Social Development Projects That Make A Difference In South Africa
Applied Psychology

Social development projects that are making a difference in south africa

Feb 28, 2020 | By Signpost

Key takeaways

  • Social development seeks to improve the state of society by identifying societal issues and developing innovative ways of addressing them.
  • Many of the most impactful social development projects in South Africa are being led by young, innovative millennial entrepreneurs.
  • If you’re looking to get involved in social development, a good place to start would be SACAP’s low-cost counselling centre in Woodstock.

Running a non-profit organisation brings with it a set of challenges. Those who participate in this space demonstrate great courage and resourcefulness by engaging complex problems while having access to minimal resources.

Most (although not all) social development projects are non-profit, and they are especially needed in a country dealing with the kind of issues that South Africa has faced for so long.

What is social development?

Social development seeks to improve the state of society as a whole by identifying issues that prevent it from advancing; and developing innovative ways of addressing those issues.

The South African government encourages social development, with the stated purpose of the Department of Social Development (DSD) being to “provide social protection services and lead government efforts to forge partnerships through which vulnerable individuals, groups and communities become capable and self-reliant participants in their own development.

Social development programs that are making a difference

Here are just a few examples of social development projects that are contributing to the wellbeing of South African communities. Many of the innovative pioneers who founded these organisations and platforms exemplify the creativity and drive of millennial entrepreneurs.

Bunang Baswa

Founded in 2005 by Fred Bohasu (included among the 100 Most Influential Young Africans by Africa Youth Awards in 2017), the organisation is dedicated to training the leaders of the future. Focusing on underprivileged schools and pupils, the NPO provides them with access to information, motivational talks and career opportunities, as well as top academic institutions, thereby providing them the opportunity to develop leadership skills.

18 Gangster Museum

Founded by three young social entrepreneurs – Wandisile Nqeketho, Siyabulela Daweti, and Faith Leburu – this unique project serves a two-fold purpose of educating youth about the dark road so many of their contemporaries end up taking, while also providing the former gangsters, who curate the exhibition, with the opportunity to contribute as they provide their first-hand accounts of gangsterism and prison.


A technology platform that connects people in rural areas with job opportunities, without requiring them to have an internet connection. This innovative social development project is the brainchild of Simangele Mphahlele and Moses Mphahlele, who got the idea after meeting a job seeker named Thabo who was spending R850 a month travelling to internet cafes in order to search online for jobs.

Ejoobi allows Thabo and others like him to send their CVs to a network of connected recruiters by SMS or USSD. Ejoobi received a R500 000 Development Award during the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards in 2018.

Ebonoko Foundation

Established in 2012 by Emmanuel Bonoko, who also founded media and communications company Ebonoko Holding; the organisation focuses on education, and its potential to empower youth. One way they achieve this is by hosting youth development events in the townships that educate youth about entrepreneurship opportunities.

Memeza Community Safety

Another project that has been recognised and granted funding by the SAB Foundation, this platform addresses one of the major issues plaguing South African society: crime. Thui Mthetwe drew on her background as a software developer to create this low-cost alarm system which alerts the community and police whenever a crime takes place. The Memeza Community Safety website currently states that 3 500 of these low-cost alarm systems are deployed over eight provinces, with 70 police stations and 110 community policing forums being connected.


Winner of the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Award in 2018, this is a for-profit affordable housing business founded by Sowetan entrepreneur Nhlanhla Ndlovu. According to Nhlanhla, the business creates “opportunities for women and youth by training them to replace informal backyard shacks with durable structures using alternative building technology”.

Once the structure is completed, Hustlenomics splits the rental income with the owner until it has recuperated the construction costs, at which point it hands ownership over. In this way, it achieves a two-fold objective of creating affordable accommodation for renters, and sustainable income for households.

How SACAP contributes to social development in South Africa

Another powerful example of social development presents itself in SACAP’s Counselling Hub, which provides low-cost counselling services to underprivileged communities. The South African government has been criticised for doing little to address the country’s mental health crisis, and in the absence of government investment, volunteer organisations such as the Counselling Hub have had to step forward to fill the gap.

At R50 for a one-on-one counselling session, the low cost is designed to cover the running costs of the facility. The Counselling Hub is an initiative of the SACAP Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing accessible and affordable mental health services, and the KK Educational Fund (KKEF).

If the above examples of inspirational activism have encouraged you to play a role in advancing social development in South Africa, mental health services such as the Counselling Hub would be a good place to start. You can gain qualifications for a career in counselling by studying a counselling course at SACAP. For more information, enquire now.

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