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Crafts And Camaraderie On The Coast

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Durban’s farmers markets are a magnet for consumers and small businesses alike, boosting the informal economy in the sunny South African city.

Be it the cosy market at Umhlanga or the expansive variety market at Shongweni, the coastal city of Durban in South Africa seems to be the sunny hub for farmers markets and small business owners setting up impromptu trading venues.

Within minutes of arriving at the Umhlanga Farmers Market, it’s easy to see why it attracts a steady stream of shoppers, despite the cold, penetrating drizzle on a Durban morning. There’s a good selection of fresh produce and specialty foods, the vibe is lively and cheerful even sans music or entertainment, and traders offer friendly, personalized attention. It helps that the market is centrally located and in the open air, fringed on one side by coastal dune forest. A woman trading home-baked date muffins and peach tarts chats away as she holds down a tent flap until the wind fades long enough for her to tie it down, and her customers happily banter on until she’s able to serve them. Dogs drag their owners across the clearing to greet other dogs. And everything on display looks oven-fresh and appealing.

“There’s a great variety of food we wouldn’t normally get in supermarkets – like the special cheeses or the vegan cupcakes,” says the market’s owner Alexa McWilliams.

“These are traders who are working from home and have a talent.”

She took ownership of the market several years ago and maintains its “charismatic, informal feel” because she considers it an important platform for small businesses. She explains that the market is a success because of its regular traders. “We see some traders come and go because they expect to buy a Ferrari after one morning, but it’s the regular traders who have their regular customers. Consistency is the most important thing for a market”.

Kirsten Hughes, who trades fresh farm butter and specialty cheeses, relies almost entirely on markets for her income.

“Markets appeal to me because of the freedom – there’s a lot of work with sourcing the products but it’s not a nine-to-five job,” she says, while cutting a slab of a special artisanal wash-dried cheese. “I have regular customers, and they can’t get my products easily.” Her main trade is at Shongweni, with a significant proportion of it at Umhlanga.

The latter market’s newest trader, Houda Abiet, began to trade her homemade Mediterranean foods here only a few weeks back, as a marketing exercise. “It’s very interesting to see what people like and don’t like, and they’re inquisitive because they don’t know all my products. I always tell them – just taste, you don’t have to buy.”

McWilliams herself started her marinated olive business at this market. She says: “Markets worked better because it’s a niche product [I sell] – I make it by hand and I have a passion for it.” She grew her business over the years and now has a full-time shop, Olive-A-Twist in Ballito, but does not think she would have got to that level of sales if it were not for the markets.

“The markets will give beginners with a great idea a phenomenal platform,” she says.

“You get a diversity of people from all over, so it’s also a great testing ground. I would recommend it to anyone.”

Across the city, the Westville Farmers Market enjoys a steady flow of customers on Thursday mornings. Traders set up shop at the Jimmy Bellows Sports Field, alongside a protected riverine forest, with expansive trees shading their stalls. It’s a friendly space, and traders and shoppers are casually familiar with each other.

Here, there are only seven or eight stalls selling vegetables, eggs, home-baked cakes, honey and biltong. Clint Govender, owner of the market, trades organically-grown vegetables, eggs, and homemade biryani. It’s a family business, with his wife supplying the biryani, and the vegetables sourced from his uncle’s farm.

“Customers are looking here for the quality and the freshness, especially the eggs,” Govender says. “And we’re 40% cheaper than the shops.”

The market is about 20 years old, and several stallholders and shoppers refer to its “better days”, when there were many more traders and a wider variety of products.

Govender explains that over the years, many of the old stallholders passed away or relocated, and he hasn’t had success attracting new businesses.

“The traders don’t always understand that it takes time to build their clientele. Jaco, over there, has been here two years, but it took him maybe six months to build up his client base, and now it’s worth his while to come every week.”

Jaco Buyleveld sells plants and provides a blade-sharpening service. He keeps his business small by choice, operating only at the Westville and Umhlanga markets. Westville’s customers seem to be mainly pensioners dropping by in between their grandchildren’s school rounds, and Buyleveld speculates that this is because most of the younger residents are working outside of the area. He is not optimistic about the future of the market, saying, “Unless you get a younger customer base, the market is doomed.”

