Talk of large formal retailers being allowed by government to spread their tentacles into the spaza shop market is splitting the black business community down the middle. Two diametrically opposed views on the thorny subject are beginning to emerge, with one camp supporting a tentative push by white-owned retailers into the spaza shop market and another camp arguing for retailers to be stopped in their tracks before they gobble up the lucrative market straddling South Africa’s townships and rural towns.
The issue came under discussion recently at a second instalment of a live Facebook panel discussion, known as Lockdown Convo, which I participated in.
The theme of the discussion, moderated by Miso Tini, posed this question: What does it mean for black business if Pick n Pay and Shoprite can enter the spaza shop market?
The panel that tackled the matter of whether these retailers should be allowed to operate in the sector also included Sabelo Macingwane (president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry, or Nafcoc), Gauteng department of economic development (GDED) official Tseliso Motsimo, and spaza shop start-up owner Mxolisi Goodman Buthelezi.
In the camp that entertained the idea of participation of formal retailers in the spaza shop market, either through franchising or partnership with black South Africans, were Macingwane, Motsimo, and me.
Buthelezi was vehemently opposed to big retailers owning spaza shops, fearing that they could end up totally dominating that market.
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16 July 2020