Spaza'' shops - small, informal stores - are the lifeblood of South Africa's townships, but many owners are finding it harder to stay afloat as the country struggles with a slowing growth rate. David Pollard reports.
Life can move quickly in South Africa's townships. But does slow down to concentrate on important things - like getting vital supplies. For many, these small stores in the townships are a cornerstone of their day-to-day existence. So-called 'spaza shops'. (SOUNDBITE) (Sesotho) ROSE TAU, SPAZA SHOP OWNER, SAYING: "I opened a spaza because I lost my job ... I started selling sweets and stuff for kids like coloured popcorn, gum and cigarettes on the side. Then, as more business came in, I added soft drinks, bread and milk." Spaza shops contribute millions to South Africa's economy. For their owners, the rewards are meagre. The government IS trying to help. Six-week training programmes give the skills needed to trade better - and more. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LINDIWE ZULU, SMALL BUSINESS AND ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT MINISTER SAYING: "We are now including in, in what we offer, equipment that that they need. From refrigerators for those who are in spaza shops, to industrial stoves for those that are cooking lunches and breakfasts." But the lure of the shopping mall can be just too much competition. And recent tensions over the number of migrants in South Africa highlights another challenge. Many among the 5 million foreign population also want to compete - as local traders themselves. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LINDIWE ZULU, SMALL BUSINESS AND ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT MINISTER SAYING: "The only way we can be able to deal with this is to empower our own people so that they don't feel threatened by foreign nationals who are operating and having spaza shops." The word 'spaza' is slang meaning 'just getting by.' For now, that's the best it seems, that owners like Rose can hope for.