Informal food traders should not be demonised in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, warns Lunathi Hlakanyane, a Stellenbosch agricultural economist, in a candid interview with Food For Mzansi’s Farmer’s Inside Track podcast.
Hlakanyane tells Dawn Noemdoe it was rather ironic that law enforcement officials earlier heavily cracked down on these traders when their service was not only essential, but critically important to the economy. Informal food trading accounts for at least 40% of the township economy, supporting more than 500 000 people through direct earning.
“Job losses in the formal employment sector lead to an increase in the number of workers who create their own jobs through self-employment in the informal sector. So, in this sense, the informal sector acts as a shock-absorber in times of economic instability,” he says.
Hlakanyane describes the informal sector as a “very important layer” of the country’s economy. “Informal enterprises provide income and employment to an estimated 3 million employees and business owners. According to the latest data from Stats SA’s most recent labour force survey, 1 in 6 South Africans who are employed, work in the informal sector.”
Furthermore, the National Development Plan estimates that the sector will create between 1.2 and 2 million new jobs by 2030. According to Hlakanyane estimates with regards to the value of the informal sector vary wildly, with some valuing it at around 28% of South Africa’s total GDP.
He believes the crackdown on informal traders also compromised food accessibility for millions of vulnerable consumers. “It limited their choice while, with the same brush ,depleting a reliable source of income for street vendors who rely on such consumers for survival. By default, the regulation concentrated food supply to a rigidly impenetrable oligopoly composed of large-scale supermarket chains.”
Other podcast highlights
Noemdoe says episode 31 of the Farmer’s Inside Track podcast, which was released today, has many other hi ,ghlights too. The episode is titled “Young farmers keeping up faith like potatoes” to celebrate young agriculturists across the country during Youth Month, 44 years since the 1976 Soweto uprising.
“South Africa’s hottest agricultural podcast is back with a bang!” says Noemdoe. “This week we also catch up with Nezisa Sogoni, a business school and IT graduate turned poultry farmer. We are inspired by Farmers Choice founder Andile Matukane, who is also known as the Spinach Lady. And our farmers have selected Vusi: Business & life lessons from a black dragon by author Vusi Thembekwayo as their book of the week.
Dr Johnny van der Merwe is also back with the weekly AMT Fresh Produce Outlook on the market, analysing the latest fruit and vegetable prices.”
During the Youth Day celebrations on Tuesday, pres. Cyril Ramaphosa urged young people to lead the turnaround of the economy following the covid-19 pandemic.
He said that the country needed innovative and creativity to move forward. “We want young people who are going to speak out and step forward. Covid-19 is pregnant with opportunities. So, I am throwing a challenge to young people to begin to see post-covid-19. We need to set up different ways of running our economy, the ownership of the economy and managing our economy.”