A few kilometers up the hill, also on Thursday mornings, the St. Agnes Fresh Produce Market is noticeably devoid of customers. It’s well-situated at a major intersection, with its stalls looking out onto the St. Agnes church’s gardens. There’s a better variety here than at Westville, but it feels like the traders are here for reasons other than hard cash.

Although he hasn’t made a sale yet today, John Phiri says that this market is worth his time for building a longer-term client base through orders. He trades leather products that he makes – caps, belts, wallets – here and at Umhlanga market as well as at Golden Hours, Bluff, and Durban’s craft/flea markets. Phiri’s income is mainly from these markets.

Umhlanga Farmers Market. Photo by Alexa McWilliams

He says: “Since I started my business, I’m enjoying the markets – I do enjoy talking to the customers. For sales, I prefer Bluff and Golden Hours. Flea markets are best because we expect thousands of people and we sell well.”

Sidney Oerter is the only trader who reports good sales here today. He trades specialty cheeses he sources from around South Africa, with the occasional import. He started his business a few months ago, and although he supplies a few restaurants, his main customer base is at the markets – Litchi Orchard, I Heart, and the brand-new Drummond Farmers Market. He explains: “Markets are an easy way to get into sales. We want to expand the business, maybe offer monthly hampers, but the markets are our entry point.”

Georgina Erasmus, who trades honey, eggs, organic coffee, and Madagascan bags, at a number of different markets, says that she will normally trial a new market for six to eight weeks before deciding whether to come back, although she’s been coming to St. Agnes since it started a year ago despite poor trade because, “it gets me out of the house and we love the church, and we also like some of the people who come here”. Her main trade is at Shongweni and she says confidently: “If you’re not selling at Shongweni, then there’s something wrong with your product.”

The line of traffic winding along the hills west of Durban every Saturday morning is testament to the popularity of Shongweni Farmers Market. Its customer base is around 4,500 on regular weeks, swelling considerably during the holidays.

Owner Christine Standeaven believes that it’s the variety on offer that makes it worthwhile for people across the age and income range to make the trek across the city. There’s also food, crafts, entertainment, as well as areas for relaxing.

“People come here to find items that are unique, and they love supporting people who are making a living for themselves,” says Standeaven. “They might get things cheaper in the stores, but they’ll rather come to a crafter and take the time to look for a special gift.”

She explains that the market started as a space where local farmers could sell directly to the public, with a bit of breakfast food, but she incorporated crafts and expanded the food section after five years when she found that they weren’t increasing their customer base. The intake doubled at that point. Just over two years ago, the market moved to its current location, with Standeaven building undercover stalls for every trader and concrete walkways to keep feet mud-free when it rained.

As she speaks, it becomes obvious that the market is successful because of her high sensitivity to the needs of both her traders and customers.

She says: “I can walk 15 to 16 kilometers on a Saturday morning. I greet every single stallholder, I look at what people are bringing in, and I check everything.” For example, Standeaven makes sure that catering equipment is clean on arrival, food vendors are constantly washing their hands, and there is cold storage for meat products. She has a team of cleaners speedily picking up litter and cleaning up after children and dog accidents.

And on the product side, she keeps an eye on trends and fashions, so that she can make sure that there are traders who can cater for the full variety of customers.

Standeaven says that about two thirds of Shongweni’s stallholders rely only on markets for their income. “I watch what people are bringing out of the market, and I like to see them carrying bags because I know the stallholders are happy. I need to create the best platform for my stallholders to want to stay in the market, so that I have an amazing outing for the people who are coming to buy at the market. And I want it like that every week.”

The I Heart Market in central Durban is also proving to be a strong platform for small businesses. It’s an arts and crafts market at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on the first Saturday of each month.

The market itself is a success story, having begun with 12 stalls outside the St Mary’s Church Hall in Windermere in 2008, and growing rapidly to 120 or so traders at its current location.

