From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.
Small markets are an important part of South Africa’s economy. These businesses offer jobs in a country with an unemployment rate of at least 25 percent. But immigrants and international businesses are setting up competing stores. That has hurt local traders who run little shops called spazas.
John Stheole has owned his spaza for more than 10 years. It is a small grey building in the Soweto area of the capital, Johannesburg. His small store offers many different kinds of goods from soap to sweets.
Spaza means “just getting by.” The shops are found in non-white communities where larger, more official stores are not available or are too costly. There are about 100,000 spazas in South Africa. They employ 290,000 people.
Research shows that what is called the “informal sector” in Africa is very large. Informal workers can be self-employed or wage earners. Last year, the African Development Bank said the informal sector provides about 55 percent of the economic productivity of sub-Saharan Africa.
But business has been slow for Mr. Stheole. He is competing with a nearby store run by a family from Pakistan.
South Africa is the only country in the area where refugees have the right to work and can move freely. But, reduced profits for native traders and high unemployment rates have caused tensions in the country. In September, more than 100 Somali-owned spazas were attacked during unrest in the city of Port Elizabeth.
Rose Nkosi is president of the South African Spaza and Tuckshop Association. She says the businesses offer the community credit and 24-hour service. The competitors do not.