Fellow Since 2008
Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Networks
This profile was prepared when Lillian Masebenza was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Lillian incorporates income generation and enterprise development into traditional village collective models, called stokvels, capitalizing on their inherent popularity among disadvantaged women and youth in South Africa. First formed by black South Africans—mostly women—in response to financial restrictions upheld during apartheid, the stokvels have historically been used only as a way to motivate each other to save for particular short-term needs, such as weddings, funerals, and holidays. Lillian has transformed these widely accepted savings collectives into an effective integrated comprehensive business model—which she registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (CIPRO)—using the existing networks to support them through business trainings and skills development courses and to link them to relevant networks and funding opportunities. By using indigenous models as a basis for business development, based on the principle of moving from known to unknown Lillian avoids the lack of engagement based on fear of failure factor and community acceptance often associated with new approaches to stimulating microenterprise. Individuals who belong to a registered stokvel or any other legal entity of at least ten people pay a yearly non-refundable registration fee to belong to Lillian’s Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network. To fund initial capital investments and administration costs, each member contributes R200, which in turn forms part of the working capital to run the network. Thanks to its large number of participants and the variety of backgrounds and business activities involved, the Mhani Gingi network has proven to be a powerful tool for opening previously underutilized or altogether new income-generating opportunities. Once properly leveraged, moreover, the stokvels—as the only such method of saving approved by the South African Treasury—have the potential to fuel entrepreneurial activity across the country.