Says owner Anna Savage: “We knew a lot of creative people who were doing really interesting work – ceramicists, fashion designers, jewelry designers – but they didn’t have anywhere to sell. So the idea was to put together a market where for a small fee you could set up a mini shop, and start to build your customer base.”

I Heart’s Anna Savage

Savage curates the market strictly: “It’s about maintaining a standard of quality of product, and also a particular type of aesthetic. We accept only locally-produced products, but we also wanted products that are exceptional – things that are dynamic and interesting, that are ahead of the trends, but also that are viable, with appeal for a larger public and in the right price range.”

The market’s customer base is about 4,500, and collective sales for all traders average R460,000 ($32,500) at each market.

For about a quarter of the traders, sales at I Heart account for over 60% of their monthly income.

Duduzile Ngubane, a resident trader, says that it was through I Heart and other markets that she was able to grow her fashion business, which started as a hobby. Although she has a full-time shop, markets still account for about 40% of her income. Her line of fashionwear, Du Confidence, is made for “women who are confident”, as she says proudly. The range is casual and formal plus-size modernwear.

She explains: “I am bold, bright, feminine, and I’m a warm woman, so the work I do is mostly in bright colors. It’s a confident woman who can wear bright colors.”

Just recently, demand has grown enough for her to be able to focus on her business full-time.

Says Savage: “I do really think that by providing this platform, the market inspired people who wanted to do something different from their day jobs. It’s providing a place for small businesses to launch, and it makes me really excited when I see people doing well.”

– Rehana Dada

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Entertainment

Harry And Meghan Need $3 Million-Plus To Be ‘Financially Independent.’ Here’s How They May Do It.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would like to “become financially independent,” they announced Wednesday—and that may have to happen sooner rather than later, as Prince Charles, Harry’s father, is reportedly threatening to pull the millions he gives them each year. How they plan to replace those funds remains a subject of feverish palace intrigue about which the couple remains mum.

But what is clear: By stepping away from their duties, they likely are no longer prohibited from earning income the way senior members of the royal family are, clearing the way for them to take real jobs. What will those be? And how much will they actually need to make in order to live in the style to which they’ve become accustomed?

Annual Costs: Roughly $3 Million A Year (Not Including Renovations)

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact amount that Prince Harry and Markle earn from the various royal mechanisms each year—and a spokesperson for the Sussexes did not respond to questions about on the couple’s finances—but 95% of their annual income comes from Prince Charles, Harry’s father, via the Duchy of Cornwall. A trust that consists of 131,000 acres of real estate and more than $450 million in commercial assets within the United Kingdom, the Duchy of Cornwall was established in 1337 to support the direct heir to the throne.

That estate paid a combined $6.5 million (or £5.1 million) to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) and to Prince Harry and Markle in the fiscal year ending March 2019, according to the latest financial report. The funding for the princes and their families didn’t change much from 2018 to 2019, although both reports were prior to the birth of the Sussex couple’s son, Archie. Let’s assume the brothers split that income from the Duchy (though William and Kate, with three children, are likely taking a bit more). While the Duke and Duchess did not immediately surrender this income, reports surfaced Friday that Charles is threatening to cut them off completely.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did announce that they will “no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant,” which we know covers an additional 5% of their income, and used for their official duties. It covers official business such as international tours, travel to official events and the upkeep of their homes and offices, and comes from about 25% of the revenue from the Crown Estate (£85.9 million or $112.2 million for the 2020–2021 fiscal year), a portfolio of investments controlled by the monarchy—though not by the royal family or the government—and includes properties across the United Kingdom. (For example, the Queen herself does not own Buckingham Palace.) 

In 2018 and 2019, the couple used money from the Sovereign Grant to travel across the world, from Fiji to South Africa, on official royal business. While the royal annual reports don’t detail how much the Sussex’s travels cost in total, their trip to Fiji and Tonga cost $105,000 (£81,000), according to the latest Sovereign Grant financial report. (While it may seem that travel costs could go down as the couple steps back from royal duties, they say they plan to split time between the British Isles and North America, which will lead to new expenses.) 

Based on what we know, we estimate the total of the couple’s funds from the Duchy and Sovereign Grants to be a (very conservative) $3 million—again, not including security costs. 

