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Title: The Improtance of Soweto Small Business

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During apartheid, black South Africans weren’t allowed to fully enter small business-manships alongside whites. Black entrepreneurs were lawfully forced out of business sectors and traditional open market concepts, and instead forced to collect revenue from storefronts setup underneath tarps and reinvented carports and garages. Out of necessity Soweto entrepreneurs created a collective culture of entrepreneurship that is unadulterated and simply ingenious.

With 3 million strong, Soweto remains one of the most populated areas in South Africa. It has remained a very independent fortress of small business trade that has given many of the less educated and skilled workers the ability to survive, and even acquire some small luxuries such as a television or vacuum. In short, small business in Soweto has allowed for an eco-system of fluid currency in which the rand was able to circulate a few times before leaving.

Many of Soweto’s home-based business function around the necessities -- mostly food and drink. Garages converted into bars, small culinary explosions underneath tarps, groceries by roadside, barbers cutting outdoors-- these businesses are the heart-and-soul of the township, and as more and more blacks enter the middle-class, more and more of these Mom and Pop (or Auntie) shops are dying. Leaving behind only Soweto’s hard-core entreprenuers, often classified as “survivalist self-employed.” These survivalist eke out a living doing piece jobs or trading.

Most would pin moving one’s business from tarp to a strip mall as progress. And indeed, it is economic progress for the individual (and possibly a handful of employees). But it undercuts a community that is still suffering the effects of economic and social apartheid. Now the rand is circulating through the population less frequently before leaving for more prosperous areas.

Since the end of apartheid many blacks have discovered better economic opportunities. As more civil service and professional positions open up, less blacks find themselves served by the older economic tenements of brick-and-mortar entrepreneurship. Many consider this type of entrepreneurship to be that of the survivalists, those eking out a living doing odd-jobs and through small trade operations.

Nearly 66% of Soweto residents classify themselves as “phakathi” or middle-class. Although this statistic is based on attitude and idealism more than assets. Many that consider themselves middle-class don’t make more than their working class counterparts and still live in backyard shacks. But they have an conceptualized view of middle-classdom based on accoutrements and acquisition, of which if they have obtained qualifies them as part of this rat-pack middle-class. And to keep up with the Joneses, those beckoning to become part of the middle will leave the lower-class behind.

Although there is discrepancy in self-reporting, the University of Cape Town’s Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing released a study showing the black middle class had doubled over the past eight years, and has outnumbered the white middle class. As the more successful entrepreneurs become reclassified, or mainstream, they begin to live, shop, and even bank elsewhere -- slicing through the currency flow of the area.

Due to long-standing segregation townships such as Soweto have a hog-podge of residents. Everyone from the barber, school teacher, two-bit hustler, and maid were forced to survive together. This variation in professional aptitude, skill-set, and income has allowed Soweto to survive at room temperature for decades -- not too cold and not too hot. Now with many more successful folks moving out of the township for less egregious environments, poorer residents are being left to fend for themselves and the township is becoming ever more violent.

For the first time, Sowetans are finding opportunities for business and professions online. This online exposure, through sites like Gumtree, are opening up a whole new world of opportunity that had not existed even 10 years ago. Making the temptation to live the township even greater.

For Sowetans to survive and thrive, small entrepreneurship must remain a staple of the community. And current residents, and those that have recently moved away, must continue to spend their income within the township with small businesses.

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The Improtance of Soweto Small Business

Date Added: October 29, 2013 4:47 PM

Uploaded By: Rivers S.

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"business for sale", "middle class in south africa", "soweto", "soweto middle class"

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