“Getting the local middle-class populace to come to the township was one of our stumbling blocks,” says Luthando Dyasi about Dine with Khayelitsha, his innovative new initiative that arranges conversational meals in the township.
WHILE most aspirant entrepreneurs from the township look to the bustling cities to expand their reach, some choose to invest in the townships they grew up in, hoping that their actions will inspire the next generation of innovators.
Poor infrastructure development and the lack of opportunities within these areas has contributed to the hardship of creating and maintaining a viable business, let alone one that has the potential to empower other budding entrepreneurs from the same area.
The dynamic Luthando Dyasi, co-founder and leader of Dine with Khayelitsha, has successfully bridged the gap between start-up and financially viable business collective. Dine with Khayelitsha connects townships and cities by hosting topical “conversational” dinners, with topics ranging from social issues to innovation, leadership and sustainability. Different households within the township give local and international guests a unique experience, sparking conversations that are complemented by locally prepared cuisine.
Dyasi highlights the social benefits of hosting such evenings: “Even after 20 years of democracy, there are still huge walls that separate us in terms of race, religion and culture which hinders us from working in unity as diverse human species in solving our modern problems. There is a missed opportunity in learning and empowering one another,” he says.
‘There are still huge walls that separate us in terms of race, religion and culture which hinders us from working in unity’
Born and raised in Khayelitsha, Dyasi always wanted to bring about change to help transform his community, a low-income township located near Cape Town. He played amateur football for Ajax Cape Town until a passion for religion and education led him to other interests. “I believe God can shape and change people’s lives if only allowed, and education is a tool to shape and transform South Africa,” he says.
Dine with Khayelitsha is Dyasi’s second township upliftment programme. Realising that the key barrier preventing Khayelitsha residents from attending university was a lack of awareness, Dyasi applied to the Global Minimum Inc. (Gmin) innovation challenge to develop the mobile app GoVarsity. The app provides mentorship on how to apply to university, and information on career paths and subject choices. He serves as the co-founder and software developer of the web platform alongside Sinethemba Makoma.
In the past year, Dine with Khayelitsha has hosted over 260 guests in Khayelitsha and Khwezi Park, boosting employment in the area. “We use local taxi drivers for transport and employ local artists to provide the entertainment,” Dyasi explains. A portion of the revenue is also donated to the NGO Have Fun, a childhood development programme which focuses on nurturing young minds from impoverished communities.
“Unconventional” is an apt word for an entrepreneur looking to advance social change and transform the lives of township dwellers. Dyasi, in his collaborative efforts with the unlikeliest of business partners, redefines the idea of empowerment in the context of township development.