While government and policymakers understand the importance of helping ex-convicts to integrate back into society, there is, however, they, however, display apathy toward that direction.
But South African entrepreneur, Xolane Ndhlovu has taken a concrete step by founding the South African Entrepreneurship Center for Ex-Offenders, SAECEO, to help turn former inmates into business people through business mentorship and funding.
First of its kind in the country, SAECEO provides customized entrepreneurship, technology, and business training to prisoners who have completed their terms.
According to a statement by the centre: “Our case studies show that ex-offenders often have particularly strong skills that can be well suited to starting a business. With proper guidance, our objective is to show them how to use those skills to benefit themselves as well as society.”
The statement further avowed that the objective of its programmes are “to help ex-offenders identify business opportunities, assess possible markets and demands, raise capital and gain investors, and how to organize and operate a business.”
The significance of SAECEO is unquantifiable given that 80% of former prisoners in the country are caught in crime within one year according to the statistics by the Department of Correctional Services.
Having served a jail term, Xolane Ndhlovu knew that the prominent reasons for the trend, namely difficulty in getting a job, poverty, lack of skill and the stigma of being an ex-convict can better be tackled with buffer institutions that help to reequipped prisoners with necessary skills that will facilitate their reintegration into society.
According to him: “While some of them are great risk-takers and have exceptional determination, drive and creativity, they are, however, naïve when it comes to starting a business, which is what we’re primarily focusing on at this time.”
The centre (operating as a Non-Governmental Organisation) which also provides courses in coding and programming, will be staging an annual competition, where the winner will be awarded $35,000 (by Xolane Ndhlovu’s UMEH Group) as a starting capital for a business venture.