With official unemployment figures sitting at 23.9% and unofficial unemployment estimated to be significantly higher, many top business -, government - and social experts are being challenged to find practical and sustainable solutions.
In his recent State of the Nation Address, Jacob Zuma said, "The work done last year indicates that if we continue to grow reasonably well, we will begin to write a new story about South Africa-the story of how, working together, we drove back unemployment and reduced economic inequality and poverty."
Western Union's contribution relates to an "adopted" self-drive travel route in collaboration with non-profit organisation, Open Africa. Open Africa's mission is to sustain livelihoods across rural South Africa using tourism as an economic platform by working with a community to identify their area's tourism potential and community-based tourism enterprises. The enterprises and attractions are clustered together as a travel route, similar in concept to a wine route, and then promoted to travellers, who by visiting the area support local businesses and sustain their livelihoods. To date the Open Africa network has 63 travel routes in six countries supporting 2,400 enterprises and 27,000 employees (www.openafrica.org).
The power to do extraordinary things
Richard Malcolm, Country Director for Southern and Horn of Africa at Western Union said: "At Western Union, we have the power to do extraordinary good in the ordinary course of doing business, by opening new possibilities - for the underserved, for small business owners who compete abroad and for everyday consumers with financial needs and few others they can turn to. Therefore collaborating with Open Africa to support the development of a community of entrepreneurs with the power to open up new possibilities for the entire area is a natural fit."
The objective of Western Union getting involved in the Rixile Culture to Kruger Route is to further develop and support the enterprises along the route, with much needed training and mentorship, whilst promoting the Route to attract more tourists to the area. Increased tourist numbers are expect to fuel greater demand for accommodation, food, guides and so on, thus generating sustainable incomes for community-based enterprises.
The Route currently has 51 emerging community-based enterprises, 10 of which are being identified to develop further. Traditionally this area is underdeveloped with unemployment only slightly below the official national average at 20.2%, but the tourism potential is substantial given its location adjacent to South Africa's prime tourist destination, the Kruger National Park and the rich cultural heritage of the region. Tourism is one of the most intuitive ways to create in the area, whilst ensuring that rural and marginalised communities have the potential to share in some of the income.
Noel de Villiers, Founder and CEO of Open Africa, comments on the collaboration: "We are grateful to have such a reputable organisation supporting our initiative which believes in furthering our vision and making a very tangible difference to rural communities and emerging entrepreneurs."
The 'adopted' Route follows Western Union's involvement at a strategic level with Open Africa through Ashoka's executive in residence programme which saw Western Union's Senior Vice President for the Middle East and Africa, Jean-Claude Farah, spend time with Open Africa in 2010.
Travellers can access the area via a number of ports including Giyani and Phalaborwa. Visit http://www.openafrica.org/route/Rixile-Culture-to-Kruger-Route to find out more.
About Open Africa
Open Africa is a non-profit organisation started 15 years ago under the patronage of Nelson Mandela. Its vision is to sustain livelihoods and enhance conservation in rural areas, by connecting community-based enterprises to traveller markets through off-the-beaten-track, self-drive travel routes. The journeys are life enriching for all involved - communities, travellers, partners, staff and the Earth.
Open Africa collaborates with communities to:
• 1. Establish off-the-beaten-track, self-drive travel routes in a network supported by local enterprises, linking and protecting the splendours and knowledge of rural Africa. An area's travel attractions (e.g. accommodation, tour guides, local artisans) are clustered for travellers to explore and tailor their adventures to their interests, budget and time-frame.
• 2. Market the routes through a comprehensive travel portal (www.openafrica.org) and other initiatives, connecting communities to travellers.
• 3. Further develop enterprises around a route, so that more people can benefit.
To date, 63 routes have been developed in six countries in Africa, supporting over 2,400 participant businesses which sustain 27,000 jobs. Every job potentially influences a further seven family members, and for every job created in tourism there is scope for at least 1.2 more jobs in the feedback chain. 80% of the results have been in South Africa, where two-thirds of the beneficiaries are previously disadvantaged.
Open Africa's vision has been recognised through the following awards to the founder, Noel de Villiers: Ernst and Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2009, Ashoka fellow, and Inyathelo Philanthropy award in 2010. For more information, visit www.openafrica.org.
About Western Union
The Western Union Company is a leader in global payment services. Together with its Vigo, Orlandi Valuta, Pago Facil and Western Union Business Solutions branded payment services, Western Union provides consumers and businesses with fast, reliable and convenient ways to send and receive money around the world, to send payments and to purchase money orders. As of 31 December 2011, the Western Union, Vigo and Orlandi Valuta branded services were offered through a combined network of approximately 485,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories. In 2011, The Western Union Company completed 226 million consumer-to-consumer transactions worldwide, moving US$81bn of principal between consumers, and 425 million business payments. For more information, visit www.westernunion.com.
About Western Union in South Africa
Western Union launched in South Africa with Absa in 2008 and has since expanded its network to reach a national footprint of more than 500 Agent locations making the Western Union Money TransferSM Service available at select Absa, American Express, Master Currency, Travelex and Tower Foreign Exchange branches.
In addition, Absa accountholders can conveniently access the Western Union Money Transfer Service to send or receive cross-border money transfers using either a cellphone or Internet banking.
For more information contact:
• Francois Viljoen - Operations Manager, tel +27 21 683 9639 / +27 73 148 0699
• Kate Clayton - Marketer, cell +27 83 324 5514
• Claire Allison - Marketing Coordinator, tel +27 21 683 9639 / cell +27 73 1968 370
• Lisa McConnell - Communications Manager, Africa, tel +27 11 549 3310
 Quarterly Labour Force Survey, Q4 2011, Statistics South Africa
 State of the Nation Address By His Excellency Jacob G Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa on the occasion of the Joint Sitting of Parliament, Cape Town, February 9, 2012
 Quarterly Labour Force Survey, Q4 2011, Statistics South Africa