Power Outages Across South Africa

Since we’ve been in Johannesburg, I’ve noticed quite often how many of the city’s traffic lights aren’t working, yet no one seems to be concerned of the potential traffic dangers while driving. This observation sparked interest for me, so I began researching South Africa’s rolling blackouts and the effects that they’ve had on its economy.

According to Bloomberg.com, the 2014 blackouts hadn’t been this bad since 2008. Eskom Holdings SOC, Ltd. scheduled blackouts due to rain storms that “disrupted the state-run utility’s supply of coal [that is] burned to generate more than 80 percent of power.” Eskom supplies 95% of power to South Africa, and spent 500 billion R ($46.7 billion) last year to “replace aging equipment and add plants to avoid a repeat of blackouts that affected homes, mines and factories for five days in January 2008.”

Now, less than a year later, the country is still feeling the effects of these rolling power outages. Eskom took to Twitter this month to explain that continued outages are simply a product of basic economics: supply and demand. In other words, the demand of power exceeds the supply (South Africa Press Association, 2015). Further, Eskom released “Stage 1” of these blackouts, which chooses regions that must adhere to voluntarily shutting off their power.

Further, these scheduled blackouts are hurting South Africa’s economy, according to The Economist. According to the magazine, “The power cuts are hurting an already stagnant economy, estimated to have expanded by just 1.4% in 2014. Both big industry and small businesses are feeling the pinch.” It is unclear for how my longer these blackouts may occur, but they could drag on for months, or even years, as Eskom struggles with a “maintenance backlog and a barrage of technical problems at its aging power stations.” In the same article, The Economist notes that South African President Jacob Zuma blames the lasting effects of Apartheid as the cause of South Africa’s electricity issues, arguing that electricity and power were routed to white homes; he has turned a supply and demand issue into a racial argument. However, the Democratic Alliance claims that the the blackouts are a direct result of Eskom’s poor maintenance and lack of quality control (SAPA, 2014).

Either way, South Africa is facing a major problem regarding power usage and supply. It will be interesting to see how these rolling blackouts proceed over the next few months and how the South African people continue to react.

South African Press Association. (2014). Rolling blackouts across South Africa. IOL news. Retrieved from
http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/rolling-blackouts-across-south-africa-1.1774087#.VMX5aIFXerV

South African Press Association. (2015). South Africa: Eskom Announces Rolling Blackouts. All Africa. Retrieved from http://allafrica.com/stories/201501091340.html

The Economist. (2015). Rolling power cuts are fraying tempers. The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21637396-rolling-power-cuts-are-fraying-tempers-unplugged

Visser, J. & Burkhardt, P. (2014). Eskom Starts First South African Blackouts Since 2008. Bloomberg. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-06/eskom-says-south-africa-may-face-power-blackouts-on-wet-coal.html

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Stuck Behind a Man’s Desk

Gender Inequality in the Workforce

Inequality has always been a struggle for South Africa. It has remained an undeniable fact known around the globe. Before coming to South Africa, like most people, I associated this struggle with only that of racial inequality. This assumption overlooks the other injustice that South Africa faces today, which is the inequality of women. This narrow perception of South Africa’s struggle with discrimination was quickly revised when I saw firsthand how women are objectified as below that of men. Still battling with traditional beliefs that women are property rather than human beings, South Africa faces a clash of traditional and modern values. While past culture emphasizes that the woman’s place remains in the kitchen, contemporary views encourage women to pursue a quality education and career. This dichotomy of views remains a significant issue as the nation continues to grow its economy. If women are discouraged from taking charge in the workforce, how is South Africa going to attain a strong economy and can the nation continue to be considered a true democracy?

The Origin of Gender Inequality

South Africa’s traditional values originate from the country’s indigenous people. As a class we were able to experience the culture of various African tribes and witness how they separated the man and the woman when we went to Lesedi. First, they physically separate by gender; the woman is to remain in the kitchen while the men meet in areas only reserved for men, as they meet to discuss important tribal events. Second, they objectify women as property, measuring their value through number of cattle. In order to marry a woman, the man must have a certain number of cattle to trade for his ‘beloved’ wife. We witnessed this practice outside of Lesedi’s premise, when one of our students was told “I will give all of my father’s cattle for you.” This remark reflects how traditional South African beliefs are still prevalent, even in urban cities.

