Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Empowering women traders and entrepreneurs in Cape Town

On Saturday and Monday I attended two events which show how much is going on quietly behind the scenes to empower women in business in Cape Town.

The first was the Ward 57 Women Economic Empowerment Symposium, the second was the launch of a campaign to equip small traders with a sales kit to sell cigarettes backed up by the very innovative M4JAM system of making extra money. Women make up the bulk of informal traders in this part of the world, particularly on the Cape Flats. Though on the margins of the economy, some of them are breaking into bigger markets and developing products that can compete in the formal economy. Events such as these give a boost to that momentum.

The Ward 57 event was organised by the DA Women's Network, DAWN, and a big "well done" is due to Sumaya Taliep and her team who put it together. Around 100 women arrived and there was a very high-spirited and positive atmosphere.

The speaker line-up included Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities in the Western Cape Government, and the head of the WC Red Tape Reduction Unit Raybin Windvogel. There were also brief presentations from the Small Enterprise Finance Agency, the National Empowerment Fund and Business Partners. All spoke of the opportunities they offered small business, including both financial
and non-financial support.

One of the women asked why she was forced to get R20 million worth of indemnity insurance for a tiny shop fitting contract worth just a couple of thousand rands that took two days to complete? It cost her R400 in premiums while the profit on the job was only R1 200. This is red tape at its worst, surely!

Alan spoke of the Western Cape having the lowest unemployment rate of any province in South Africa, as well as the best record of job creation even though it is less than half the size of Gauteng's economy. Raybin spoke of the successes they were having in reducing red tape across the province, not just in provincial departments but local and national too. The slide above gives some of their success stories.

At the function I met Rosheda Muller from the South African Informal Traders Alliance (pictured here at the Athlone function standing third from right). We had a good laugh when I reminded her we'd met nearly four years ago when my then-company Adele Lucas Promotions was appointed to run the Cape Town Night Market, the City's annual December market for informal traders. It's a long story but in the end we re-branded it as the Cape Town Summer Market and moved it to the Company's Garden. In my speech I said this was the most difficult event we had ever had to manage, mainly due to the behaviour of the traders. Rosheda invited me to attend an event she was putting on in Athlone on Monday and I gladly obliged.

This was the launch of a project aimed at giving small traders an opportunity to make more money, both by selling cigarettes from a small trolley and earning easy cash by doing market research.

This is a partnership between Rosheda's traders association, Philip Morris and M4JAM. It works like this:

Philip Morris provides the traders with the trolley stocked with cigarettes, tobacco, matches and snuff, for free. They sell this stock then go back to approved wholesales for more. In plying their trade, they gather information for Philip Morris and other businesses and organisations who use it for market research. This process is facilitated by M4JAM (click on their website here) who have devised a very simple method of paying people to do this sort of research.

(An interesting aside: I could not figure out what the BYC banners were all about. It turns out this is the slogan - Because You Can - Philip Morris uses to get around the restrictive cigarette advertising regulations.)

The M4JAM story is worth a blog post of its own but this will have to do for now - it's the sort of innovative business model made possible by the convergence of technologies such as mobile phones, mobile internet and mobile payments. It has enormous potential in developing markets where big brands find it hard to penetrate the informal sector, which in South Africa accounts for nearly one third of Philip Morris' sales.

Even though the M4JAM process is so simple, only 4% of their 80 000 users are unemployed. Most users see it as a way of earning extra money to make ends meet.

(Note dated 5th August: M4JAM PR company Waggener Edstrom Communications wrote to me with an update, saying "we have launched a website, which means that jobbers will be able to access jobs directly off that platform as well as from WeChat. That means users with feature phones will then be able to ‘job’ as they will no longer need the app".

Sadly I had to leave the event before it kicked off but not before the star attraction arrived - Mark Lottering, pictured here with one of the traders and Angus McKenzie who works for Philip Morris and is Chairman of the DA branch in Ward 2 of the City of Cape Town.

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