And that’s not including the cost of their home and renovations: The Sovereign Grant covered last year’s $3.12 million (£2.4 million) refurbishment of the Frogmore Cottage, the four-bedroom plus nursery home in Windsor where the couple lives when they are in England. The home’s maintenance began before the couple decided to move in and was covered by the Queen, under existing commitments to maintain the upkeep of certain historical buildings, while the couple privately paid for the furniture and decor. Even though the house is property of the Queen, the couple plans to continue using it as their official residence when they are in the United Kingdom—meaning less rent to pay. 

None of this takes into account the cost of their security, which is reportedly covered by the Metropolitan Police, and which the family is expected to continue to accept.  

With all of these expenses and their easy access to funds facing a precarious future, the questions remains of how, exactly, the couple plan to earn the millions that their lifestyle demands. 

What Could Make A Royal Gig: Books, Speeches, SponCon?

They do have some money to live off of: Thanks to her seven-year stint on the television drama Suits, Forbes estimates that Markle has a net worth of about $2.2 million. Prince Harry has money of his own as well, as he and his brother received the bulk of Princess Diana’s $31.5 million estate upon her death in 1997.  

But it is likely that they will join other royals, like Harry’s cousins Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, and actually take paying gigs (the former works in finance, while the latter works at an art gallery). While no announcements have been made as to how exactly the couple plans to make money, it would seem natural that they take up work in the entertainment and media fields. 

Markle has said that she was giving up acting for good once she joined the royal family; maybe this is an opportunity for her to change her mind. At the height of her acting career, she commanded up to $85,000 per episode of SuitsForbes estimates, a number that would likely shoot up thanks to her royal title if she decided to return to the screen.

But it is more likely that the pair will take up shop on the speaking and book circuit. High-profile speakers like former president and first lady Bill and Hillary Clinton can earn up to six figures per speech to corporations and universities, while even B-list celebrities like Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi could command $32,000 per oration during the height of her fame. 

A hit book has the potential to earn the couple even more. A seven-figure advance is typical for celebrities like Amy Schumer and politicians like Elizabeth Warren, with some high-profile authors earning even more. In 2017, former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama signed a record-breaking $65 million book deal with Penguin Random House, while Hillary Clinton scored a $14 million advance for Hard Choices in 2014, and Bruce Springsteen got $10 million for 2016’s Born to Run. 

There’s also talk that the couple, which favors new media and direct lines of communication with their fans, may even start a podcast, which could be a lucrative endeavor. Last year, advertising spend on podcasts reached an estimated $680 million, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, and that number is supposed to shoot up to $1 billion by next year.

And in the unlikely chance they’re ever interested in following the footsteps of the royal family of Calabasas, the Duke and Duchess could surely earn an enormous sum doing sponsored content on their widely popular (10.4 million followers) Instagram account. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and her half-sister Kylie Jenner earn up to $500,000 per post.

Of course, the details of the couple’s future, and their future earnings, are all in flux, as Buckingham Palace’s curt statement on the matter made clear. And the wording of their own statement made sure that they can work toward financial independence on their own time. One thing is for certain: It doesn’t seem as if the Duke and Duchess will be hurting for cash anytime soon.

By  Madeline Berg, Reporter, Forbes Staff and Deniz Çam , Wealth Reporter, Forbes Staff.

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Arts

Forbes Africa’s Best Photographs In 2019

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[Compiled by Motlabana Monnakgotla, Gypseenia Lion and Karen Mwendera]

Image 1:

Kabelo Mpofu, an entrepreneur, took over his mother’s shop in Meadowlands, in the South African township of Soweto. He is hopeful of making the family business a success despite big retail stores opening up in the townships and swallowing up the corner groceries.

Image 2:

Africa is the youngest continent in the world. Every year, South Africa observes June as Youth Month, honoring the anniversary of the Soweto Uprising on June 16. In this image, the country’s sprawling township of Soweto comes alive with youth dancing in the winter weather to local and international music at the Soweto International Jazz Festival, an annual confluence of history, art and culture.

