Riding on Fifa World Cup Window

By Emeka Umejei (NIGERIA) – The 2010 FIFA World Cup held in South Africa may have come and gone, but its impact on the economy and people of Nelson Mandela’s country will remain evergreen.

Sakhumzi resturant

This is especially the case with the South West Township (Soweto), a suburb of Johannesburg that stood out remarkably as a ghetto city during the Apartheid era in the country. In it, the World Cup has succeeded in giving boost to many budding entrepreneurs.

On a visit to Soweto during the last FIFA World Cup recently held in South Africa, it became evident that transformation had caught up with every facet of the society, very much unlike when this reporter visited about a year ago.

Irrespective of the tourism attractions that dot the landscape of Soweto, it had not enjoyed the patronage of White South Africans, who hitherto viewed the township as an area prone to violence. The World Cup may have however succeeded in altering that age-old perception of the predominantly black settlement. Sakhumzi Makhubela, chief executive officer (CEO) of Sakhumzi Restaurant stated this much in a brief chat with Daily Independent in his restaurant on Vilakazi Street.

“The World Cup has been pretty nice,” Makhubela said.

Agnes Kithavi

He added, “We have so many white people who normally don’t visit Soweto, but with the World Cup Soweto is busy everyday, including the locals who throng Sakhumzi Restaurant to watch soccer here in Orlando west.”

Nonthlana Melanie, another entrepreneur on Vilakazi Street corroborated Makhubela. “Even white South Africans are coming out to Soweto now because they see people from all over the world coming to Soweto. They used to have a wrong impression of Soweto as a violent place,” he said.

Soweto often evokes memories of Apartheid, but the World Cup euphoria subsumed all that with the emergence of a new crop of entrepreneurs who appear ready to conquer their world beyond the wall of Soweto.

Historically, Soweto was created to house mainly black labourers who worked in mines and other industries in South Africa during the Apartheid regime. The name Soweto was officially adopted in 1963 and forms one of the municipal councils that made up Johannesburg, South Africa. Soweto began as a shantytown in the 1930s and became the largest black city in South Africa, but until 1976 its population could have status only as temporary residents.

Makhubela Sakhumzi

One of the centres of attraction in the whole of Soweto is the popular Vilakazi Street, described as the only street in the world to have two Nobel laureates as residents. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu live there, though Mandela’s house has now become a Museum while the Tutus still maintain theirs.

The last time this reporter was on Vilakazi Street, construction was ongoing but all that has changed, with the entire street wearing a new look.

However, the infrastructural development on Vilakazi Street is nothing compared to the numbers of new businesses that have sprung up within the neighbourhood. The first evidence that Soweto is on the swing manifests in Sakhumzi Restaurant, which has undergone facelift with additional floor, making it a storey building. The number of tourists moving in and out of Soweto also confirms the new status.

Infact, to get served at Sakhumzi Restaurant was a task on its own. This reporter spent approximately 30minutes before he could get served. But if there was one man that appeared to have enjoyed the frenzy of the world cup, it was Sakhumzi Makhubela, owner of Sakhumzi Restaurant.

In a chat with our reporter, he acknowledged that the World Cup improved his fortunes tremendously with sales hitting the roof.

“The sales were up. I was working all through. I didn’t have a chance to have a beer with my friends. I needed to have a sip (laughter),” Makhubela stated. According to Makhubela, the World Cup was profitable and he wished it would continue. “The World Cup had been profitable. We must have another big event here in South Africa,” the Soweto entrepreneur yearned.

Comparing the customer traffic to Sakhumzi before and during the World Cup, Makhubela chuckled with a smile and said there was no basis for comparison. His words, “When there was no world cup, we normally saw about 58 to 80 a day, but with the World Cup we saw about 700 and 900 people daily.

“Makhubela went down the memory lane on how he founded the restaurant eight years ago. According to him, he used to work for an IT company but decided to be self-employed when it became apparent that he was tired of the IT work.He recalled that the restaurant started from hanging out with friends for drinking and relaxation. “My friends used to come, we drank, bought foods and relaxed together, but on their exit, I would go to work,” Makhubela disclosed.

Catherine Kokone

“So, I decided to sell beer and food to my friends. As I was doing that, I was reading newspapers and learnt that tourism was growing in Soweto. And I decided to do it fulltime. It started like that and I have not looked back.”

Makhubela disclosed that he has 60 people in his employ, which according to him, give him fulfilment. “I am fulfilled because before founding Sakhumzi, I was feeding just my family, but now I have 60 people working for me.