Underrepresentation of SA Businesswomen

Even though today trading cattle for women is no longer a common South African practice, it is common for men to push traditional roles on women. This includes women being seen as sexual objects and homemakers, rather than serious businesswomen and leaders. Women are forced to work harder than men in order to attain the same job. Although women make up 54% of the population, in 2009 women only represented 41% of the workplace. Female representation in the workplace has come a long way from the time of apartheid; however, women are still dealing with the glass ceiling effect when examining influential positions in the world of business. According to the same study in 2009, “only 7% of South African directors are female, 3% of chairs of boards are female, and 2% of CEOs are female” (Lewis-Enright, Crafford, and Crous). Furthermore, according to Grant Thornton, “only 28% of South African senior management positions are filled by women” and in 2013 they found that 21% of South African businesses had no representation of women in any of their senior management positions (“Not enough women”). Not only does this underrepresentation contradict South Africa’s Constitution, but also it limits the country from growing economically. It has been proven that businesses financially outperform their competitors when there is a higher representation of women in the company’s senior management positions (“Women lagging in the workplace”).

Irony of Government Involvement

So if South Africa’s future economy lies in the hands of women, has the government done anything to improve their discrimination? Ironically, President Zuma has committed to improving gender equality through his proposed Gender Equity Bill. This bill commits to maintain a 50/50 gender representation across private, public, and government sectors, seeking to increase women in decision-making positions. In a speech promoting the bill, Zuma announced that “the fundamental principal … is that women’s rights are human rights” (“Women’s rights are human rights: Zuma”). I found this statement from South Africa’s president highly ironic given that he was given his esteemed position with only a 5th grade education, something a woman could never achieve with such a background. Furthermore, I am curious how he could have such modern and democratic beliefs when he continues to practice the traditional act of polygamy, with nine wives.

Beyond South Africa’s Borders

Unfortunately, this continued dichotomy of traditional and modern beliefs regarding women is also present across the globe, including the United States. Although women in the United States are not as discriminated against compared to South Africa, they are far from equal compared to men. Similar to South Africa, women are underrepresented in top levels of management. Even though women in the United States consist of 50.8% of the population, only 4.6% of the Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. Additionally, women hold only 16.9% of board directors in the Fortune 500 (Warner). These statistics illustrate how gender inequality is not just one country’s issue; it is a worldwide battle that extends beyond South Africa’s borders.

Looking Forward

As a senior accounting major, I will be entering the workforce this upcoming August after graduation. Growing up as a middle class U.S. citizen, I was aware of limitations for women but I had not seen the extent of gender inequality until I came to South Africa. South African women fight everyday for their equality and personally, I have never witnessed stronger women. Throughout the trip, we have met independent women who have fought the odds and have become successful businesswoman. From a refugee worker, to a school principal, to an owner of a restaurant in Langa, these women have been inspiring role models for the entire class. It is our duty as women and businesswomen to break down barriers brought on by the past. If statistics show that the presence of women can change a country’s economy, then what’s stopping us from changing the world’s standards?

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“I learnt the lesson of non-violence from my wife when I tried to bend her to my will. Her determined resistance to my will ultimately made me ashamed of myself and cured me of my stupidity in thinking that I was born to rule over her, and in the end she became my greatest teacher in non-violence.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

References

 Lewis-Enright, Karen, Anne Crafford and Freddie Crous. “Towards a workplace conductive to the career advancement of women.” SA Journal of Industrial Psychology (2009). Web. 21 Jan. 2015.

“Not enough women in senior management positions in South Africa.” Grant Thornton. 8 March 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.

Warner, Judith. “Fact Sheet: The Women’s Leadership Gap.” American Progress. 7 March 2014. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.

“Women lagging in the workplace.” HR Future. 2010. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.

“Women’s rights are human rights: Zuma.” SABC News. 25 Sept. 2012. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.

The Economic Ripple Effects of the Apartheid: Wealth Disparities in Johannesburg

This past Monday, after spending the first two weeks of our study abroad in the beautiful coastal city of Cape Town, we arrived in the largest city in South Africa, Johannesburg—or Jo’burg, as the locals call it. The immediate city of Jo’burg has a population around 4.5 million, with broader definitions, which include additional areas and townships, increasing the population closer to 10 million (Statistics, 2015). Jo’burg’s province, Gauteng, which is the smallest South African province, serves as the economic engine of South Africa, responsible for 34.8% of the country’s GDP. The most important sectors in the province include finance, real estate, and business services; manufacturing; and general government services. Jo’burg has also been a hot spot for gold and diamond mining, with the headquarters of both Anglo American and De Beers lying in the city (The Local, 2015).

