First co-operative starts production

Tue, 24 January 2012

"We didn’t know how to sew. Now thanks to the training we can sew!” - Nonzwakazi, chairlady of the Simunye co-operative

REPORT 2: Afrique du Sud Bidonvilles – Enterprise Development for Unemployed Women

Afrique du Sud Bidonvilles realised a need for the creation of jobs, particularly for women, within Khayelitsha, an informal settlement outside Cape Town. This organisation trains women in sewing skills and provides them with the equipment and skills to produce garments, bags and other goods. Each group trained forms a co-operative which is then able to receive orders through a partnership with Township Patterns (a Section 21 company). This project provides for the training and formation of three co-operatives.

This project runs from November 2010 to November 2011 and this report covers the period between February 2011 and April 2011.

Activities and Outcomes

Afrique du Sud Bidonvilles has assisted in the formation of one co-operative so far. The co-operative is called Simunye and has 14 members. The following processes enabled the co-operative to be established successfully:

  • The first group of women has been trained and equipped with the necessary business and sewing skills;
  • Equipment for the co-operative has been purchased and given to the women. They will start to pay back part of the cost of equipment after the first year of operations;
  • Premises in Khayelitsha, from which Simunye can operate, have been located and renovated; and
  • The co-operative is in the process of registering with the Department of Trade and Industry.

The new co-operative is still in the incubation phase, where the support is still very high but the production and revenue generated is low. The next group of women has been identified and it will begin training in April 2011.


The total cost of this project is R 688, 676 of which R 465, 676 has been paid by SASIX.

DescriptionTotal BudgetTotal Expenditure to date
Training consultant99 951103 369
Training costs133 725123 111
Equipment (sewing machines, ironing system)180 00072 839
Renovation, furniture and small equipment120 22522 760
Legal registration costs12 0000
First aid kit and other expenses17 7757 500
Project administration and management125 00095 962
TOTAL688 676425 541

Additional trainers have been appointed which has increased the cost of training for this project. This will not impact negatively on the training of the two remaining co-operatives. The additional trainers ensure a high quality standard of training among the co-operatives.


  • The main business that the co-operatives receive is the manufacturing of bags for the retail and conferencing industries. The demand for these items fluctuates constantly depending on the industries’ requirements and the women struggle to understand this fluctuation, particularly when demand is low.
  • Although some of the co-operatives have explored additional markets a large majority of them are still dependent on Township Patterns for orders. Afrique du Sud Bidonvilles is helping the existing co-operatives to access other markets.
  • Afrique du Sud Bidonvilles’ strategy is to link the start of a new training cycle with Township Patterns’ production forecasts for bags. Township Patterns has recently launched a range of fashion garments. Although this could provide more opportunities in the long-run, the timing of this launch of fashion garments is a threat to the next training cycle, as the limited demand for bags could decrease the availability of work for members. Close consultation between Afrique du Sud Bidonvilles and Township Patterns is necessary to ensure that the switch to fashion garments does not negatively impact Afrique du Sud Bidonvilles in the medium or long-term.
  • The capacity of existing co-operatives needs to increase constantly. In order to ensure that production is of high quality and that a well organised structure of labour is in place, Afrique du Sud Bidonvilles has employed an external technical consultant to assist the co-operatives directly.

Monitoring and evaluation

The main objective in terms of project monitoring is to develop a tool to evaluate how the co-operatives perform in key areas such as production and group management. This tool will help evaluate the co-operatives’ chances of developing into successful micro-enterprises but will also be used as a tool for Afrique du Sud Bidonvilles to identify needs and adjust strategy accordingly. Progress on the development of the scorecard has been made but it still needs to be finalised before implementation. The progress includes the identification of key indicators and descriptions thereof.

A social impact survey to assess the impact of the programme on the beneficiaries has been conducted. The survey showed that there was a high degree of job satisfaction among the women. They particularly enjoyed being able to manage their own business and found making decisions for the business rewarding. The income they earn is enough for them to support their families as well as to occasionally save money.


The launch of the new product range could provide significant opportunities for the co-operatives. However, there are some decisions that need to be made around Afrique du Sud Bidonvilles’ strategy, in terms of equipping existing co-operatives with new skills and training new groups to be able sew other garments. During this decision-making, the co-operatives’ best interests will be prioritised. This will ensure that Afrique du Sud Bidonvilles continues to produce co-operatives that are financially sustainable and operationally sound.

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