Condoms :Thinking Beyond The Spaza Shop

The title of this article is probably how a lot of South Africans who run 10 spaza shops (that sell the same thing)in the same street in townships think. Well, it’s actually a silly metaphor but I hope it gets the message across.

To really revitalize the township economy we need to start thinking beyond the car washes and spaza shops. You can’t really blame the people who initiate these kind of businesses. These are the only types of businesses they know. If you go to a township and ask the ordinary guy in the street what kind of business they would like to start they will give you the following answers: spaza shop, car wash, shisanyama, bottlestore and selling kotas. There’s nothing wrong with this; the problem starts when everyone is thinking and doing just this.

I will quickly jump onto the solutions and suggest a couple of things we need to do to have a paradigm shift in this regard. Radical economic transformation will only come from this kind of radical thinking:

  1. Think in supply chain terms

If everyone in the township decides to start a car wash business we are only creating a consumer-based economy with little to no protection of the local economy. The only guy we are enriching is the guy who sells chemicals and equipment for car washes. We’re effectively taking money out of the township. What we need to do is protect the cash outflow by creating our own value chain. If Bro Mengaz starts a car wash, Bro Killer must open a chemical producing company so that he supplies Bro Mengaz. Bro M’tshepana should then supply plastic containers and so on. This creates a supply chain that will increase overall cashflow in the local economy and create jobs. It is more sustainable than when everyone owns a car wash.

2. Entrepreneurship training

Entrepreneurial spirit gets you started but it doesn’t guarantee you success. What makes successful entrepreneurs is the combination of entrepreneurial knowledge and spirit. If you go to where I come from I can bet, on a balance of probabilities, that 80% of the people don’t know about Uber, AirBnB, Walmart, Amazon etc. How do you expect people to innovate if they don’t know about innovation? Our people need to be trained and made aware of these kind of possibilities so that they can think beyond the spaza shop. The idea that they can run a car wash without washing cars at all is too far fetched for them. They cannot imagine a spaza without a physical shop.

The problem with not being able to think beyond the spaza shop is that you create a business that gets sick when you’re sick.The business dies with you.

Entrepreneurship training will assist our people with the skills to develop a business into an asset that would live beyond their lifespans. That’s the hallmark of wealth creation and economic emancipation. If you spent your lifetime running a business that depends on you to function you have just wasted the rest of your life. (I’m tempted to say it’s like the sperm racing during sex just to end up in a condom but I know it might create the wrong message so I take it back).

Entrepreneurship training will help our people about the importance of branding and marketing. People buy brands. Mcdonald’s Big Mac is not better than a lot of kotas I’ve eaten. However, people would still prefer it. It’s all about branding and packaging.

My name is Pabalelo Selema, popuarly known as Papzito. I write in my personal capacity. Please press the heart button below or share the article with friends if you found it valuable.