During the Apartheid (1948-1994), the National Party instituted segregation across South Africa in order to restore white supremacy. Along with the physical separation of moving non-white South Africans out of the white, urban areas, the government also worked to create wealth and power separation between non-whites and whites, offering non-whites inferior education, decreasing their access to high-level jobs. The Apartheid was able to decrease intra-race disparities, as the whites were all extended increased opportunities and non-whites were all suppressed, solely because of their races. Thus, although the intra-race inequality decreased, the wealth gap between whites and non-whites widened (Linford, 2011). In order to fully ensure white dominance, the National Party dedicated itself to advancing the welfare of white South Africans, working to improve the standing of poor white. Subsequently, poor people of European background benefited greatly from the Apartheid, as they could move up classes and bypass even higher-educated non-whites. The Apartheid lasted five decades, though, and the National Party became more lenient at times (specifically in the 1970s), allowing some highly educated non-white South Africans to obtain higher-level jobs. However, lower skill jobs, such as in mining, slowly began to diminish, leaving many poorly educated non-whites without jobs, which reversed the earlier trend and increased the inequality even within races (Linford, 2011).

The economic ripple effects from the Apartheid are very prevalent in South African, most notably in Johannesburg. The Apartheid officially ended in 1994, and allowed more opportunity for class mobility. Past Apartheid laws have been destroyed and educated non-whites are now able to land professional jobs (Linford, 2011). However, given the many years of the Apartheid and the fact it ended just 20 years ago, the vast majority of the black population is left uneducated and without desirable skills. Jo’burg serves as a great example of the current discrepancies resulting from the Apartheid. Besides all of the large office buildings, many belonging to multinational corporations, one thing I have noticed while traveling around Jo’burg are the cars. I usually find that the types of cars I see in different areas are a good, general gauge of the wealth in the area, especially because of the high vehicle taxes and gas prices that many countries face. While being in Jo’burg, I’ve seen several luxury cars, including multiple Ferraris and a surplus of BMWs and Mercedes. Based off observation, the majority of drivers of these vehicles appear to be whites and coloreds.

Alex

Alexandra Township, outside Johannesburg Source: http://2summers.net/2011/10/03/alex-joburgs-other-township/

In addition, when traveling around Jo’burg, it isn’t unusual to quickly transition back and forth between clearly wealthy areas to, what many would consider, slums. In Johannesburg, I’ve noticed that the townships, mostly filled with crammed, handmade shacks, are integrated with the city. Contrastingly, in Cape Town, the townships were more on the outskirts of the city, and I couldn’t notice the poverty as easily. Earlier this week, we spent time working at a Primary School (Ekukhanyisweni – students graduate once they can pronounce the name of the school correctly) in one of Jo’burg’s townships, Alexandra (or Alex). At the school, we were lucky enough to donate shoes, backpacks and school supplies to the students. The kids were beyond excited to get a new pair of shoes, and when looking at the conditions of the shoes they had been wearing, it was truly shocking and disheartening.

From my aforementioned experience in Alexandra and my exposure to South Africa throughout the past three weeks, it is very clear that the country still faces vast economic disparities and that race still plays a major role in these wealth differences. The government is working to improve the post-Apartheid country through governmental redistribution of income through progressive taxes, as well as through the creation of social programs to aid the poor. Even with these efforts, the successes of the earlier Apartheid regime in promoting the advancement of whites still appear to prevail, and the many years of whites utilizing their economic position to obtain excellent education result in the extremely varied pattern of income distribution. Thus, the government needs to focus more on funding the public school system, specifically in townships, so that blacks are able to receive the proper education that they have been deprived for so long.

Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president of South Africa, once famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Increasing the education levels of black South Africans can greatly help eliminate race-driven poverty and create a better South Africa for all its people.

References

 

Linford, Andrew. (2011). Inequality Trends in South Africa. GeoCurrents. Retrieved from

http://www.geocurrents.info/economic-geography/inequality-trends-in-south-africa

The Local Government Handbook. (2015). Gauteng (Yes Media). Pretoria, South Africa:

Retrieved from http://www.localgovernment.co.za/provinces/view/3/gauteng

Statistics South Africa. (2015). City of Johannesburg (Statistics South Africa). Pretoria, South

Africa: Retrieved from http://beta2.statssa.gov.za/?page_id=1021&id=city-of-

johannesburg-municipality

South African Museums: If You Build It, Will They Come?

South African Museums: If You Build It, Will They Come?

