25 July 2012
Most young people living in Cape Town’s townships are unemployed and have little chance of getting a job.
Many, seeing no other way to earn an income, turn to crime, or will live their entire lives depending on a government grant or support from family members.
But there’s another flourishing, exciting and hopeful side of township youth: those that have set up small businesses and against difficult odds are managing to make a living. Some of them are more than making ends meet; they are thriving.
Many immigrants are also amongst the city’s small business entrepreneurs. Often the victims of scorn and violence, some of their businesses thrive despite adversity, like Prince Ikenna from Nigeria who runs a hair salon and cosmetics shop in Parow or Admire Siya from Zimbabwe who runs a computer gadget repair shop in Gardens.
Setting up a business is extremely difficult. It requires opportunity, usually some capital, knowledge of how to run a business, extremely hard work and a fair amount of luck to survive. Women have a particularly hard challenge to overcome. Nonyameko Sowazi runs a meat stand in Khayelitsha, but she could not start it until her husband died because, in Nonyameko’s words, he believed that “a woman’s place was to make babies and be in the kitchen”.
Some business owners make less money than if they were employed. But as Monica Tshoko who runs a vetkoek hub in Khayelitsha says, “Others love carrying their bags to work everyday and reporting to a boss. I like to employ myself and not be accountable to anyone but myself.”
For Nkululeko Tuntubele, starting his bar was an alternative to descent into criminality. And for Richard Handel, who spends his days running a spaza shop in Montevideo, it’s something to keep him busy.
This week’s GroundUp issue focuses on small township and immigrant business owners. We hope these stories show a positive and inspiring side of the city that many people are only vaguely aware of.