The catalyst that South Africa needs to stimulate economic growth is not as elusive, complex and costly as people think. We know that we need to create millions of jobs to address the poverty and reduce the crime. We don’t need to make investments of billions in infrastructure to unleash this catalyst. We only need an attitude change in the business registration regime and in the board rooms of municipalities towards road-side traders.
The complaint of a local road-side trader, probably hailing from Nigeria or Somalia, might just be the inspiration that will draw millions of unemployed young people into the public trading business. He complained about the cost of the trading stand and the lack of facilities for overnight storage and when nature calls. Every night he has to break down his tent and pack up his products and cart it away, only to return and erect the tent and unpack the stock next morning.
Road-side traders are at their posts every day even when winds and rain force their regular pedestrian customers off the streets and into their homes. Luckily people shop from their cars on these days because of the protection, convenience and speed of shopping. Road-side traders may not make as many sales on these days but they stay in business. Their only complaints are the cost of the space and total lack of facilities alongside the road. The municipality owns the space and charges a fee.
A local green grocer from the community, also a road-side trader, who had been providing locals with fruit and vegetables two days a week for many years, was removed from her regular stand under trees near the beach by the local municipality after more than a decade of trading. She now has to park her truck next to the main road, where there is no protection against strong winds or pelting rain. She also has no storage convenience or access to facilities for personal needs. She employs five young people who unpack and pack the products and give buyers a helping hand. Her prices are reasonable and her products are of good quality. She keeps many house-holds alive.
Road-side trading is a common phenomenon in Africa and also in South-Africa. We need to think what metros and municipalities can do to improve the facilities and lives of these traders who render a crucial service to the poor and aged in providing quality food and clothing at reasonable prices.