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Celebrating Mandela From Where It All Began; Soweto




Almost every morning, I awaken to the sounds of the dogs barking, birds chirping and loud vuvuzelas (plastic horns) alerting the neighborhood that it’s safe to leave home for work. Thieves and vagrants roam the streets to snatch wallets, handbags, anything, on these misty winter mornings.

This is the day unfurling in Soweto, South Africa’s biggest township. Soweto, famously, is an acronym for ‘southwestern township’.

Soweto was not a township back in 1918; it was merely a place where the black oppressors built 20 matchbox-sized houses for squatters and with no electricity or water, just an outdoor tap. Imagine the cold winter mornings then.

As a millennial living in Soweto today, I enjoy the same trappings – hot showers and electric blankets – as the dwellers in Africa’s richest square mile Sandton, a mere half-hour drive away.

In the hall of fame, if Johannesburg and Cape Town are regarded as South Africa’s maximum cities, so is my Soweto, a city in its own right, a city with history, a personality, even its own language and ethos, segregated from the rest.

“Soweto was initially a dormitory location when it started,” says Omar Badsha, a 73-year-old documentary photographer and CEO of South African History Online.

“It was a segregated place which included people of all classes…lower middle class people were also dumped in Soweto. Over time, in the 1970s, it grew into the largest township in Africa as a segregated space and remains a segregated space. It has evolved into a vibrant city with supermarkets, malls and a vibrant youth culture. There are two to three generations who call themselves Sowetans because they lost their links to the rural areas. They created their own social and political ethos, and a language; tsotsitaal. This is a unique aspect of that segregated space. Now there is a very cultural landscape having the first Soweto Jazz Festival.”

I too, am a Sowetan first, a South African second.

This is an identity that many of us, born and bred in Soweto, proudly wear as a badge of honor. It is this multicultural township that characterizes our way of life. Our dialects differ from where our forefathers originated; the farmlands. Our dialects now are one.

Legends were born in Soweto, many lived and died here. I live in Soweto, in the here and now.

On July 18, South Africa’s first black president, struggle hero, anti-apartheid activist and global icon, the late Nelson Mandela would have celebrated his 100th birthday.

Soweto was once his home. This is where he came from Qunu, a small rural village in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. He wed the late activist and politician Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and it is here they lived, in house number 8115, a tiny red-brick house, now a museum called Mandela House.

Mandela was arrested in Rivonia, on a farm about 50km from Soweto, in 1964, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason.


A human rights lawyer and member of the African National Congress (ANC), he would travel from Soweto every day to work in Johannesburg’s Central Business District.

From Soweto, I travel twice the distance daily to work in affluent Sandton, where multi-million rand apartments soar into the skies.

The air is fresher here, in contrast to the squalid, sewage-smelling, potholed landscape of Soweto.

Yet, to celebrate Mandela, we have to first start from Soweto – where it all began.

A struggle hero who unwittingly took Soweto to the world. Soweto was etched into Mandela’s destiny even before South Africa was. It was a place marked with an ‘X’ in his mental geography.


Township revitalization

The Orlando Towers in Soweto is prominent site offering advertising and adventure

Like most cities and towns, Soweto has its own landmark, the Orlando Towers, constructed in 1955, around the time when blacks were forcibly removed from the multiracial, vibrant Sophiatown during the apartheid era. These towers were built as coolants for coal because the demand for electricity was on the rise in Johannesburg for white homes and businesses. After over 50 years of service, the station was decommissioned.

The saying, when Soweto sneezes, South Africa catches flu, holds true.

On the cold morning of June 16, 1976, students gathered to march to Orlando Stadium protesting the teaching of Afrikaans in school. This resulted in the police firing at students; 13-year-old Hector Pieterson was shot dead. News traveled and aghast at the black-and-white images of the atrocities, the world pressured South Africa to change policies.

At the time, Soweto was still a ghost town, dark and gloomy. On those same paths, we now walk freely under bright street lights, and by a shiny world-class mall built by Richard Maponya, a business mogul who used to sell milk on a bicycle in Soweto in his youth.

The mall is adorned with an elephant at the main entrance. The R650 million ($48 million) mall boasts more than 200 stores and a cinema complex that opened in 2007. Mandela did the honors of cutting the red ribbon.

“I am very proud of the mall. It can stand anywhere in the world and compete. I am proud I have built something for the people of Soweto because I have always wanted it to be an economic hub,” Maponya said of his eponymous mall in the March 2017 issue of FORBES AFRICA.

