Skills needed to move from the street vendor to the shop owner
Oosthuizen, Christiaan Lourens
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South Africa as a young and developing country is facing various problems including high unemployment and low levels of skills development among its people. Job seekers get stuck in the unemployment category for very long periods of time; finally they reach a point where they do not have any other option than to venture into the informal sector in order to raise income to survive. Informal trading or street vending has long been an emotive issue: some view it as a symptom of developmental backwardness which needs to be resolved; others view it as a positive dynamic which enables large numbers of people to gain a foothold in the urban economy. When comparing the informal sector of South Africa with the informal sector of other developing countries, it is clear that South Africa is underdeveloped in this sector and desperately need development and growth to ensure that more street vendors will be able to take the leap and become part of the formal sector. A qualitative research study is needed to be able to identify the shortcomings and barriers existing within the informal sector. It is important to know the intellectual capabilities and knowledge of the street vendors since this is one of the biggest reasons for not being able to run any business at its fullest potential. The infrastructure gap between what is available and what is needed as a street vendor is important to ensure that the skills development programs planned do not fail. Traders locate themselves at strategic points where there is a lot of human traffic that will increase their chances of making a sale. Different structures are used by traders including tables, racks, wheel burrows, handcarts, and even bicycle seats to display the goods that are on offer by the trader. Other traders display their goods on the ground over mats or carry it on their hands, heads or shoulders. Most street vendors operate in places that lack infrastructure and services such as access roads, water, electricity, refuse collection, sanitary and storage facilities. The resources and attributes needed to be a successful street vendor are the same resources and attributes needed for an entrepreneur to successfully start, run and grow a business. Knowing the needs of a street vendor will allow governments and private companies to design specific programs and workshops that will address and eliminate the problems. Street vendors need to receive adequate and specifically designed training aimed at different skills levels since not all vendors are on the same level. The training should include programs on financial, marketing, bargaining and management skills. The local government along with private companies should get involved in providing the necessary infrastructure to ensure success in the informal sector. With the right development programs street vending in South Africa can become a large contributor to the national GDP and relieving unemployment. Making a successful transition from street vendor to shop owner will require the full commitment from all the role players. List of key terms: street vendor, informal trade, entrepreneurship, skills, training.