Winning Women

Rosheda Muller is taking the informal sector into the 4th industrial revolution

Informal trading has always been a part of South Africa’s economy, with millions of people active in this often overlooked and undervalued sector. In honour of Women’s Month and celebrating women of worth, Spotong sat down with Rosheda Muller, a community worker, informal business sector champion and president of SAITA (the South African Informal Traders Alliance) to discuss her passion for the informal sector and how she is empowering informal traders. This is her story.

Rosheda Muller graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the Western Cape in the seventies and started her career as a high school educator until 1987 when she felt the need to expand her horizons. After leaving teaching, she started Touch Base clothing, manufacturing baseball jackets, with her husband. She operated in informal markets such as the Cape Town Station Fleamarket. She believes that it was divine intervention that led her to operate in this sector. While trying to grow her business and operating in the informal market space, she was exposed to the dynamics of informal trading and soon shared the hopes, dreams and challenges that traders faced. At some juncture, she felt a need and desire to champion the cause of informal traders, to help improve the lives of the most marginalised and vulnerable workforce in South Africa.

She immediately realised the potential of groups of traders trading on parastatal land and together they formed the Cape Town Station Lower Deck Traders Association. In 1997, they formed the first limited company of 100 shareholders. Unfortunately, by 2009 they had lost everything that they had worked so hard for due to the renovation and rebuilding of the Cape Town Station for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

She believes that it was divine intervention that led her to operate in this sector.

Down but not out, Rosheda continued to mobilise and form organisations in the greater Cape Town area. Dr Pat Horn, who in the meantime was mobilising informal traders across all nine provinces to form a national movement, arrived in Cape Town and partnered with Rosheda. The South African Informal Traders Alliance was officially launched in 2013, and in 2014, Rosheda took over as acting president and last year, as president elect.

SAITA is recognized nationally as the voice of the informal sector with provincial structures in each province. SAITA engages at national, provincial and local government levels to protect the rights of the informal sector and to continue to strive for better, more enabling environments for informal traders to operate in.

SAITA has 80 000 members countrywide and continues to grow. According to SAITA research, 2.9-million informal traders operate in South Africa and it is Rosheda's dream to let every single trader's voice be heard.

A DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS PLATFORM FOR INFORMAL TRADERS

In April 2019, the South African Informal Traders Alliance (SAITA) embarked on an innovative campaign to unite all of its members onto a single communications platform. The aim was to design a communications platform through which SAITA could provide support and information to the informal sector. In partnership with eLearnSA, a 100% black-owned company founded in 2015, they developed a communications app through which information could be delivered to any informal trader with access to a smartphone.

The app has the following features:


  1. About Us - This feature will inform members about SAITA.
  2. Education – This is an online training feature on the SAITA app being made available to informal traders, their families and the community. Informal traders are now able to access training from their place of trade using their cellphones and upskill themselves without having to lose trade on the day by attending classes.
  3. SAITA News – This is SAITA’s very own media tool. Here, affiliates and organisations can post news and activities relevant to the sector onto the app for members to access.
  4. Directory – This is a free marketing tool available on the SAITA app where informal traders can load their company details and manage their business information themselves. The objective of the directory is to encourage trade between informal traders, as well as attracting additional business to informal traders from surrounding communities. The Directory has geo-location functionality, listing all informal traders within a 30km radius from your current location. Consumers are thus encouraged to download the SAITA app to find their nearest informal trader to access the best trade deals.
  5. Let’s Talk – This is an industry-specific chat room where informal traders can voice their opinion and discuss challenges and victories with fellow informal traders, creating a stronger community.

The app can make resources available to informal traders, and an e-commerce functionality is coming soon. This will mean that informal traders can load their products onto the app and sell them online, making it available to a much larger, global audience.

eLearnSA has also made a bursary fund available to 100 SAITA members per year for the next three years to study Entrepreneurship 101 via the SAITA app. The bursary fund is valued at R900 000.

Informal traders are encouraged to download the SAITA app onto their cellphones. The app is available from the Google Play Store. To make contact with SAITA or to become a member, visit their Facebook page – SOUTH AFRICAN INFORMAL TRADERS ALLIANCE.