Here in Namibia, where income disparity is one of the highest in the world (THE highest, depending on whose figures you use) and unemployment hovers around 34 percent, small entrepreneurs in both the formal and informal sector are likely to be the biggest drivers of Namibia’s economy in the near future.
This is something young Namibians have recognized, because it seems like everywhere you look, someone has started a small business from their home to make ends meet. The majority of these businesses end up being very similar – a small fruit stand, a brick-making business, a “shebeen”, or small bar; hair salons, car washes, clothing manufacturing, car repair – that sort of thing. In these sectors, competition is cut-throat, and the prospects for growth are unfortunately quite limited. But you can earn a basic living, so people keep doing it.
But every now and then I come across an idea that is especially innovative, and worth mentioning. Enter “Katu Tours”, a small company launched by female entrepreneur Anna Mafwila. Unlike many of her peers who look to downtown Windhoek as a business venue, Ms. Mafwila has opted to stay at home in Katutura. Not only that, she has chosen to celebrate the township created during apartheid – 1961, to be exact, and given as a name (in Otjiherero) “the place where we do not want to live” by inviting tourists to learn about the location’s history and culture. But with a twist: with Katutours, visitors to Namibians (and even Namibians themselves who want to learn more about their own history) don safety vests and helmets and ride one of Mafwila’s fleet of bicycles, and go on a leisurely ride to take in the sights, smells, sounds – and tastes – of Katutura’s rich and vibrant culture.
As a young business, Katutours has already received some international attention and is listed on TripAdvisor.com, and the business was also runner-up in a recent “Meet the Lions” entrepreneurship competition. One of Mafwila’s key challenges, however, is that most of her clients are in downtown Windhoek, and her venue – located along the scenic Goreangab Dam – can be a bit tricky to find for out-of-towners. What Mafwila could really use to take her unique and innovative business to the “next level” is a way to pick up her customers from places like Windhoek’s swanky new Hilton Hotel, orcozy local guesthouses, bring them to Katutura, and return them after their tour is complete.
To that end, she has launched a campaign on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo (we told you she’s innovative – she may be the first “crowdfunder” in Namibia!). On her Indiegogo page, she explains her goal of “bringing the city to the township” in greater detail. And unlike other crowdsourcing sites like “Kickstarter”, she doesn’t have to meet a minimum target – everything that’s contributed, she gets to invest in her business (minus Indiegogo’s share).
Take a look at the video below, and be sure and check out Katutours’ Indiegogo page to find out more about how you can support an innovative entrepreneur in Windhoek, Namibia – and make a difference in a vulnerable community. Details below.