IMG_0556Can a museum sustain itself financially if there are few visitors? It seems as though many of the museums and attractions that we have visited, including Constitution Hill, the Cradle of Humankind, Liliesleaf Farm, and Lesedi Cultural Village have had very few visitors while we were there. In fact, at some we were the only ones. At the attractions where there were others, from asking the visitors it seems as though they were almost all foreigners and tourists, not South Africans.IMG_0589

While some museums and attractions are funded privately, many of the museums we visited are funded publicly. The question that this poses is, how can the South Africa Department of Tourism get not only more tourists to visit these places, but locals and keep it financial sensible? It is summer in South Africa and some schools are not in session, so there may not be many field trips with locals to these museums, however, that does not explain the lack of tourists, as it is South Africa’s busy season (South African Tourism, 2013). So how has the investment in the museums paid off, and how can they be financially sustainable?

Case Study: Maropeng, The Cradle of Humankind

IMG_0515When we first arrived at Maropeng, there were few visitors there besides us and another school group. However, there were several employees including tour guides, gift shop workers, food workers, and other museum staff. The Cradle of Humankind has several locations, and in total, it turns out that there are 7,000 permanent and 2,200 “casual” employees (Maropeng, 2015). In addition to the payment of the employees, the Gauteng Provincial Government has “invested over R250 million in roads and bulk infrastructure in the two destinations in order to boost tourism development” (Maropeng, 2015). If each day was as busy as the day that we went, it seems as though the investment may not be paying off. Also, “In October 2003, the Gauteng Provincial Government entered into a contract valued at R163 million with Maropeng a’Afrika Leisure (Pty) Ltd for the construction, design and operation of world-class visitor exhibition and recreational facilities showcasing the site. This Public Private Partnership is the first of its kind, a concession agreement requiring Maropeng a’Afrika Leisure (Pty) Ltd to pay an annual concession fee which government will invest in community benefit projects and in scientific research” (Maropeng, 2015). While the scientific research is a benefit to the community and the world, the government may be spending too much money.

When the museum opened in 2005, it was expected to receive 500,000 annual visitors (News24, 2005). At an average cost of R100 (Maropeng, 2015), even with 500,000 visitors the museum would only be collecting R50 million annually. With a monthly minimum wage of R2,065 (Labour Department, 2014) for 7,000 employees, that is a total salary budget of more than R173 million. This means that either the employees are not being fairly compensated or the Gauteng Provincial Government is subsidizing the extra funds. This does not even factor in any museum operating expenses, and it’s at the 500,000 expected annual visitors. However, this also does not factor in any food or gift shop items sold. Still, there is a large disconnect between the money that is being taken in and the expenses of running a museum.

Final Thoughts

It is hard to say what the South African Department of Tourism and local governments should do about this problem, however it seems as though there is a large problem in the money being collected and spent. It is such a challenge for these organizations because these museums contain such important information and are grounds of research organizations; however, they cannot continue to operate without making money. 

References:

(2005). Mbeki opens Maropeng centre. News24. Retrieved from http://www.news24.com/SciTech/News/Mbeki-opens-Maropeng-centre-20051207

Maropeng a’Afrika and the Cradle of Humankind. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.maropeng.co.za/content/page/about

South African Department of Labour. (2014). Correction Notice Domestic Worker 2014 [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.labour.gov.za/DOL/downloads/legislation/sectoraldeterminations/basic-conditions-of- employment/Correction%20Notice%20Domestic%20worker%202014.pdf

South African Department of Tourism. (2013). Total Tourists [Data file]. Retrieved   from http://www.southafrica.net/uploads/files/Tourists_Table_A_DEC2013_12052014_1.pdf

All photos taken by and are property of Zach Strohmeyer.

The Informal Economy: A Growing Industry

When walking around Cape Town, especially around St. George’s Mall, where our hotel is located, one of the first things that you notice is the massive amount of vendors lining many of the streets. The areas where the vendors set up are normally very crowded, as there are usually more formal stores on the outside with the vendors’ stands in the middle of the road. At first, the majority of vendors come off as very pushy and dishonest, just trying to cheat a foreigner out of as much money as possible. It also appears there is little structure, as each vendor constructs his or her own stand every morning, presumably wherever he or she wants. In addition, when considering more developed countries, it is assumed that these informal markets are the traditional economy that will slowly disappear with modern, industrial growth.111

The informal economy, however, has a very long, important history and it is essential to understand the practice within the context of this history and its political background and how it has influenced economic, legal and social development initiatives to date. During the apartheid era (1948-1994), the words informal, black and illegal were often treated almost synonymously with unwanted economic activity. Therefore, most informal selling, especially in informal centers was defined as illegal, and most black businesses were treated as completely illegal (Van Der Heijden 4). Because of this, the local government tended to approach the informal economy as a problem and developed laws and policies accordingly. However, many organizations are beginning to highlight the importance of the informal economy through conferences such as the Informal Trading Summit, which is meant to open dialogue between the City of Cape Town and stakeholders in the informal economy and provide a platform to review the City’s legislative and policy framework (Informal Trading).

