Informal traders, mainly women in Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape, have called on the Small Business Development ministry to prioritise micro businesses owned by women from impoverished households. Rural women are confronted by socio-economic challenges due to joblessness.

Thick smoke coming out of the bushes in this Wild Coast resort town suggests that there are informal businesses. Rural women are seen watching over big black drums on fire. It’s a way of doing business in an effort to alleviate poverty.

DIFFICULT WORKING CONDITIONS

These women encounter many challenges from a lack of funding to violent crimes while doing their business. Nontsikelelo Manzingi says they are operating under difficult conditions and need government help.

“We endure various weather conditions; if it rains we are here, if it’s hot we are here cooking the maize and selling it. We are asking for help from government, we need support to pursue our businesses. Our husbands and children are not employed; we survive by selling maize on the street.”

Feziwe Khwhini says they can provide food for their children and send them to school.

“I am not working, but at least with this small business. I manage to send my children to school; one is at the university. I am also helping my grandmother, we are just poor but selling of the maize makes a difference in our lives.”

STRATEGIES TO STIMULATE INFORMAL BUSINESS GROWTH

Small Business Development Deputy Minister is Zoleka Capa says government has crafted comprehensive strategies to help informal business to grow and compete in the market space.

“We are helping them, reorganising them, but at times for emergency we give them equipment that themselves decide on like you fridges if they are dealing with food and equipment tables and chairs for their small business in the street. We make them covers and we give them means to prepare good food.”

Capa has urged rural women in the informal business sector to get together and form co-operatives.

“Rather than chasing big business, it’s better to be a co-operative because they will have an opportunity to buy in…By the time they are going to sell, they have already made the gain so they will be competitive.”

Poverty in the rural areas like Port St Johns is pushing many women to come up with survival strategies as levels of unemployment and inequality grow.