Two Social Entrepreneurs Making a Difference in African Slums


SEATTLE — The U.N. defines a slum household as a dwelling that lacks access to proper water or sanitation, has insufficient space or durability or where residents do not have security of tenure. Approximately 863 million people live in slum conditions around the world. Though living conditions in slums can be deplorable, many residents are far from giving up. In fact, two social entrepreneurs from African slums saw opportunity in their communities and are making a difference.

Sizwe Nzima

Nzima is a resident of Khayelitsha, an informal township near Cape Town, South Africa. The most recent census indicates that just over 390,000 people reside in Khayelitsha. Of the population, nearly 20 percent has no income, and over 30 percent lives on around $111 or less per month (R1600).

Nzima noticed that residents of Khayelitsha often had to wait in lines — upwards of five hours — simply to get medication at the local clinic. For many, a day spent getting medication meant a day of potential wage loss.

In response, Nzima started a bicycle delivery service called Iyeza Express. By delivering people’s medication to their homes, Nzima allows them to spend more time at work or with family.

Nzima has won several awards for entrepreneurship and was even recognized by Forbes magazine: “30 Under 30: Africa’s Best Young Entrepreneurs of 2013.”

Kennedy Odede

Odebe was born in Kibera, the largest urban African slum, which lies in the capital city of Nairobi, Kenya.

While living in Kibera, Odede was deeply affected by the hostile environment. Open sewers, lack of access to clean water, garbage filled streets and crime were just a few of the problems he faced in nearby African slums.

After saving some money, Odede decided to create the organization Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). Today, SHOFCO supports community services by linking them to tuition-free schools for girls.

According to the SHOFCO website, educating girls in urban slums means that they will be much better off in the future. Educated girls invest up to 90 percent of the income in their families, are less likely to contract HIV and will have fewer, healthier children (on average).

Odede and SHOFCO supports schools for girls by connecting them with valuable community services for their members. In these schools, they provide free health care, clean water, sanitation education and several other services, such as adult education and youth programs.

Odede has also won many awards for founding SHOFCO, including recognition in Forbe’s 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneur in 2014 and the People’s Award for Outstanding Social Entrepreneur in 2014. Some residents even call Odede the “the Mayor of Kibera.”

Plato said necessity is the mother of invention. Where people are in need, creativity, innovation and resourcefulness often thrive. Nzima’s and Odede’s story serve as a testament that success is achievable, even in less than ideal conditions.

Weston Northrop

Photo: Flickr


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