Economic Impact of the 'Happy Hawker': Africa's 'Informal Sector', Ignored by Government Statisticians, Is in Fact a Vital, Bustling, Non-Stop Hive of Activity Worth Billions of Dollars. Now the South African Government Wants to Use This Sector to Grow the Economy and Create Jobs. Tom Nevin Reports

By Nevin, Tom | African Business, August-September 2004 | Go to article overview

Economic Impact of the 'Happy Hawker': Africa's 'Informal Sector', Ignored by Government Statisticians, Is in Fact a Vital, Bustling, Non-Stop Hive of Activity Worth Billions of Dollars. Now the South African Government Wants to Use This Sector to Grow the Economy and Create Jobs. Tom Nevin Reports


Nevin, Tom, African Business


On the highways and byways of Johannesburg, Nairobi, Mogadishu, Dakar and other African towns and cities, they're the 'happy hawkers'--a cheerful, bustling throng of roadside traders from whom you can buy, or so the word on the street says, anything from the latest digital camera to a toothpick.

Now the South African government wants to use 'Hawker-Power' to create more jobs and fight poverty.

Africa's economy has always been a 24-hour one--a restless, subtly shifting and ever active continental network of markets and meeting places that ignores borders and regulated business hours, lets the market decide on rates and margins and is endlessly inventive, proactive and reactive to the forces that shape and drive it every single second of each day of the year.

Its grapevine-like communications system distributes information in ways that are incomprehensible to formal commerce. The knowledge-gathering and circulating system never sleeps, and the African informal economy could not exist without it.

Nowhere is Africa's informal economy more a power-play than in Gauteng--South Africa's industrial and commercial hub that is a supermarket to the continent.

For years economists and other researchers have tried to put a figure to the money that flows through this 'other economy'; but the numbers are hopelessly disparate, simply because no-one keeps tabs. Best estimates say the South African informal sector turns over about R32bn each year, or about 10% of the country's retail trade.

Now a government taskforce is meeting with the cities' alfresco vendors to find ways of fusing the talent, energy and street smarts of hawkers into an enabling environment for small, medium and micro-enterprises.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

HAWKER COMMUNITY IS ORGANISED

Sprawling and chaotic though it may seem, the hawker community is organised through the African Council of Hawkers and Informal Business (Achib). Council boss, as secretary-general, is Livingstone Mantanga and he says he's encouraged by what he describes as "government's changing attitudes to our people."

"Government is realising that we are businesspeople who are making an honest living and could contribute immensely to job creation and economic growth," he says.

A move that could edge the informal trader community closer to the economic mainstream is the Apex Fund, a scheme recently unveiled by President Thabo Mbeki that seeks to bring about a measure of togetherness between the street-side trader and formal small business.

It will also work closely with the R1bn Agricultural Credit Scheme, a funding conduit for small-scale farmers, a possible source of fresh produce.

One plan that's making sense to small-scale buyer and informal trader will see the opening of branches in areas close to hawkers' homes.

This will reduce the cost of transport that is usually factored in on the selling price of informal traders' products, such as fruit and vegetables. South Africa has close on a quarter of a million such farmers who, if supported, could produce directly for local and regional markets where many hawkers make a living.

A MYSTICAL WORLD OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND

Closer cooperation between hawkers and prescribed commerce will help to unlock some of the almost mystical workings of pavement economies.

It was with some pride that the 'civilised' world announced some years ago the advent of their 24-hour economy, driven by "The New Economy". The truth is that the 'new' 24-hour economy is only a couple of thousand years behind its African predecessor.

Just as the traditional African hawker way of business succeeds in its own particular ethos, so too does the New Economy, but in different ways. Is there something the one can learn from the other?

In the first place, African street operators are becoming more sophisticated and trade-smart than many appreciate and not a little of the progress can be attributed to the ubiquitous cellphone. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Economic Impact of the 'Happy Hawker': Africa's 'Informal Sector', Ignored by Government Statisticians, Is in Fact a Vital, Bustling, Non-Stop Hive of Activity Worth Billions of Dollars. Now the South African Government Wants to Use This Sector to Grow the Economy and Create Jobs. Tom Nevin Reports
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.