The twin Orlando Towers, minutes from the luxurious mall, double as an advertising tower and a space for mural art, the largest in Soweto.

The towers are a tourist destination attracting thousands of travelers and locals all year round. They are also known as Soweto Towers, offering adrenaline-driving adventure activities such as bungee jumping, rock-climbing and SCAD (Suspended Catch Air Device) freefall.

I visited the towers for the time last month; embarrassing for someone who has lived in Soweto for 30 years. I meet the site manger Laurence Sithole.

“The company was founded by Bob Woods. He was contracted to install railings on top of the towers for painting and advertising. For them to be able to paint, they had to be able to hood their baskets onto the railings. It took him about seven years to get approval to start this in 2008,” offers Sithole.

Woods leased the space and it’s currently owned by the Joburg Property Company.

Sithole was one of 15 black youths from Soweto hired for the bungee jump operator’s job which included inhouse training. These youngsters were first-timers in the adventure industry.

“I was 22 years old at the time. I remember we were saying to each other, ‘in Soweto, the whole of Soweto, we are the only team that does this [adventure activities]’, so we were very excited about it. Looking at the equipment, I remember we couldn’t pronounce a carabina. Everything was just exciting,” says Sithole.

When the business started, they would have as few as two jumpers a day.

“Unfortunately, Woods died in 2010 – the year of the FIFA World Cup hosted in South Africa – just before the site picked up, literally, two months after his death, we started getting busy and we’d find cars parked waiting for us to open,” he recalls.
Today, the business sees as many as 100 bunjee jumps a day at R550 ($41) per person. Soweto Towers’ Vertical Adventure Centre is the only one providing such services in Soweto.

Would you find anything similar in any other African township?

About 5kms from the towers, is the world-famous Vilakazi Street, once home to two Nobel Peace Prize-winning icons, Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

This is also an enterprising entrepreneurial space for men and women, offering everything from art and fashion to snacks and snakes.

It takes me less than a minute before I see an urban building to my left, The Box Shop, created primarily for locals but with international tourists streaming in and out.

Launched as a fashion store in 2015 employing about 11 staff, it has extended its retail offerings to furniture and food – mouth-watering delicacies such as mogodu (lamb or beef tripe).

Sifiso Moyo, the marketing director of The Box Shop, is one of the store’s four founders who decided to open the store on Vilakazi Street.

“It was a combination of things that made us pursue Vilakazi; we looked at the Gauteng government mandate in terms of revitalizing townships, so we looked at how we are going to align ourselves with that strategy and contribute positively to the dream of township revitalization,” says Moyo.

I walk again for three minutes, and stop, as I see a gentleman with a snake around his neck. I step forward to make sure I am not imagining things.

It is a snake, a real one, a red-tailed boa. After introducing myself to the gentleman, he directs me to the house to meet his mother, Lindiwe Mngomezulu.

Mngomezulu’s business is offering tourists a snake show, called the Soweto Live Snake Show. The inspiration for it came after she joined a snake club in Edenvale, east of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Suitably entertained, I continue my journey down the snaking avenues of Vilakazi Street.

I speak to one of the vendors a few feet from Mandela House. Bongane Ngcobo sells t-shirts, caps and African art. An entrepreneur, he says he makes about R4,000 ($282) on a good day and about R200 ($17) otherwise.

As I stroll further down, the street gets busier. I am drawn to a group of idling youngsters outside an art gallery named Shova Lifestyle Origin.

Thabo Modise, the owner here, started off selling t-shirts in the streets of Soweto; now he owns the gallery and the boutique next to it.

“It is a lifestyle boutique, where we have local fashion designers showing their work and we have a gallery for locals to do the same,” says Modise. He is an entrepreneurial success on Vilakazi Street.
Speaking of entrepreneurship and economy, Moipone Molotsi, Director of the Centre for Small Business Development at the University of Johannesburg in Soweto, says the township economy is money circulating in the township and benefiting people within the township.

I ask her if there has been any growth in the township since Mandela’s death.

“People have moved from tenders and come up with business models that will raise income every single day. That is the change but it is moving very slowly,” she says.

So there is a shift from tenderpreneurship to entrepreneurship.


Taking Soweto to the world

Entrepreneurship is the mantra. Take this group of young men from Soweto who have portrayed it positively using imagery.

