Tuesday 13 April 2021

The Shishini Initiative

Trevor Watkins 13/4/21


South Africa has more problems than you can throw a stick at. To solve these problems we have more plans, commissions and committees than you could spit on. But realistic solutions are few and far between.

The media hacks have run out of adjectives to describe how awful our situation is. The politicians cannot deal with fickle human nature and scarce resources. The wealthy whine and dine, and the poor slowly evaporate.

One of the most intractable problems facing South Africa is the huge lost generation of around 20 million individuals under the age of 25. They are uneducated, undernourished, unemployed, uninspired. They are the volatile tinder for future communist uprisings.

I have a simple criterion for evaluating any proposed solutions. Will this plan provide any immediate relief to a starving 7 year old girl living with an abusive parent in a squatter shack? If your plan can't even do this simple and necessary thing, what is the point? So in boldly proposing yet one more solution to the ills that plague us, I use this young girl as my benchmark.

I am a capitalist. I believe free market solutions can solve most economic problems. I believe there is a free market solution to the problem of South Africa's lost generation. All we have to do is convince 20 million young people that the hugely despised capitalism is better than the quite cool communism that they have been brought up on.

How? I propose we resort to the favourite trick of communist politicians throughout history. We bribe them.

If you want young people to learn about and adopt capitalism, give them some capital. Stop telling them about it, let them actually experience it.

The proposal

.Goal: To produce 1 million nascent capitalists in the 7 to 21 age group within 18 months.

Cost: R100 million

Method: a reverse Ponzi scheme as described below

The method

  1. Setup a new organisation called “Shishini”, which means “business project” in Xhosa.

  2. Invite youth in the age 6-21 group to join Shishini. Each member will receive the following:

    1. Registration of their name and other details on the Shishini app, see below.
    2. Registration of a Capitec account in their name.
    3. A deposit of R40 each month into their new Capitec account
    4. A Shishini cap.

  3. Initially invite 1000 prospects in the first month. Expect 50% membership growth in each subsequent month. After 18 months costs will be around R65 million, and membership should exceed 980,000.

  4. Setup new Shishini sub-projects to encourage entrepreneurs.

  5. Let members take charge of most activities such as recruitment, project starts, funding.

  6. Provide logistical support only when needed.

  7. Always remember it's about the kids, not the organisers.

Sub-project examples

  1. Shishini School
    1. Access to new and existing courses and training.
    2. Schedule teachers, venues, courses, materials in safe locations and register students. Offer completion certificates.
    3. Invite older members to organise training for younger members. Pay R50 for each training session completed and rated >60% by at least 10 attendees.

  2. Shishini Security
    1. Invite members to coordinate local security groups, using the app..
    2. Up to 10 members can join a security group, which is like a Whatsapp group.
    3. Each member undertakes to come to the assistance of any other member in need.
    4. The coordinator files a monthly security report via the app, for which the coordinator receives R10 extra per month.

  3. Shishini market
    1. Members can advertise goods and services for sale to other members.

  4. Shishini recycling
    1. Members will be given assistance to set up local recycling projects, in cooperation with local waste management operations.
    2. The recycling project manager (who is a Shishini member) must set up the necessary systems, such as date and venue, measurement, waste company coordination, pricing, payment, etc.
    3. The project manager keeps the profits from the operation.

  5. Shishini management

    1. Members who show promise can be promoted within the project to ultimately take over the running of the system.

  6. Shishini manufacturing
    1. There are many opportunities for local township manufacturing, such as tourist items, windmills, toys, etc.
    2. Assist members with ideas for manufacturing (see Youtube videos), advise on methods.

  7. Shishini services
    1. There are many opportunities for local township services, such as hair braiding, beauty services, babysitting services, cleaning services, cooking, etc.

  8. Shishini sports
    1. Sport is popular and provides many opportunities for entrepreneur development.
    2. Club setup, venue location, coaching, team setup, facilities rental.
    3. Sponsored tournament setup, fund raising, event management.

  9. Coordinate
    1. Coordinate and cooperate with other NGOs, charities, etc. Use app to advertise these services.


  1. The cost, while considerable, is no more than a large corporate would spend on a new marketing campaign.

  2. Much of the cost may be directly recoverable from new customer sources in the target community.

  3. Youth will obtain direct experience in banking, earning, money handling.

  4. Businesses like Capitec can lock in a generation of new customers.

  5. Businesses like retail chains can market to a new demographic, who are poor but not penniless.

  6. Youth will enjoy a sense of respect and self esteem enhanced by individual responsibility.

  7. Teaches entrepreneurial skills, savings and capital formation, business management.

  8. Useful community services such as mutual protection, communication, literacy, sports development, cleanup programs will arise.

  9. The Shishini app will allow direct communication to many thousands of members, and massive communication between members.


  1. The program may attract more members than the current financing can afford. Nothing fails like success.

  2. If the program is not self-sustaining after 18 months, there might be considerable anger in the target community if payments cease.

  3. The program creates a sense of entitlement (monthly payments with no quid pro quo). Almost all charitable and government programs create a sense of entitlement.

  4. The initiative will require considerable expert support during setup. The app must be designed and built. Finance must be arranged. Coordination with banks, retailers, etc established.

  5. The state will almost certainly have an opinion on this initiative and will no doubt place the usual obstacles in its path. This may require legal expertise.


This initiative will need to be sold to a sponsor with deep pockets. This document is just the first round in what may be either a very short-lived Thought experiment, or a more challenging Project. As its author, I will be happy to remain involved with whatever future developments arise.

Shishini app

This app will be purpose developed for this project. The app will have the following features:

  1. Unique registration for each member

  2. Facility to register new members. Each new member registered earns R10 in Capitec account.

  3. Whatsapp like communication facilities with other Shishini members.

  4. Facebook like social media posting facilities.

  5. Access to Shishini project facilities and learning materials.

  6. Registration of new projects and project members.

  7. Emergency SOS feature

  8. Free streaming access to music channels.

  9. Access to member discounts on food, clothes, goods, training, etc

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