Immigrant township traders becoming a force to be reckoned with

Immigrant traders operating in South Africa’s townships are becoming more competitive, said Gill Mkhasibe, managing director of The Alternative Consultancy (TAC).

“This is an area that anyone in the retail trade in this country needs to have a look at because these guys are getting bigger and stronger,” she said during a presentation, titled The changing face of township retail, at the recent African Congress of Shopping Centres in Cape Town.

“There are thousands and thousands of immigrant traders operating in the townships. They have totally revitalised the township retail trade.”

According to Mkhasibe, most of the immigrant traders are from Somali, Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin. She added that they are traders as opposed to the survivalists in the townships.

“They start their businesses with larger amounts of cash than South Africans, so you’ve got a much bigger product range in their stores. They retail and wholesale from the same premises. They are actually developing into wholesalers at the rate they are moving,” she explained.

Mkhasibe said the only thing preventing immigrant traders from further developing their businesses is their illegality, although some are marrying South Africans in order to overcome this.

South Africa’s townships are residential areas that were reserved for black citizens during the country’s apartheid regime.

The TAC specialises in marketing to township traders and consumers.