They are childhood friends who found themselves merging advertising, photography and film, calling themselves, I See A Different You (ISADY). They are Innocent Mukheli, Fhatuwani Mukheli, Ongama Zazayokwe and Vuyo Mpantsha.

“In 2011, Innocent went to Kenya for a photoshoot. While he was there, he sent us a picture of a guy on a motorbike, that guy was too cool, he was wearing sandals. We didn’t believe that was shot in Kenya and we realized to ourselves that if that is how we see Kenya, imagine how other Africans see Africa. We have been fed so much negativity on the continent,” say Zazayokwe and Mpantsha.

Their ideology changed and a brand was born.

“I See A Different You started off as a movement that changes people’s perceptions about Soweto and Africa,” says Mpantsha.

Indeed, they have done so, and their first start was Soweto. Now, they have moved to other parts of Africa and the world.

I was watching television with the family a few years ago when a commercial come on. We loved it because we could relate. It brought nostalgia, memories of wanting to go watch TV in a neighbour’s house because we had limited channels. This commercial was about soccer. Despite the humour and hint of economic struggle, the advert was about humanity and selflessness, in allowing the unprivileged neighbors to watch soccer.

I believe that is something Mandela would have done. This advert was a DStv campaign, #NiceLifeProblems, communicating to South Africans in their language.

“When brands brief us to create content of whatever they are selling at the time, they use us because we change the narrative on how they show black people and how they tell black stories through advertising,” says Mpantsha.

Driving to work from Soweto, I never miss ISADY’s latest work with the whiskey brand, Scottish Leader. It is a billboard on the Soweto highway positioned prominently as you exit the township. These billboards are to be found across South Africa with different images.

The billboard is on the road that leads to the world-class FNB stadium in Nasrec, Soweto. This stadium was designed as the main stadium for the 2010 FIFA World-Cup and is the largest in Africa. It housed the final match between Netherlands and Spain. Mandela recited his first speech after his release in 1990 in this very stadium, but it also served as a memorial venue after his death in 2013.

Back to ISADY’s billboards.

“It’s just like the whiskeys, there’s three whiskeys: one is smoky, one is smoother and the other is spicy. That is why the billboards are different; it’s about seeing a new perspective,” says Mpantsha.
ISADY has exhibited works in others parts of the world. Taking Africa To The World was exhibited in Japan; it looks at the positives of Soweto.

And then Mpantsha says it, speaking my mind, speaking for all Sowetans taking Soweto to the world:

“Soweto is in our DNA.”

And there are more worldwide, acknowledging this fact, be it in Soweto or Spain.

Enos Mafokate, the first black showjumper in South Africa and an Olympic athlete at Barcelona, runs the only equestrian club in Soweto today.

In 2007, Mafokate realized his dream of opening his own riding stable in Soweto. At the Soweto Equestrian Foundation, Mafokate trains more than 60 children with 20 horses and ponies. The club also trains disabled children.

“It provides therapy for both mentally and physically unstable children and that is working magic,” says Mafokate.

Creative economy

The Triology Dance Crew at The World Dance. Photograph by Motlabana Monnakgotla.

Sport can be therapy, but what is Soweto without its vibrant culture: its art, music, dance or fashion.

I meet with a dance crew from Soweto I hadn’t seen in a long time at a dance competition in Johannesburg. Although a few members are new, their style hasn’t changed.

“We specialize in music, fashion and dance, but our main focus is dance. We call our dance Sbujwa. Sbujwa is a dance culture from Soweto; it started in the early 2000s just as a way of dressing and gradually over time it became a dance genre,” says group choreographer Blessing Dhlamini.

Dhlamini goes on to say that they wouldn’t be dancing for a living if Mandela hadn’t won us freedom.

The group recently won a Crowd Favourites award and came sixth at the World Of Dance in South Africa.

From day to night, would Soweto be complete without a vignette of its bustling nightlife?

I call up an old neighbor, Mncedisi Mnguni, also known as DJ Big Sky, one of Soweto’s biggest DJs and entrepreneurs who recently conducted a United Kingdom tour playing alongside musicians Black Coffee, Ralf Gum and Charles Webster, among others.

“Soweto is very huge, it’s like an entire city. A lot of people come from outside the ’hood come jam in the ’hood. It’s very vibrant and it’s still growing. Just look at Vilakazi Street, it’s no longer a street, it’s a precinct. It has informal trading and formal establishments like the restaurants plus the tourist attractions, just in that street alone,” he says.

