A glimpse into ‘invisible’ economies

Goats and traditional medicine must become part of KZN’s economy

South Africa is importing as many as 300,000 goats a year from Namibia and Botswana, worth R50 million, when we could be exporting as many as a million goats annually, prospective graduates of Regent’s Business School’s new Institute of Entrepreneurship were told in Durban this week.

This is according GG Alcock, founder and CEO of Minanawe Marketing, who was guest speaker at Regent’s Masters of Business Administration (MBA) open day on Wednesday.

Alcock said that two years ago, Saudi Arabia had asked the KwaZulu-Natal government to supply one million goats a year (estimated value R1,5 – R2 billion), yet South Africa had yet to export a single goat.

He said in Msinga area alone more than 25,000 households collectively owned more than 350,000 goats. “But no goats are sold in Msinga. Goats are invisible, nobody counts them and nobody considers them part of the economy.”

Born white, Zulu bred, GG Alcock is the author of KasiNomics and Third World ChildKasiNomics is about third world economies and people that inhabit them. The term eKasi, derived from locasie, is slang for a township. Third World Child is a unique, piercing memoir about being truly African (albeit white) and bridging the divide between Africa’s tribal third world and a fast-paced, modern society.

Alcock said the same applied to the traditional medicine trade (muthi), estimated to be worth R3 billion annually (5,6% of the National Health budget).

Yet so many people look at this trade with deep scepticism, not realising its value in monetary and health terms.

“This massive market needs supply, a renewable supply. Commercially growing the traditional medicinal plants would not only conserve threatened species but fulfil a billion rand demand for health and cure,” said Alcock.

Alcock argued that while chain store proliferation weakened local economies, eroded community character and impoverished cultural life, third world enterprise added character, something which marketing companies were only just beginning to discover.

He said a food outlet, Mpopha’s Place in Alexandra township, generated as much as R50,000 a day selling quarter loafs (kotas) containing Parmalat cheese or slices of polony.

“Countrywide, the total market for kotas alone is worth R10 billion a year,” said Alcock. “The total value of the township fast-food market is now estimated at R80 billion.”

Alcock said the fact that these “invisible” economies were thriving outside the formal market were a sign that third world entrepreneurship was playing an increasingly important role in a modernised world.

“There is an opportunity for government and business to support and grow these massive markets, be they goats, muthi, kota sellers or stokvels,” said Alcock.

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This feature package also appeared in the Sunday Tribune. Click here to view pdf.

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