Image: Elsa Young

Local businesses are under severe strain after the riots and looting that recently shook KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. This has only exacerbated the country’s struggling economy which has suffered a severe downturn after more than a year of Covid-19 lockdowns. KwaZulu-Natal alone has lost 15,000 jobs and R20bn from its local economy as a result of the unrest and the knock-on impact for businesses and families will be felt for a long time.

Not everything is doom and gloom though with many South Africans embracing the spirit of ubuntu and coming together to help rebuild businesses affected by the riots.

One such initiative, Restore SA, was sparked by the founder of social enterprise initiative Fix Forward.

Restore SA aims to connect small business owners affected by looting with volunteer mentors. The initiative has also set up a fund, which will be managed by non-profit partner Ranyaka Community Transformation, to raise funds to assist affected businesses. Ranyaka Community Transformation will identify businesses in need of support and oversee the disbursement of funds and 100% of donations will go to the businesses owners.

“The informal economy employs millions of people and in a country plagued by high levels of unemployment, we need these affected businesses to rebuild and prosper,” said Restore SA founder Joshua Cox. “South Africans are heartbroken at the devastation which has unfolded.”

“Many South Africans with various skills have reached out and want to support these business owners as they try to rebuild,” he added. “Restore SA has been created to connect small business owners affected by looting with skilled people who freely offer mentorship support.”

Individuals, both locally and abroad, have also pledged to donate to the fund.

“When we heard about Restore SA, we saw an opportunity to support and help rebuild those businesses that had been affected by the unrest,” said Malcolm Daitz, CEO of weFix. “We believe that it is the responsibility of all South African businesses to help restore our economy by offering support to those entrepreneurs who need it.”

“We are committed to donating 10% of the value of trade-ins we get towards the Restore SA fund and we are excited to see the impact that this initiative will have as we rebuild,” said Daitz.

“We have over one hundred mentors already onboard to offer support, we are hoping to increase this number exponentially in the coming weeks,” Cox said.. “In addition to this, within days of launching 20 small-business owners received a mentor and have begun their rebuilding journey.”

Cox encouraged small business owners to sign up so they can receive the support they need from the Restore SA network. “Affected businesses who sign up will receive an hour or two a week of mentoring for at least two months.”

“It is hard to see the heartbreaking situation that these entrepreneurs find themselves in. Some have just started their business journeys, while others have been in the game for decades- the devastation is the same, livelihoods have been taken, jobs lost and an increasing uncertainty remains.”

“Between our mentors and small business owners we can dust off the hurt, the anger and the damages and move forward,” he said . “The addition of the fund that we launched today aims to give monetary support to those affected.”

Donate to the Restore SA fund here: www.restoresa.co.za/rsa-fund/

Small business owners and mentors can sign up at www.restoresa.co.za.

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