Soweto has its flaws like any suburb, town or city. The night can also reveal its peripatetic ugly street layers. Soweto is no saint. But neither am I, neither was Mandela.

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Why The High Number Of Employees Quitting Reveals A Strong Job Market





While recession fears may be looming in the minds of some, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the economy and job market may actually be strengthening.

The quits rate—or the percentage of all employees who quit during a given month—rose to 2.4% in July, according to the BLS’s Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover report, released Tuesday. That translates to 3.6 million people who voluntarily left their jobs in July.

This is the highest the quits rate has been since April 2001, just five months after the Labor Department began tracking it. According to Nick Bunker, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, the quits rate tends to be a reflection of the state of the economy.

READ MORE | 5 Things You Should Do The Night Before A Job Interview

“The level of the quits rate really is a sign of how strong the labor market is,” he says. “If you look at the quits rate over time, it really drops quite a bit when the labor market gets weak. During the recession it was quite low, and now it’s picked up.”

The monthly jobs report, released last week, revealed that the economy gained 130,000 jobs in August, which is 20,000 less than expected, and just a few weeks earlier, the BLS issued a correction stating that it had overestimated by 501,000 how many jobs had been added to the market in 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. Yet despite all that, employees still seem to have confidence in the job market.Today In: Leadership

The quits level, according to the BLS, increased in the private sector by 127,000 for July but was little changed in government. Healthcare and social assistance saw an uptick in departures to the tune of 54,000 workers, while the federal government saw a rise of 3,000.

READ MORE | 5 Questions You Should Never Ask During A Job Interview

The July quits rate in construction was 2.4%, while the number in trade, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality were 2.6%, 3.1% and 4.8%, respectively. Bunker of Indeed says that the industries that tend to see the highest rate of departuresare those where pay is relatively low, such as leisure and hospitality. An unknown is whether employees are quitting these jobs to go to a new industry or whether they’re leaving for another job in the same industry. Either could be the case, says Bunker.

In a recently published article on the industries seeing the most worker departures, Bunker attributes the uptick to two factors—the strong labor market and faster wage growth in the industries concerned: “A stronger labor market means employers must fill more openings from the ranks of the already employed, who have to quit their jobs, instead of hiring jobless workers. Similarly, faster wage growth in an industry signals workers that opportunities abound and they might get higher pay by taking a new job.”

Even so, recession fears still dominate headlines. According to Bunker, the data shows that when a recession hits, employers pull back on hiring and workers don’t have the opportunity to find new jobs. Thus, workers feel less confident and are less likely to quit.

READ MORE | South Africa’s Informal Sector: Why People Get Stuck In Precarious Jobs

“As the labor market gets stronger, there’s more opportunities for workers who already have jobs. So they quit to go to new jobs or they quit in the hopes of getting new jobs again,” Bunker says. He also notes that recession fears may have little to do with the job market, instead stemming from what is happening in the financial markets, international relations or Washington, D.C.

So what does the BLS report say about the job market? “Taking this report as a whole, it’s indicating that the labor market is still quite strong, but then we lost momentum,” Bunker says. While workers are quitting their jobs, he says that employers are pulling back on the pace at which they’re adding jobs. “While things are quite good right now and workers are taking advantage of that,” he notes, “those opportunities moving forward might be fewer and fewer if the trend keeps up.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

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No Seat At The Global Table For Indigenous African Cuisine



Gastronomic tourism based on African food could easily increase and create new value chains that unlock billions in untapped wealth for the continent, but what is stopping us?

Food and tourism are an integral part of most economies, globally. Food is undeniably a core part of all cultures and an increasingly important attraction for tourists. To satisfy their wanderlust, contemporary tourists require an array of experiences that include elements of education, entertainment, picturesque scenery and culinary wonders.  The link between food and tourism allows destinations to develop local economies; and food experiences help to brand and market them, as well as supporting the local culture and knowledge systems.

 This is particularly important for rural communities, where 61% of sub-Saharan Africans live, according to the World Bank last year. These communities have often felt the brunt of urbanization, which has resulted in a shift away from rural economies. If implemented effectively, Africa could get a piece of the gastronomic tourism pie, which was worth $8.8 trillion last year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

World-renowned chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu and author of her self-published cookbook, Through the Eyes Of An African Chef. Picture: Motlaban Monnakgotla

However, there is currently very little public information to pique the interest of tourists about African food. World-renowned South African chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu sought to remedy this with her self-published cookbook, Through the Eyes Of An African Chef.

