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Selpal helps create fairer retail markets for township traders

More than half of adult South Africans were shopping online by the end of 2016. Online spending is forecast to more than double by this year. The facts are in, e-commerce is set to reshape South Africa’s consumer landscape like nothing else in the last few years.

Stephen Goldberg is the CEO of Selpal, which offers a virtual distribution platform  to connect manufacturers, suppliers, merchants and consumers. He argues that technological advances in the retail world are creating fairer and cheaper markets in everything from food, clothes, transport and telecommunications to accommodation. In the context of South Africa’s history, this becomes even more important.

More than half of adult South Africans were shopping online by the end of 2016. Online spending is forecast to more than double by this year.

Selpal gathers data on township wholesalers, spaza shops, taverns and consumers. It therefore has a unique insight into the buying choices and patterns in the township retail space.This segment has traditionally suffered the highest prices despite being comprised of the poorest consumers, because of distribution and other challenges.

The world marked World Consumer Rights Day on 15 March this year with a focus on making digital marketplaces faire. South Africans rightly joined in, expecting secure and fairer markets, in particular for the most vulnerable who in this country reside in townships and peri-urban centres dotted around the country’s major urban centres.

Selpal caters to this market. Technology is bringing greater transparency and efficiency to the product supply chain, benefitting the consumer through cheaper prices, and enabling access to a wider range of products. This is one of the main themes of World Consumer Rights this year.

“Democracy doesn’t rhyme with e-commerce but there is little doubt that the profit motive is democratising the marketplace in the age of technology as online shopping becomes more prevalent, replacing bricks and mortar,’’ says Goldberg. “This is especially beneficial in the townships, which have more often than not been neglected by the big manufacturers.’’ 

As smartphone ownership increases in the country, online marketplaces will increasingly take more of the retail pie, allowing all a richer choice of products and services while bringing prices down.

About Selpal

Selpal offers a virtual distribution platform that uses technology to efficiently connect manufacturers, suppliers, merchants and consumers. Available on Android devices, Selpal offers customers and sellers access to virtual products such as airtime, data, electricity and lotto tickets as well as everyday groceries.

For merchants, the platform offers an opportunity to find out about their suppliers' products, pricing and specials, the ability to order online and the ability to pay using the Vault Wallet – which is both safe and convenient.

For more information, visit:

Gauteng to clamp down on illegal foreign-owned businesses in townships

The Gauteng provincial government has announced a drive to shut down illegally operating foreign-owned businesses in townships. Gauteng Premier David Makhura said the illegally run businesses were threatening local entrepreneurs.

“Another major problem facing township businesses is the mushrooming of unregulated businesses owned by foreign nationals. This is a matter we must address boldly and decisively to enforce by-laws and trading regulations,” Premier Makhura announced during his State of the Province Address.

“Many township entrepreneurs are being squeezed out of business by these unlawfully operating … businesses. This year, I will send inspectors to visit townships and inner cities to conduct inspections and shut down these illegally operating businesses.”

Spaza shops have been an area of conflict in recent years in townships, with local owners complaining that foreign nationals are infiltrating townships with shops that offer lower prices, which drives them out of business.

The township economy took centre stage in Premier Makhura’s address, where he indicated that between 2014 and 2017, public procurement spent on township enterprises increased from R600-million to R17-billion.

The number of township enterprises doing business with government has increased from 642 in 2014 to 4 182 in 2017, which, according to the Premier, has helped formalise many township enterprises.

However, funding and access to markets are the two most critical barriers facing black start-ups and township enterprises.

Township stock exchange in final pre-launch stages

Gauteng Premier David Makhura said the initiative of the township stock exchange was in its final stages, in partnership with the private sector. 

The new stock exchange, Safe-X, will provide the third opportunity for South Africans to invest in the market, after the JSE and the ZAR-X, launched last year. It aims to create economic opportunities for township entrepreneurs and enable them to raise capital and grow their businesses. The initiative will cater for the manufacturing and industrial sectors, as it will also cluster business according to common supply chain processes.

Premier Makhura said the provincial government has partnered with more than 40 corporates to help township businesses. He said this was opening new opportunities for township-based businesses to participate in corporate supply chains, thus helping to transform township enterprises into more sustainable businesses, without having to rely solely on government contracts, according to the South African government news agency

Entrepreneur's dream comes true 

Tiisetso Masha’s father, Micca, started the family spaza store, Masha’s Food, in Mamelodi, Pretoria, in a container in 2006. In an area then occupied only by informal structures, there was no electricity at first, but the business grew and served its customers well. 

Micca had a dream, though, says his son, Tiisetso. He wanted to grow the family business and offer greater convenience to his customers. “It made sense for us to grow and develop our offering,” says Tiisetso. “If customers can shop close to home they don’t have to spend money on taxi fares. It’s also about creating a store that offers them more of what they want, and more third-party services.”

His dream was realised when Masha’s Market opened on 28 February 2018 - the first Gauteng township entrepreneur this year to join retail giant Pick n Pay’s innovative spaza modernisation programme. Masha’s Market will employ 17 people from the area. “Job creation was a real dream of my dad’s,” says Tiisetso.

Sadly, Micca didn’t live to see his dream come true as he passed away last year, while the partnership was being put in place. Tiisetso will now run the business along with his brother Kagiso. Tiisetso says the opening of Masha’s Market is the “fulfilment of a dream. It’s just very sad that my father is not here to see it, but we plan to provide a service to our customers that will honour his memory.”