Empowering disadvantaged businesses through LED projects: a practitioner's approach.
This thesis has been written in the context of Local Economic Development (LED). LED is recognized as a process that requires a number of role players which include government, business institutions and ordinary people representing themselves as various organizations and as individuals. From all these groups of role players, the focus of this study is on the group of business institutions, particularly small businesses from disadvantaged groups. The aim of this study has been to investigate theoretical and practical ways that small business owners in disadvantaged communities can contribute to their own business development and that of their fellows within a framework of LED. The purpose has been twofold and synergistic – to consider both empowerment and the creation of an enabling support framework. The primary goals of this study are job creation, poverty alleviation and ultimately economic development of the disadvantaged areas through the leadership of local small business owners. This study has been conducted using a qualitative research method, drawing on interviews, focus groups and learning journal as tools of data collection. This study highlighted some information from disadvantaged small businesses in squatter camps/slums that could be useful to the development of LED in Durban and in extension to the development of LED in the country. Such information drawn from the disadvantaged small business groups can be useful to the whole country because of the similar challenges faced by disadvantaged small business groups in other major towns and cities in South Africa. Such challenges are mostly around inequality and uneven economic development in different race groups, especially amongst black South Africans. Findings revealed that people from disadvantaged areas lack education and business skills and that the businesses within these areas are mostly informal and are desperately in need of finance. This study has shown that small businesses in disadvantaged areas have no formal structures in place and are not in a position to help each other financially. However, small businesses in disadvantaged areas have been found to be capable of helping each other to overcome other issues such as crime and disorder that have a negative impact on their viability. This study has shown that other role players are wary of coming into disadvantaged communities to help with investment that will bring about job creation, poverty eradication and economic development because of the crime and general disorder that prevails in disadvantaged communities. This study concludes by emphasizing the need for small business owners in disadvantaged communities to take a leading role in the fight against any issue that dissuades other role players from the outside. In conclusion it is also noted that the leadership role to be assumed by the small business within the disadvantaged areas cannot be effective without the full commitment from the government, business institutions and ordinary community members found in that locality.