“I think where it was very clear to me that I needed to do something was when I went to cooking school. I trained at Christina Martin School of Food and Wine. I thought I was actually going to get training on South African food and, somehow, I assumed we were talking indigenous food.

 “I was shocked that we went through the whole year’s curriculum and we didn’t cover anything that I ate at home; we didn’t cover anything that my first cousins, who are Sotho, ate in Nelspruit (in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province); we didn’t cover anything that would come from eSwatini, which is where my mother is from,” Mqwebu says.

By self-publishing, she has ultimately contributed to a value chain that has linked local food producers and suppliers, which includes agriculture, food production, country branding and cultural and creative industries.

“I am a member of Proudly South African, not only my business, but the book as well. Part of the reason is that the cookbook was 100% published in South Africa. So, everybody who worked on the cookbook, and printing, was all in South Africa, which is something quite rare these days because authors have their books published abroad.”

The Proudly South African campaign is a South African ‘buy local’ initiative that sells her cookbook on their online platform as its production adheres to the initiative’s campaign standards. Self-publishing has allowed Mqwebu to promote her book for two years and to directly communicate with her audience in a way she thought was best, while exposing her to a vast community of local networks. She recalls her first step towards creating her own body of work.

Amadumbe gnocchi. Picture: Nompumelelo Mqwebu and Nicole Louw Photography

“I was in culinary school when I wrote the recipe for amadumbe (potato of the tropics) gnocchi. We were making gnocchi and I thought, ‘so why aren’t we using amadumbe because it’s a starch?’ and when I tasted it, I thought, ‘this could definitely work’. I started doing my recipes then.

 “And there was talk about, ‘we don’t have desserts as Africans’. I did some research and found we ate berries, we were never big on sugar to begin with. That’s why I took the same isidudu (soft porridge made from ground corn) with pumpkin that my grandmother used to make and that became my dessert. “I also found that when I went to libraries looking for indigenous recipes, I couldn’t really find something that spoke to me as a chef. I found content that looked like history books. It was not appealing. It was not something, as a chef, I could proudly present to another chef from a different part of the world, so I knew I had to write my book,” Mqwebu says about the award-winning recipe book that chronicles African cuisine.

Isidudu (soft porridge made from ground corn) with pumpkin. Picture: Nompumelelo Mqwebu and Nicole Louw Photography

Financial and health benefits

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, in 2018, the tourism sector “contributed 319 million jobs, representing one in 10 of all jobs globally and is responsible for one in five of all new jobs created in the world over the last five years. It has increased its share of leisure spending to 78.5%, meaning 21.5% of spending was on business.”

To narrow in on how lucrative food can be, the World Food Travel Association estimates that visitors spend approximately 25% of their travel budget on food and beverages. The figure can get as high as 35% in expensive destinations, and as low as 15% in more affordable destinations. “Confirmed food lovers also spend a bit more than the average of 25% spent by travelers in general.”

However, there is a widely-held view that the African continent is not doing enough to maximize its potential to also position itself as a gastronomic tourism destination, using its unique edge of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS).

“We are not a culinary destination and we will never be while we are still offering pasta as the attraction for our tourists,” Mqwebu says.

Dr George Sedupane, who is the Coordinator of the Bachelor of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems program in South Africa’s North-West University, echoes Mqwebu’s sentiments.

“I often cringe when I go to conferences and there are guests from all over the world and we serve them pasta. Why would they come from Brazil to eat pasta here? They can have pasta in Italy. Why don’t we serve them umngqusho (samp and beans)?

Umngqusho (samp and beans). Picture: Nompumelelo Mqwebu and Nicole Louw Photography

“We need to be creating those experiences around our culture. We are failing to capitalize on our strengths. There is a lack of drive to celebrate what we have,” says Sedupane, who also teaches modules and supervises research in indigenous health and nutrition.

Writer and historian Sibusiso Mnyanda says current innovations in African food technology are born out of necessity, rather tourism and cultural ambitions.

“Food security is becoming an issue that is leading to IKS around farming being prioritized. In Nigeria, they are innovating dry season farming, because of deforestation and soil being de-cultivated. 

“So those indigenous knowledge strategies are being used in countries where it is a necessity and where there are enough advances related to the fourth industrial revolution. The traditional ways of producing food are not only much more organic, they are also crop-efficient,” Mnyanda says.