“One person is a breadwinner feeding five people and when multiplied by 60, it makes me happy. I am making a difference in my community,” he stated.

Though Makhubela may be a big time player, there are other upcoming entrepreneurs on Vilakazi, especially those created by the World cup.

In front of Sakhumzi Restaurant is a makeshift store owned by Agnes Kithavi, who deals on hand made South African attires and beads. The last time this reporter visited Vilakazi Street, Kithavi was among a few of the thriving small and medium entrepreneurs on Vilakazi Street,

but the World Cup has tremendously affected her business.

“Since the World Cupin South Africa we have seen great changes and we are making good money. We are making a lot of money,” she said.

Kithavi like Makhubela wished the World Cupwould continue, because according to her, it changed the fortunes of her business. “Before the World Cup, I made like R2000 daily, but with the World Cup  made like R8000 daily. That was a very great change for me. I had wished the World Cup could continue,” she said with smiles. For Lovelace Msibi, who deals on caps, beads and scarves, a new entrepreneur on Vilakazi Street, the world was a huge opportunity for youths in Soweto.

Lovelace Msibi

According to Lovelace, he didn’t have job before the world, but the World Cup gave him an opportunity to be self-employed. “The World Cup impacted a lot on me. I was an unemployed 23-year-old, but the World Cuphas given me an opportunity to be self-employed,” Lovelace stated, adding “I make money now. Actually, I am now a breadwinner.” He recalled that he raked in between R700 and R800 daily during the competition and applauded the fiesta for creating huge employment opportunities in Soweto.

“The World Cup has created huge employment here in Soweto, especially for the youths,” Lovelace said.

Remarkably, the world cup-induced entrepreneurship cut across age, not just for the youths alone. The case of 60-year-old Kokone Catherine readily stands out for illustration. “The business had been good with the world cup,” Kokone told Daily Independent. “I made between R2000 to R3000. I would like the World Cupto continue throughout the year,” she added.

Apparently on account of the prevailing opportunities, the entire Vilakazi, was virtually peopled by World Cup entrepreneurs who appeared bent on reaping from the huge window presented by the world cup.

37-year-old Nonthlana Melanie is among the new crop of entrepreneur on Vilakazi Street. Melanie recounted how she commenced her venture to our reporter. “I have always been interested in African wears, but didn’t know it was lucrative until a woman in Durban encouraged me.”

On the impact of the World Cupon her business, she affirmed that sales actually went up. “With the world cup, if sales were poor, I could make up to R700. It depended on when one resumed,” Melanie recalled. “If I came out on time, I could make up to R1400. Before the World Cup I was selling between R200 and R750, but it had not been this busy. Every body is worried whether we would be having such influx of tourists after the World Cup,” she added.

Melanie however stated that she would take advantage of the World Cup to network and look out for somebody who would be willing to take her products abroad.

Like other entrepreneurs on Vilakazi, Melanie wished the World Cup  would not come to an end. “If I could, I wouldn’t want the world cup to end,” she said.Another entrepreneur on Vilakazi who caught the attention of this reporter was 48-year-old Hendrew Musela, who dealt on caps and other World Cup paraphernalia.

Musela confirmed that prior to the World Cup sales had been low, but all that changed with the mundial. “Before the commencement of the World Cup sales were very low. I probably made around R500 but with the World Cup I made an average of R1000 daily. I wish the world cup could be running for the whole year,” he said. Any one thinking that the World Cup succeeded in boosting entrepreneurship only on Vilakazi Street in the whole of Soweto would be drawing a hasty conclusion.

At Hector Pieterson Museum, built in memory of Hector Peterson, the first student to fall in the Soweto uprising of June 16, 1976, the number of young Soweto indigenes selling various forms of art and World Cup materials gave vent to the impact of the World Cup in South Africa.

Neo Ntapa, an art dealer at the museum was all smiles as he told Daily Independent that the World Cup had made him an employer of labour.

“I have two people working for me, as you can see they are standing there (pointing to his workers),” Ntapa disclosed.

Applauding the impact of the World Cup on his business, Ntapa recalled that his sales went up tremendously.

“I made something between R2000 and R3000 daily but before the World Cup I used to make about R200 daily. I had to get here on time, because I got to pay my own bills and that of my staff,” Ntapa stated.

Corroborating the impact of the World Cupto South Africa’s economy, President Jacob Zuma described it as an economic success. “Africa’s first World Cuptournament had been an economic success for South Africa,” Zuma said.