Entrepreneurship: a pipe dream?

Self-employment is a means to earn a living and offers more independence and flexibility. But is it a realistic option for the 99 percent of unemployed South Africans with disabilities?

Being an entrepreneur can be liberating for many people. However, it comes with its own challenges, especially if you’re an entrepreneur with a disability – it’s hard to make a living. According to the National Disability Strategy, there are a large number of people with disabilities among the very poor in South Africa.

Poor people don’t have sufficient income to buy goods. They usually live in underdeveloped areas where there’s a lack of sanitation, water, electricity, health services, job opportunities and educational and recreational facilities. Many of the people who receive social security benefits in South Africa tend to be totally dependent on them for their survival.

The majority of people with disabilities, however, receive no grant at all. At the same time, an estimated 99 percent of people with disabilities are excluded from employment on the open labour market. Much needs to be done to support people with disabilities who want to run their own businesses, so they can also contribute effectively towards the South African economy.

Individuals with disabilities make up about 15 percent of the South African population, with an estimated eight in ten people with disabilities unemployed.

I was excited by the launch of Amavulandlela Funding Scheme in December 2016, which is aimed at funding entrepreneurs with disabilities. Now we need people to be made aware of the scheme in order to access the fund.

In a country like South Africa, where the unemployment rate is 27,7 percent, entrepreneurship could save the day. In particular, it could give people with disabilities greater independence and the ability to support themselves financially. They could set their own schedules and reduce transport challenges if they were based at home.

Moving forward, one measure that needs to be taken is to eliminate discriminatory legislation, as much of the
past discriminatory legislation still remains. Although attitudes are changing, people with disabilities still experience more unfavourable treatment than people without disabilities. We need to include the empowerment of people with disabilities in the same sentence when we talk about the empowerment of youth and women in South Africa.

 


Emilie Olifant is a disability activist, entrepreneur and motivational speaker. She is the director of the Emilie Olifant Foundation, an organisation that strives to address socio-economic issues experienced by people with disabilities. email: emilie.olifant@gmail.com

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