Nigeria may have inadvertently innovated a health solution related to colon cancer through its diet. Sedupane tells FORBES AFRICA an anecdote.

“There was a study where the colons of an African country that did not consume a lot of meat was compared to Europeans. The Africans had a much better profile as a result and there are people who want to buy African stool to get that kind of rich bacteria, that you get on an African plant-based diet.”

Dr George Sedupane, who is the Coordinator of the Bachelor of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems. Picture: Supplied

The study Sedupane is referring to was conducted in Nigeria and it states that: “Nigeria showed the average annual incidence of colorectal cancer was 27 patients per year. This shows that even if it seems that incidence rates are increasing in Nigeria, such rates are still about one-tenth of what is seen in the truly developed countries.”

In a bid to find reasons for this rarity of colon and rectal cancer, the study concluded that, among other reasons, the protective effects of Nigeria’s starch-based, vegetable-based, fruit-based, and spicy, peppery diet, and geographical location which ensures sunshine all year round, played a role in the country’s colon health.

Interestingly, it seems the potential value of African food could not only be based on what goes in but what also comes out as healthy faecal matter is big business globally. In 2015, The Washington Post published that one could potentially earn $13,000 a year selling their poop. 

The American-based company OpenBiome has been processing and shipping frozen stool to patients who are very sick with infections of a bacteria called C.difficile. It causes diarrhea and inflammation of the colon, leaving some sufferers house-bound. “Antibiotics often help, but sometimes, the bacteria rears back as soon as treatment stops. By introducing healthy faecal matter into the gut of a patient (by way of endoscopy, nasal tubes, or swallowed capsules), doctors can abolish C. difficile for good… And yes, they pay for healthy poop: $40 a sample, with a $50 bonus if you come in five days a week. That’s $250 for a week of donations, or $13,000 a year,” the publication stated.

Sedupane is of the view that a diet which includes indigenous foods could vastly improve one’s quality of life.

He says small changes could be made, such as including more of indigenous greens, namely sorghum and millet, to breakfast. The grains are gluten-free and produce alkaline which boosts the pH level of fluids in the body and reduces acidity.

Moringa fruit which is an African superfood. Picture: Getty Images

“Moving to our legumes, we have indlubu (Bambara groundnut) which is very rich and helps in the secretion of serotonin in the brain. This so important nowadays with the increase of depression. It’s easy to digest, and is great for cholesterol and moderating blood sugar,” Sedupane says.

 Mnyanda is also of the view that food is imperative to health and medicinal properties. He says traditional healers primarily use natural herbs in their practice. “These are used in pain relief and healing. Things like cannabis, camphor, African potatao and red carrots. So, food is not just used for nutritional purposes.”

Other African superfoods include, Baobab fruit, Hibiscus, Tamarind, Kenkiliba, Amaranth, Moringa and pumpkin leaves. 

Cultural and historical benefits

Gastronomic tourism also includes the promotion of heritage sites that are known to revolve around dishes that are of historic importance. They enhance the travel experience, they encourage the acquisition of knowledge and a cultural exchange.

There is a unanimous view that vast amounts of knowledge have been lost to history and there is a huge knowledge gap in African societies as a result of colonization and urbanization.

“Part of the colonial agenda was to make sure food security did not belong to indigenous groups. Therefore, archiving of these knowledge systems was not a priority. Especially during industrialization, where people moved from their villages to the city you found that the knowledge got left behind,” Mnyanda says.

Abathwa (the San people) hunting. Picture: Getty Images

He offers a contemporary example of how modernization continues to push African practices to the fringes: “To this day, abathwa (the San people) hunt their meat, but you find that because of changing agricultural practices and land reform on the Kruger National Park, they are being forced to move into the cities and industrial areas, therefore they are no longer able to practice their culture of hunting. As a result, their diet is changing.” Sedupane shares the view that the fundamentals of farming and astrology have also been exiled from public knowledge.

“The fundamentals of IKS were based on the understanding of the laws of nature – how and when things were done. Harvest cycles were linked with understanding astrology. They would not harvest until certain stars were visible in the sky. There was a dependence on nature.

“With industrialization, rather than working with nature, humans are seen as being above, as controlling, as directing it. The natural cycle is often tempered with rather than trying to work with it.”

