You can find fine beadwork, wire-framed animals, carvings, pots and other African crafts, imaginatively made from a variety of materials, for sale on the side of the road. These objects are good quality, reasonably priced and, often directly benefit the person selling them.

Did you know?

Along with street vendors and hawkers, South Africa's informal sector includes waste collectors, home-based entrepreneurs and informal transport and agricultural workers.

Many creative and innovative South Africans, as well as craftsmen and women from other countries on the African continent, have set up shops and stalls along urban and rural roads in South Africa, to sell their arts and crafts.

These ever-changing and increasingly popular roadside markets attract local and international visitors with a range of goods that include hand-woven hats or baskets, beaded wire-sculptures, lamp shades, wooden carvings and more.

When you support roadside art sellers, you can simultaneously help someone earn a living, negotiate a good price for great quality work and, acquire a memorable piece of African art. While some roadside craft is designed with functionality in mind, like tableware, stools and mats made from local materials, other pieces are designed for decorative purposes.

In typically entrepreneurial fashion, traders often take everyday materials, like multi-coloured telephone wire or tin cans and, use them to make designer baskets or candlestick holders. Plastic bags and bottle tops are reused to make art objects or household accessories like bath mats, door stops or fruit bowls. Not only do objects made from recycled materials make interesting and unique souvenirs; they also reduce waste.

You will also find that the art and crafts from roadside markets are often cheaper than those sold in airports or at tourism centres, because they are sold directly by the artist or crafter who has made them. You will often see them working on their next piece while you look through their product range.

Encounters with these gifted entrepreneurs often lead to interesting and inspiring conversations with people from South Africa and all over the African continent. Quite a number of craftsmen and women who trade on the street in South Africa originate from other African countries and have come to South Africa to use their skills to create a better life.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

StreetNet International
Tel: +27 (0)31 307 4038
Email: info@streetnet.org.za

How to get here

Many tourist areas are also thriving centres for roadside art. If you are on your way to Kruger National Park or exploring Cape Town, you are sure to find some quality roadside art and crafts along the way.

What will it cost

Bargaining is common practice at roadside stalls. Remember, though, that the sellers earn their living through their art, so fairness should be the guiding principle when negotiating prices.

Best buys

Metal windmills, wooden giraffes and colourful beadwork are all firm favourites with visitors.