Lend to End [poverty]: is micro-lending, micro-franchising the answer in South Africa?

On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of attending the sixth annual Lend to End [poverty], a fundraising event in support of the Townships Project. The initiative was started by a Canadian woman whose drive, tenacity and vision are admirable: Martha Deacon.

Martha Deacon, Lend to End [poverty], Shannon Skinner attends fundraising event, May 2012

Martha Deacon speaks at Lend to End poverty







I had interviewed Martha Deacon, an astute businesswoman, on my show Extraordinary Women TV with Shannon Skinner several months ago. I was both inspired and moved by her vision to help end poverty in South Africa. Her inspired journey began upon hearing Nelson Mandela speak, who asked for help to “break the cycle of poverty” in his country. Martha heard the calling and her heart’s desire grew rapidly. She created the Townships Project, a Canadian non-profit jump-starting business in South African townships through micro-lending, micro-franchising and asset-based community development.

I am fascinated by the concept of micro-lending and micro-franchising. As Deacon, a firecracker of a woman, said in her speech that night: “Franchising is the most successful business model on Earth.”

It was during a trip to Africa that Deacon looked around and had an aha moment: when she asked the question: “What are the assets we have?”

“An empowering question,” adds Deacon.

According to Deacon, the question most asked instead is: What do we need?

“This is a disempowering question,” she adds.

From that moment on, Deacon has been trailblazing in the area of micro-lending and micro-franchising in South Africa. How does micro-franchising work? Franchising takes a successful business and replicates it. Micro-franchising presents this same model to the poor (asset-based community development), creating affordable business ownership, reliable systems and family employment.


Since 1999, The Townships Project has helped South African organizations make repayable, interest-bearing loans to people living in the townships, enabling borrowers to operate a range of small businesses, to become self-sustaining and break the cycle of poverty.

Back to the Lend to End [poverty] event…

What a fun night! It was held in the new venue, Arcadian Loft, which overlooks old City Hall. A highlight of the event was the silent auction, which featured AbantuArt Gallery – an installation and silent auction of Shona sculpture masks and artifacts from Africa.

art auction at the Lend to End [poverty] event on May 2012

one of the cool pieces up for auction at Lend to End poverty











There was a sampling of various South African wines (my favourite), featured Dare to Wear Love – creation of Hoax Couture designers and founders, Chris Tyrell and Jim Searle, who invited 24 of Canada’s top fashion designers to design an outfit made with yards of African fabric.

another piece of art up for auction at the Lend to End [povery] fundraising event

another piece of art for auction at Lend to End poverty


And Waleed Abdulhamid, a multi-instrumentalist, provided entertainment.

Congratulations to the team that pulled off this terrific event, including event chair, Lorraine Kirchmann, who gave a fantastic speech.

You can read about the organization and success stories and more about it here.

Check out my interview (VIDEO) with Martha Deacon – click here.