Not all is lost however. There are historical practices that have stood the test of time and continue to be a part the few foods that are internationally associated with South Africa. Mqwebu says that, “historically, we ate more plants than meat because our ancestors had to hunt and the game back then was not tame. So, there were no guarantees that you would return with meat. And that’s where things like umqwayiba (biltong) come from. They had to preserve the meat, because wasting was not part of the culture”.

Umqwayiba (biltong). Picture: Getty Images

According to a 2015 exploratory research project conducted under the guidance of research institute Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society director Professor Melville Saayman, biltong contributes more than R2.5 billion ($163 million) to the South African economy.

Perhaps, like the faecal transporting company, Africa will soon realize the ‘wasted’ opportunity and that there is loads of money to be made in gastronomic tourism for all its inhabitants, whether they are rural or urban, technological or indigenous.

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Side Hustles: The Entrepreneur Employees



The economy is changing, and so also the way people work. A singular income is not enough, and employees are finding creative, lucrative ways to work for themselves beyond the nine-to-five.

A bearded man, wearing a pin-striped grey duckbill cap, stands behind a bar counter.

To his right adorning the counter is an array of empty cylindrical canisters. To his left, a contrasting set-up presents glass bottles filled with a transparent, salmon pink liquid. Next to them are gin chalices filled with a cornucopia of berries that are to be served to connoisseurs of the popular spirit.

Queen Nandi Pink Gin and Zulu Dry Gin are experimentally infused spirits distilled by Gologo Spirits, a business venture that merges African tradition with a contemporary outlook on alcohol brewing.

Queen Nandi Pink Gin and Zulu Dry Gin are experimentally infused spirits distilled by Gologo Spirits owned by Mzwandile Xaba. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

Mzwandile Xaba, an accountant by day and distiller by night, is the founder of the experimental distillery.

Nine years ago, the entrepreneur and employee would not have imagined that a childhood pastime would one day become a secondary source of income.

At 5PM, when most South African corporates are closing off the business of the day, Xaba’s two-hour journey to the warehouse begins, where he often spends hours losing himself in the craft.

Once the boiler goes on, it is down to work.

Cleaning distillation columns, labeling, bottling and blending various infusions until the odd hours of the morning, ironically, rarely feels tedious for the hustler who, in the next few hours, needs to make his way back to his assigned office cubicle.

How does an accountant  from the East Rand, in the Gauteng province of South Africa, end up, not only distilling spirits for commercial use, but juggling two jobs in industries that are worlds apart?

Mzwandile Xaba says umqombothi distillation also taught him to recognize the various cultural environments and the greater role his practice played in ensuring the success of those events. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

 Growing up in a household with a father who pursued two careers; one in music and the other as a mechanic, influenced Xaba’s work ethic.  

Xaba, who was good at mathematics and accounting, pursued a career in the financial sector. However, his childhood preoccupation of distillation has remained with him through the various stages of transitioning into adulthood, and recognizing that he needed a stable income.

Brewing umqombothi (African beer), in time for the weekend traditional celebrations with his father, is what he owes the success of Gologo Spirits to.

Although the process of brewing and fermenting the African beer is predominantly done by women, without a matriarch in the household, the men used to distill the beer themselves.

Xaba says umqombothi distillation also taught him to recognize the various cultural environments and the greater role his practice played in ensuring the success of those events.

Xaba expands on the use of spirits in celebrations. 

“You normally have those when you go to traditional ceremonies. At home, it is also used during lobola (traditional engagement) negotiations, and when young men come back from initiation school in the mountains. Spirits are used for different functions and purposes from a cultural point of view.”

Xaba’s fascination with biochemistry and spirits was unrelenting, so in 2010, while working as an accountant, he decided to teach himself the delicate balance of creating the drinks that were impactful to him.  

Within three years, the first drops of alcohol were ready for commercial use.

Mzwandile Xaba, an accountant by day and distiller by night, is the founder of the experimental distillery Gologo Spirits. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

“It was just something I wanted to do. I thought it was quite interesting and I was really passionate about it.

“I don’t know why because I have never set foot in a physics or science class but I was drawn to it,” he says.

He started with vodka, experimented with brandy and whiskey, and at a later stage he tried gin distillation.

“For the past five or six years, almost every day there is something that I am doing that is in line with Gologo. If I am not literally making something I am reading on up on something.”

Finding a balance

Xaba views his side job as an enhancement rather than his primary source of income or a necessity.

