services will grow as the programme’s network matures and expands.
Qualities of a Buddi ambassador who will be considered include: between 18 and 35; with a matric certificate; no criminal record; a positive, driven, motivated and ambitious self-starter; entrepreneurially minded and just seeking the right opportunity; and wants to be in business and economically independent. Prospective Buddis can apply for consideration via an online portal (http://www.buddibox.co.za/buddi-registration). A partnership has been established with the University of North West and it’s a compulsory requirement that each Buddi accepted onto the programme is willing to study through the programme. Buddibox is seeking unemployed and unskilled young people with a view to transforming them into academically empowered entrepreneurs.
“It’s hoped that through the opportunity to earn and develop skills, that those who work with us will go on to become the big business leaders of tomorrow, leading fulfilling, successful lives because they make life affirming choices today. In so doing they will build a brighter future for themselves and the larger community in which they live and operate,” says Lesole. “While it’s expected that the programme will contribute towards township economic revitalisation, we believe it will also reduce prevalent social ills like crime, drug abuse and alcohol addiction.
“It’s been said before – the single most important investment any country can make is in its people, but the current education system is not adequately serving skills development, and is in urgent need of reform. By the end of Grade 12, we have lost half of every cohort entering the schooling system, which is an alarming statistic. Added to this, since 1994 the employment growth rate has been completely inadequate to reduce unemployment, further raising the level of urgency with which skills development must be treated,” says Lesole. “But Government cannot be expected to do it all. We need to bring about change ourselves.”
An unparalleled distribution platform – it will enable small scale manufacturers to gain access to markets without depending on large retail stores while businesses can take up direct marketing, branding and promotional services through Buddibox. From branded tuk-tuk vehicle wraps, to brand activation, as well as product and leaflet drops.
South African Finance Minister Praven Gordhan has been quoted as saying that creating a “productive young South African” gives them dignity. This is a belief echoed by Buddibox and something it’s striving hard to achieve.
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