South Africa’s townships – a magnet for entrepreneurs

Written by MCJStaff   // May 16, 2014   // 0 Comments

Despite their poor clientele, South Africa's spaza shop owners are able to make a living

Despite their poor clientele, South Africa’s spaza shop owners are able to make a living


South Africa has been a magnet for immigration in recent years, with many of those coming to Africa’s second-largest economy to set up small family businesses in bustling townships.

But their business acumen has not always been welcomed at first by local people, as Kharul Islam, a slightly built Bangladeshi in his mid-20s, can affirm.

He runs a small grocery shop, known in South Africa as a spaza, in the crime-ridden area of Delft, about 30km (19 miles) east of Cape Town.

With its red painted exterior, the Comic Grocer is easy to spot from a distance; look closer and you notice the bullet-proof glass and the metal mesh guards

“I’ve had to put in bullet-proof glass to protect me. When I first came people threatened to kill me,” he says.

It was local criminals who tried to intimidate him when he moved in three years ago.

Last year alone, the area recorded 113 murders, 129 cases of attempted murder and nearly 1,500 cases of violent crime in 2013, according to police statistics.

“But now that they know me it’s better and safer,” he says.

His customers come in to buy single items like a roll of toilet paper, sugar, milk or bread, but it is clear that the Bangladeshi, who has a Tanzanian and Zimbabwean to assist him, has developed a good relationship with them.

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a small grocery shop known as a spaza

Kharul Islam

small family businesses

South Africa

South African Entrepreneurs

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