Image 3:

Women hold up placards against gender-based violence during a ‘Shutdown Sandton’ campaign; this after a spate of brutal rape and killings in South Africa.

Image 4:

Car dealerships were among the businesses set alight in Johannesburg’s Jules Street, during the spate of xenophobia attacks in South Africa in August this year. The spark that fueled the raging fire began in Pretoria, the country’s capital, when a taxi driver was shot dead by a foreign national who was selling drugs to a youngster in the central business district.

Image 5:

Sibusiso Dlamini, the co-founder of Soweto Ink, works on one of his regular clients at his tattoo parlor founded in 2014 with his long-time friend, Ndumiso Ramate. In 2019, Soweto Ink held the fourth annual tattoo convention, and for the first time in partnership with BET Africa, to break tattoo taboos in Africa.

Image 6:

Mmusi Maimane, the former leader of South Africa’s opposition party, Democratic Alliance, is about to cast his vote in front of local and international media houses who had wrestled to get the perfect shot in his hometown in Dobsonville, Soweto, during the elections in South Africa in 2019.

Image 7:

The brother of South African journalist, Shiraaz Mohamed, begs for government intervention after Mohamed was kidnapped in Syria on January 2017 by a group of armed men. The group demanded more than $500,000 for his freedom.

Image 8:

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with his body guards at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the three-day South Africa Investment Conference was held in November.

Image 9:

In a world that’s embracing new technology, inspiration is being found in bug behavior. The hard-bodied dung beetle is now key to robotics research, in Africa too. Astounded by this discovery early this year is Marcus Byrne, a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg who has been studying dung beetles for over 20 years. He holds up a metallic replica of a dung beetle in his hand in his office at the university.

Image 10: 

Mzimhlophe Hostel, a hostel among many others in Soweto, erupted with service delivery protests prior to the elections in South Africa. In the same vicinity, an informal settlement was also allegedly set on fire. Brothers Mduduzi (32) and Kwenzi Gwala (22), pictured, had arrived in Johannesburg looking for employment. They sold African beer, but their shack was set alight while they were still at church. They lost all their stock and possessions.

Image 11: 

A thrift market in the heart of Johannesburg’s central business district, not too far from a busy taxi rank, known for its pavement robberies. Despite the crimes, thousands of small entrepreneurs trade in this raucous market every day.

Image 12:

ANC, DA and EFF supporters dancing and chanting outside the Hitekani Primary School in Chiawelo, Soweto, South Africa, as they await South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to cast his vote in his former primary school. 

Image 13:

Tenants in the discarded Vannin Court in Johannesburg look on from their balconies as jubilation erupts on the ground floor.

Image 14:

Vestine Nyiravesabimana makes money weaving intricate baskets made of grass to feed her nine children in Kigali, Rwanda.

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Life

Colors For Mandela

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The world of comic books is dominated by stories from the West. Two South African brothers are helping reshape that narrative with a central character inspired by the iconic hero.

Nelson Mandela had his own following at the recent Comic Con Africa convention at the end of September in Johannesburg.

At the center of all the organized chaos at the event at the Gallagher Convention Centre attended by 71,000 visitors over four days was a comic book bearing the late South African president’s name created by brothers Phemelo, 28, and Omphile Dibodu, 25.

The comic book, Young Nelson, features an African superhero, for readers in the continent and beyond.

Co-founders of Rainbow Nations Comics, a black-owned comic book and publishing company established in 2018, the Dibodu brothers were born and bred in Rustenburg, known as ‘platinum city’, in South Africa’s North West province.

Far from their hometown, the duo were in the big city for the event, showcasing their creations to an adept audience – people dressed as superheroes, cyborgs and zombies – who crowded around their stand and were as colorful as the comic books they were thumbing through.

READ MORE: Marvel Money: How Six Avengers Made $340 Million Last Year

“Wow, that looks cool, who is Young Nelson?” asked a curious bystander.

Phemelo was ready with his answers even as his brother assisted with more queries. 

“Young Nelson is a proudly South African black comic book inspired by the late Nelson Mandela,” responded Phemelo.

