The role of street trading in sustaining livelihoods: A case of migrant street traders in Durban, South Africa.
The informal economy in South Africa has been associated with a lack of growth, and it is believed that people would pursue businesses in this sector to overcome the cicumstances of poverty. Street trading, which is the most visible sector of the informal economy, has been blamed for urban decay and the negative impact it has on the urbanisation of different cities across South Africa. Such views have contributed to the challenges of street traders and have affected how they make a living. Street trading is a growing phenomenon in the Central Businesses Districts (CBDs) where many are people dependent on the practice of street trading for livelihoods. This study sought to understand the contribution made by the street trading enterprises in sustaining migrant street trader livelihoods and well-being in Durban. The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SLF) was applied as a conceptual framework to investigate the degree to which migrant street traders can improve their well-being and cope with the vulnerability context. The core elements of the SLF connect for migrant street traders to achieve desired livelihood outcomes. Using a case study research approach, the study sampled 12 migrant street traders for semi-structured interviews and 30 migrant street traders for the questionnaire. The study involved migrant street traders who sell clothing apparel at the Workshop flea market in the Durban CBD. The study applied a sequential mixed-method approach for data collection and data analysis. Empirical findings on quantitative data provided an insight into the different types of migrant street traders enterprises and the factors that propel migrant street traders to start street trading enterprises. Qualitative data provided insight that may not have been obtained by quantitative methods. Qualitative empirical finding’s inception point is the migration aspirations and opportunities of migrant street traders. The data highlights the role of networks in facilitating the migration process and providing support. Whilst the vulnerability context continuously poses major challenges for migrant street traders, the capital stocks from which migrant street traders draw from are crucial to deal with the shocks, seasonality, trends, and other challenges. Findings indicated the capitals enable migrant street traders to achieve a better life that they have reason to value, extend their capabilities, enhance well-being, and most of all achieve desired livelihood outcomes. The study revealed that social capital and human capital are crucial for sustaining livelihoods. Evidence from the study further revealed that street trading and the livelihoods of migrant street traders were highly dependent on the city they had chosen as their destination point when leaving the country of origin. Therefore, traders migrated toDurban not only for economic reasons but also for its geographic location and liveability. Although street trading operates in the vulnerability context, evidence from the study points to ways in which aspects of street trading in Durban may contribute to sustainable livelihoods and the enhanced well-being of migrants.