Did you know?
Many of the roadside sellers are actually employees of an agency who makes sure they earn at least a little base salary each day?
Need a tee-shirt, a bunch of flowers, sunglasses or a mobile phone charger? If you’re visiting South Africa, roadside sellers will be standing at traffic lights (which everybody calls 'robots’ in South Africa) and the variety of goods they have on offer is growing by the year.
South Africans are inventive and creative when it comes to making ends meet. Those who don't have a shop from which to sell their wares, take to the streets. Hawkers and craftspeople ply their wares at traffic intersections, minibus taxi ranks, at the side of the road and on the pavements, selling everything from sweets and fruit to elaborate sculptures, clothes, fashion accessories and home furnishings.
Roadside sellers might not convince you to buy any of their wares, but an encounter with any of them is truly a South African experience. And although you may not be looking for a fluffy dinosaur toy, if the smiling young man holds it up long enough, you might just be persuaded to buy it anyway.
Shopping on South Africa’s roadsides has its critics and there are disadvantages to the practice. For many South African residents the hawkers are a reason to keep the windows rolled up - and you do need to be conscious that there is nothing on your seat that can be stolen by someone taking advantage of the situation while you are interacting with the street seller.
While there are exceptions, most street sellers are simply trying to earn a living. It's a hard life and you will see them plying their trade, day in and day out, in the heat or the rain.
Many people wonder if roadside shopping is lucrative enough. Can sellers earn a living from a few quick encounters around traffic lights, or from pedestrians as they pass by? They certainly don't make a fortune but they would not continue if it was not worth their while.
As for their goods, they are often not the best quality or they are fakes of luxury brands - but the hawkers know how to win over their customers and their energetic presence is an integral part of South Africa’s vibe. Their smiles are free. Just be careful when handing over money, as these street sellers often say they do not have change.