One of the main reasons the informal economy is so important is because of its size. Although difficult to measure because of its informal nature, some estimates value the informal sector at around 28% of South Africa’s GDP (Van Der Heijden 7). Therefore, the size of the informal economy is estimated at R160 billion, or $13 billion, which is 2.5 times as large as the entire agriculture sector, or 70% of the size of the mining sector. Although trade is the most important sub-sector of the informal sector, there is a very wide range of economic activities that are included in the informal sector, making it almost as diverse as the formal sector.

Due to its aforementioned size and support, the informal economy is developing a new role in the overall economy, and many people are promoting a “new view” for local government to take on in regards to the development of policy around the informal economy. For one, the new view states the informal economy is “here to stay” and will continue to expand with modern, industrial growth, rather than wither away and die. Also, in terms of productivity, the old view looked at the informal economy as marginally productive, while the new view considers the informal economy a major provider of employment, goods and services for lower-income groups, contributing a significant share of GDP. In addition, rather than being representing a reserve pool of surplus labor, the new view explains the recent rise of informal employment as relating to the decline in formal employment or to the in-formalization of previous formal employment relationships. Lastly, the informal sector is often looked at as containing entrepreneurs who run illegal and unregistered enterprises in order to avoid regulation and taxation. However, the new view looks at the informal sector as comprised of non-standard wage workers, as well as entrepreneurs and self-employed persons, producing legal goods and services through irregular or unregulated means. They would welcome efforts to reduce barriers to registration and related transaction costs and to increase benefits from regulation (Van Der Heijden 11).

The informal sector of the South African economy is clearly essential, especially with the country being in a post-apartheid state. During the apartheid, many people were forced out of their homes and into overcrowded rural areas with the intent of segregation. A lot of these people are still stuck in these areas, which don’t have formal infrastructure or regulation for businesses (along with many other towns across the country), making informal business one of their only options to survive and put food on the table. Walking around Cape Town and some of the local townships, you quickly notice the informal economies, and when taking a closer look, you start to realize it’s a real, effective system and really is part of the South African culture and necessary for the South African people’s advancement.

Sources

“Informal Trading or Citizen Traders?” Cape Craft + Design Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Jan.

  1. <http%3A%2F%2Fccdi.org.za%2Fmedia-room%2Fericas-blog%2Finformal-

trading-or-citizen-traders>.

Van Der Heijden, Tracy. “Making the Informal Economy Visible.” Ed. Caroline Skinner. South

African Local Government Association (2012): n. pag. June 2012. Web. 16 Jan. 2015.

<http://led.co.za/sites/led.co.za/files/cabinet/orgname-

raw/document/2012/municipal_informal_economy_guidelines_final_june2012_v2_0.pdf>.

Poverty in Cape Town, South Africa

As a member of the Venda group, I have been very interested in South Africa’s economic standing and levels of poverty in its cities. In the city of Cape Town, the economic statuses of its citizens is stratified. For instance, the homes by the Waterfront are large and beautiful, but homes more inland are shanty and much smaller. There is also a noticeable population of homeless people living on the streets of the city. I was shocked to see as many homeless people as I did. With that said, I began drawing parallels between this poverty and homelessness in South Africa with what I have seen back home in the US. As a Long Island native, I chose to focus on New York City, specifically, as my comparison point.

One common trend that I have noticed among homeless and impoverished people in Cape Town is begging. Quite often, homeless people will ask you for money or food when you walk by or they will make a point to come up to you and beg. For example, one night after dinner as we were walking back to our bus, we walked passed a tattered woman, with a child on her hip, asking for money as we passed. Our bus driver was kind enough to lend her a few rand. Something like this is common to see in New York, and is something that I’ve experienced before. However, many New Yorkers will not give money to the beggars, but will give them food or leftovers.

