Harambee, Wise Cracks partnership empowers young women through entrepreneurship

Cracking it in South Africa’s male-dominated automotive repair industry
Cracking it in South Africa’s male-dominated automotive repair industry

Gqeberha, Eastern Cape – The South African automotive repair sector is male-dominated with limited representation of female artisans. The persistent challenge of youth unemployment in the country, particularly in the Eastern Cape where 52% of young people are unemployed, exacerbates this disparity.

To address this issue and empower young women from townships in the province, a pioneering partnership was formed between Wise Cracks, a local windscreen repair company, and Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator. Their goal was to break down barriers hindering young women’s access to employment, especially as artisans. The pilot project, funded by DG Murray Trust, aimed to create micro-entrepreneurship opportunities for women as windscreen repairers within their communities while also promoting the repair, rather than the replacement, of windscreens to benefit the environment.

The project’s approach involved providing young women with portable windscreen repair kits and offering them technical and soft skills training necessary to initiate their own windscreen repair businesses. These kits included the consumables needed for their initial 200 jobs, and an administrative book for invoicing.

Candidates were sourced through sayouth.mobi, where hundreds of women applied and underwent a rigorous selection process, which assessed their prior sales or self-employment experience, customer service aptitude, resilience, and manual dexterity.

Following a week-long technical and sales training course, eleven young women 29 received their windscreen repair kits. Eighteen months into the programme, the results have been promising. While income levels have varied, ten trainees have successfully mastered the technical aspects of the trade and continue to use their repair kits and skills. They have also acquired transferable entrepreneurship skills in marketing, finance, and administration, allowing them to partially support themselves by working part-time as windscreen repairers on weekends.

One of the programme’s success stories is Lisakhanya Matiso, a 22-year-old who, while pursuing her BCom in Industrial Psychology, found financial stability and entrepreneurial confidence through Wise Cracks. She has since completed her studies and is now focused on expanding her business further, showcasing the potential for personal and professional growth that such initiatives can offer.

Looking ahead, Harambee and Wise Cracks plan to refine and expand the model, securing more candidates and funding to assist the micro-entrepreneurs in accessing markets. Collaboration with insurance firms, original equipment manufacturers, and vehicle dealerships is also in the pipeline to further enhance market access.

Through ongoing support and mentorship, the confidence of the candidates in the business model and in themselves is growing, paving the way for even greater success. With the right resources and opportunities, South Africa’s young women can overcome societal obstacles, bringing about lasting change for themselves and their communities.