“The day job is something I understand and something that I need to do in order to do what I want to do. It covers some of my operational costs. The business is something that I funded from my pocket.

 “Some of the loans I have taken to set Gologo up are what I am paying off through Gologo,” he says. 

“As the projection is, there comes a point where I am really making money to expand the distillery and cover some of my personal costs. It is a blend of both, a blending and a calling and it is financially viable. Doing both, keeping the day job and operating Gologo as a side-hustle is probably one of the best decisions that I may have taken financially, and also in terms of testing myself.”

When presented with the burden of choosing one job over the other, he is quite clear that financial stability is an imperative.

“I would only quit my day job once it starts costing me more money,” Xaba states decidedly.

An online platform, Hustle South Africa, is an ongoing project managed by Dana, who is in marketing, and her husband, Justin Arnoldi, also the Head of Digital Transformation at Blue Turtle Technologies.

The Facebook page was created in response to the high unemployment rate in South Africa which currently is peaking at 29% in the second quarter of 2019.

According to StatsSA, this is the highest unemployment rate recorded since the first quarter of 2003, the number of unemployed citizens rose by 455,000 to 6.65 million.

A problem Hustle South Africa hopes to decrease with this challenge is by providing a platform for users to promote and acquire side-hustles. Through the platform, hustlers are able to upload the services or products they have on offer, whether it is through text, video or images.

“The way of working has changed, people want autonomy and flexibility. They do not necessarily want to be tied into one job; they want a couple of jobs so that they can do different things.

“We wanted to create a central platform where people can interact and sign up for side work relatively easy,” Dana says.

Hustle South Africa defines the gig economy as a series of freelance or part-time work assignments.

On the platform, hustlers now can not only advertise their business, but build a public data-base. Is it safe?

“From a security perspective, we are going to have a checking system where people can put their ID number in and they will be checked for a criminal record; if they are a South African citizen; or if they can be employed,” Dana says.

Credibility is built through references, and referrals.

This model has proven effective with Uber as they provide clients with a driver-rating system.

If Bryan Davey, a diesel mechanic and baker, chose to use the Hustle South Africa page to market his side job, he would not only receive the deserved exposure for his business but would also add to the database.

Bryan Davey, a diesel mechanic and baker. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

The self-taught baker, who has been a mechanic for seven years, decided to bake on the side to take his mind off the noise at the workshop.

Doing something completely different takes the pressure off when he is not at his nine-to-five as a power generation field technician at Cummins South Africa. The balance between the two is a tightrope walk for Davey.

“I do try and go straight home and start baking, hopefully if I have an order for the week. It does take a toll on you, I won’t lie it is difficult but if you want to make something work, you will do it,” he says.

 “It does have an impact on your mental and physical health, but it also depends on how you are managing it, so if what you are doing is a form of stress-reliever for you, it will not impact you negatively but if you are doing it in a way where you just want income, it will affect you.”

Davey, nonetheless, does both jobs with a smile.

Based on research published by Henley Business School Africa, nine of 10 people in Africa have taken on extra work to survive.

Cupcakes created self-taught baker Bryan Davey, who has been a mechanic for seven year Picture: Gypseenia Lion

The South African study uses the Henley Business School UK in 2018 as a framework to explore local trends, which shows that  71.3% of the 1,158 respondents in their African network have side-hustles for additional income.

According to the study, the top three side-hustles in their South African networks are professional business services at 25. 7%, real estate at 20.1%; teaching, lecturing and tutoring at 13.3%.

The lowest three being providing building/DIY services, running a shop/tuck-shop/food truck, and waiting/bartending/ hosting.

Jon Foster-Pedley, Dean of Henley Business School Africa, says the demands for the highest three industries are caused by the job descriptions.

Side-hustling as a real estate agent would not require as much time and attention as a food truck. The time and effort required, according to respondents on the network, would demand them to learn a new skill, which would take up too much time.

“The bottom ones mean that you have to be good with your hands, they are skills-based.

Bryan Davey, a diesel mechanic, bakes cakes on the side. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

“Running a shop or a tuck-shop, you need to adapt to a lot of the things which take a lot of your time.

“You need to do that with your hands, you can’t scale waiting and bartending,” he says.

With the top three, on the other hand, a hustler can employ other people to manage the operations of the business while focusing on their day job.

The economy is changing and so also the way people are making money.

Side-hustles can be as lucrative as the hustler wants it to be, but finding a balance on the tightrope, is the ultimate challenge. 

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