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The spaza sector in South Africa is changing (iafrikan.com)
25 points by iafrikan 40 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 9 comments

This was really insightful. Despite being South African and having grown up and lived around Cape Town most of my life (the last three decades) this article is quite illuminating.

Agreed. If you’re interested, there’s a book called The Kasinomic Revolution by GG Alcock that dives into the potential (and importance) of the informal sector of South Africa’s economy. It doesn’t go into the employee exploitation that the article covers but has some truly amazing insights.

South Africa's economy is a mess, and worsening rapidly. The finance minister was due to present the budget today; I haven't checked up on it. Debt to gdp ratio doubled over the last decade. Moodys was the only remaining non-junk rating - may be about to change too.

> Some were earning as little as R400 (about US$27,22) per month.

I find this horrible to parse, though presumably you get the hang of it eventually. I assumed it was missing a zero until I looked up the exchange rate. A grim situation (the wage).

The problem with the argument is that they distinguish between 'informal because it's the only choice' and 'illegal law evading scumbags slumlords'. So if you follow that line of thinking, if you enjoy only slight success with your informal business, you become the scumbag and should be bulldozered. That's tantamount to reducing township inhabitants to beggars. Given the history of these areas, it's extremely unfortunate.

That seems like an important distinction to make for observation, I mean if you want to write a paper about what's going on, lumping these things together may be very misleading.

It's indeed a bit delicate for governments to make different rules based on size, but many do, there are lots of rules you don't have to follow until you have 50 employees, etc, in many countries. They don't exactly bulldoze you at 51, but they do incentivize staying under this.

But the size of the gap just sounds just crazy here, "labour laws ... retail workers must earn at least R3,701 per month" compared to "earning as little as R400 ... per month" -- call it a factor 40 between the legal minimum wage, and the going wage which provides these (useful, even essential) services. That's a big gap to bridge!

That's a good point. It would be perfectly reasonable to enforce some labour rules there. I don't think the article is all bad and some of the things mentioned definitely can't continue.

A super-interesting book on all this is Jonny Steinberg "A Man of Good Hope". Or at least partly on this, the man in question is a Somali who goes many places, but one of his jobs is to work in such stores. And his inside perspective is very different to TFA's fairly academic interview-some-people one.

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