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Economic empowerment of women in the informal African craft industry: The case of Tembisa

Louisa D. Jokia    
Elana Swanepoel    
Marius Venter    


AbstractOrientation: In Tembisa, within the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, women sell woven baskets and traditional beaded accessories, trading informally. The baskets have both functional and aesthetic values, as they are used for interior decoration. The skill of weaving is passed on from generation to generation.Research purpose: To investigate the business model used, the skills needed and the opportunities and support measures available to these craft traders to empower them to transition from being informal traders to becoming formal craft traders.Motivation for the study: Little is known about the women who sell crafts informally in Tembisa. The literature has revealed that the majority of informal traders in South Africa are women from poor communities. It is not known whether opportunities, support measures and sources of funding are available in the local municipality and community to assist these craft traders in transitioning from the informal to the formal sector.Research approach/design and method: A mixed-methods research approach was adopted. A quantitative survey using a structured questionnaire enabled data collection from 32 traders. Through in-depth interviews, information on current programmes by the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and the Moses Molelekwa Centre were obtained.Main findings: This research revealed that the African craft business is seasonal, depending on the supply of weaving material and cultural and other functions. Most of the traders were not South African and were not interested in transitioning from the informal to the formal sector. Both the municipality and the centre offered programmes to assist informal traders to transition from the informal to the formal sector.Practical/managerial implications: Only a few of the respondents were South African. It is essential to ensure that the skill of weaving continues and be elevated to lucrative business. Owing to the fact that informal businesses purchase from formal business, government programmes should focus more on supporting informal business to be successful without requiring them to be formalised.Contribution/value-add: The business model of the craft traders in Tembisa has been unpacked. Insight has been gained into their economic challenges and the measures that a local authority could implement to empower and assist these women.

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