In front of him, on the table, a large poster of Young Nelson, featuring a young black male with the South African flag over his shoulders and a gold-colored map of Africa emblazoned on his shirt.

This day saw the launch of the very first issue of Young Nelson titled An Act of Kindness, for R20 ($1.3) a copy.

Phemelo, the writer, and Omphile, the illustrator, say they were inspired by Mandela and some of their own life experiences growing up.

“I think I wanted to pay tribute to the old man in a way that it would hopefully inspire others to look at him in the way that many South Africans see him,” says Phemelo to FORBES AFRICA.

In the story, ‘Young Nelson’ gets his nickname when he volunteers at a local boxing gym. The people watching him witness his skills and ability to solve problems, so they equate him to the young Mandela, who was famously a boxer in his youth.

“[The lead character] doesn’t like the nickname at first but once he sees the significance of it and his heroics, how they are taken up by the community to represent who they are, he takes the name and rolls with it and that’s his superhero name going forward with the series,” Phemelo explains.

READ MORE: How Disney’s Investment In Entertainment Brands Like Marvel and Star Wars Will Power The Launch Of Its New Streaming Service

Young Nelson’s real name in the comic is actually ‘Thabo Mo Afrika’, inspired by South African president Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela.

“ ‘Mo Afrika’ is a generic surname [which] translated into English is ‘an African’. So I wanted to see every African seeing themselves in Young Nelson,” Phemelo adds.

The young writer’s plan is to take his product to bigger markets, but for now, the African comic industry is a tough market to capture for lack of any funding.

“Imagine getting paid for what you are doing. That would [make a] big difference. Once people realize that their art can be compensated, more of us will actually start creating content the world would want to start reading,” he says.

Bill Masuku, a speaker at the Comic Con event and who is also a digital artist, shares the same sentiments.

“In Zimbabwe, where I am from, it is pretty grassroots. Everyone is self-publishing and if you don’t really have a passion for it, the book won’t come out,” says Masuku, who has been a part of the African comic industry for over three years. He is the founder of Enigma Comix Africa, and creator of Razor-Man and Captain South Africa.

“As much as new creatives are coming out every day, what really makes the comic book industry is distribution. And seeing that [Young Nelson] has such widespread potential really makes me hopeful for where we are going,” says Masuku.

For comic books to thrive on the continent, they need a big financial push from publishers, distributors or investors, unlike any other medium.

The Dibodu brothers were fortunate to have been sponsored by the Rustenburg Herald, a weekly local newspaper in Rustenburg.

“The problem with creating by yourself is that you can only create at a certain rate and you do burn out. So you find people who have been making comics who have three or four issues out and it’s easy to forget about them as a consumer,” he adds.

Globally, platforms like Weekly Shōnen Jump in Japan make it easy for Japanese creatives to publish their work as the comic book and manga industry is thriving there, making it one of the best-selling magazines. Weekly Shōnen Jump has sold over 7.5 billion copies since 1968.

But the African comic industry has a long way to go.

Kugali, a digital platform founded by three entrepreneurs and friends from Nigeria and Uganda, is designed to help people find and share the best African narratives and comics. It is an entertainment company that focuses on telling stories inspired by Africans, offering much-needed exposure to young creatives such as Masuku and the Dibodu brothers. For now, the reception the Dibodus are receiving give them some hope.

“It’s been awesome and inspirational. I didn’t know people felt the same way as me. It’s amazing when people are [reading] the story of the character and people are saying ‘you know what, that’s what we need’,” says Phemelo. At the end of Comic Con, they managed to sell over 300 copies of Young Nelson.

“People are catching onto the culture. I think it might even grow bigger than the American industry only because I think we are a very artistic community… Whether you look at the hieroglyphics in Egypt or the cave paintings by the bushmen in South Africa, we draw,” he says.

He also plans to sell his comics to local book stores in the country.

The team is currently working on their next creation – a black African female superhero called Imbokodo.

“We are looking for new creators we can partner with and create our own justice league, our own Avengers, to actually have young kids in South Africa look at their heroes the same way Americans look at their heroes in the Comic Cons to come.”

Young Nelson is a refreshing reminder that not all heroes wear capes.

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