The road less travelled (by millenials)…

It is often said that millenials (the cohort born between 1980 and 1995) are not willing to start at the bottom and help themselves. This article hopes to dispel this myth.

Outside Soshanguve, a large township north of Pretoria, is a very modest market comprising fewer than ten stands and traders. They mostly sell eggs, live chickens, goats and sheep to the public at the busy intersection of Tswaing and Rooiwal. We (TWH Cooperators) had the privilege of spending the morning at the market to get to know some of the informal traders and their stories in a bid to learn more about this sector which contributes 29% to South Africa’s GDP.

We spoke to one of the traders, a young woman called Gadifele Mokone, to find out how she ended up trading. Gadifele, initially reluctant to be interviewed, consented after we explained that her story could inspire thousands of unemployed youth. What makes Gadifele’s story worth telling is that she, like many others in South Africa, battled for years to find a job. Though she successfully completed high school and submitted her CV to countless employers, she never could get a lucky break. Employment for her, as for many young South Africans, remained elusive. Fed up and desperate, she eventually decided to embark on a journey of self-employment.

With a small loan from her grandmother, she bought eggs from the Tshwane market to resell at the informal Soshanguve market. She found this to be quite profitable and to further increase her income she decided to sell live chickens. Over the two years she managed to sustain not only herself, but her entire family and she hasn’t looked back.

Gadifele has big ambitions for her life. She plans on formalising her business to a point where it is not only viable to look after her family; but to expand and create more jobs for others.

Many might see Gadifele’s story as insignificant, and might even have an aversion to trading as a possible tool to self-employment, but if considered against the backdrop of high youth unemployment (at around 63%) and the current job losses in the country, it is refreshing to meet someone who decided to ‘get up, swallow her pride and get on with it’.

South Africa is experiencing a technical recession and thousands of jobs will be shed over the coming months. Life in South Africa is hard, opportunities are scarce, but with a little humility, anyone can make a living and eventually grow a modest enterprise into a substantial business.

We will be keeping tabs on Gadifele and her journey and will report back.

 

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