In contrast with New York beggars, Cape Town beggars will boldly approach city goers and ask for money or donations. Once at dinner at the Waterfront (which is also a touristy place), two young girls approached my outdoor restaurant table and blatantly asked for my friends and me to donate money to help them pay for dance school. This kind of begging I have not been exposed to before and was very taken aback that the girls approached us during dinner

Next, on our free day, some friends and I took a train to a Western Cape beach. While on the train, two men walked through the car singing and begging for money or food. They walked through twice. Then about twenty minutes later, a young, unaccompanied boy walked through the car and asked anyone if they had food to spare. My friends and I felt guilty that we didn’t have any food for this little boy and wondered if his parents were also asking for food in adjacent train cars. On the Subway in New York City, both types of beggars can be seen: those who sing or perform for money or those who will approach the commuter as ask for money or food.

Finally, a commonality I’ve observed in Cape Town is the tendency of homeless people to use pathos while begging. Tourists sympathize with mothers holding children, for example, or people who are handicapped or disabled. People in New York will also try to appeal to tourists’ emotions, but are more likely to do it through the use of animals, such as dogs or rabbits.

While writing this blog post, I decided to research ways in which members of the city of Cape Town are helping the situation, and I came across an interesting opinion piece by Alexandra Seiler of CapeTownMagazine.com. In her article, Seiler explains how she believes that by giving beggars money simply perpetuates their situations and that “homeless people make enough money begging to avoid starvation, but not enough to change their situation… Giving beggars money adds fuel to the fire, and keeps them on the street.” Therefore’ Seiler suggests that Cape Town citizens should use other methods to help the homeless instead. These suggestions include: buying food, buying entry passes to homeless shelters, and donating to homeless charities and organizations. I happen to agree with Seiler on this issue. I think poverty and homelessness is a critical issue that needs to be resolved, but I also think donating to charities and giving the homeless food instead of giving money to beggars is a better use of resources.
References

Seiler, A. (2015). Please, Sir, have you got some change? How you can really help. CapeTownMagazine.com. Retrieved from http://www.capetownmagazine.com/social/please-sir-have-you-got-some-change-how-you-can-really-help/118_22_19113

The Informal Economy: Cape Town Entrepreneurs

The Informal Economy: Cape Town Entrepreneurs

Over the last almost two weeks in Cape Town, one thing that has struck me as very different from the United States is the structure of local business. Many of these businesses are very informal and take place in the form of a market, where several people set up shops and sell their clothing and other souvenir items. In the year 2000, the GDP was 28.4% made up from the informal sector, and in 2007 it employed 18.5% of the total employment of South Africa (Blaauw).

While walking around Cape Town, it’s easy to notice that there is definitely a mixture of types of businesses – from the big companies like ABSA, to smaller mom-and-pop stores and restaurants. But there is also this large undeniable informal sector of Cape Town Entrepreneurs. It’s been amazing to see so many different types of entrepreneurs and what they’re selling or doing to try and earn a living. This is likely because of the very high unemployment rate, which is above 25% (statssa.gov). People all over Cape Town are doing whatever they can, and using whatever resources they have, to create some sort of income.

Some of the interesting entrepreneurs that I have seen so far are:

  • All of the vendors at the market
  • People performing/doing tricks for money
  • Selling snacks and candy on the trains
  • Offering tours of Cape Town

What’s so interesting is that it’s not the typical American entrepreneur who wears a suit every day and creates a company that sells mass products or services. It’s one person who is trying to support their family to be able to make a life for their children so that they can be educated and get a better paying job. It’s not because they don’t want to work in a cubicle or “be their own boss,” but it’s because no one will hire them. They make the best of their circumstances to provide for their families.

One of the major areas of entrepreneurship in the Cape Town area is art; at the marketplace there are many stations that claim to sell “original pieces.” The problem with this is that many of these pieces are not original, but rather imported from China. Instead of encouraging people to sell imported products, the local economy should encourage selling truly local and handmade art. This would help people become artists and sell their own work that they have a passion for, rather than selling something just to make a living.

An example of a local business that is striving to change the way local artists work is “Monkey Biz,” a local store that we traveled to as a class. They empower artists by giving them beading material and then buying back their art pieces. This encourages artists to be artists, rather than salespeople selling something that they don’t believe in. If the local economy can push this trend, then art truly can change the economy of South Africa and the lives of its people!

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Works Cited:

Work & Labour Force. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://beta2.statssa.gov.za/?page_id=737&id=1

Blaauw, D. (2011, October 12). The Informal Sector: An African Perspective. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.thedti.gov.za/sme_development/sumit/Informal sector an African perspective Prof Derick Blaauw.pdf