Street Vendors Aiming Higher In The New Year

10 Jan 2016 11:10am
By July Nafuka

WINDHOEK, 10 JAN (NAMPA) – Most people’s New Year’s Resolutions centre around living a more healthy lifestyle or improving themselves in another way.
For Rauna Aikombo, her wishes for the new year have to do with her business.
Sitting in her stall surrounded by the foodstuffs she sells along Omuvapu Street in Windhoek’s Freedom Land, the 40-year-old mother of two schoolgoing children says all she wants this year is a place where she can run her small business freely - and of course to grow the business.
Being a street vendor is not easy. Just as she settles in, she has to pack up and leave again as the places she trades from are mostly situated on erven that belong to private individuals.
“In this business it’s hard to get a stable place where you can put up your tent as people always chase you away. You really don’t have a permanent place from where you can run your business,” she says.
Aikombo explains that getting a permanent spot would not only make her life easier, but would also make things more convenient for her customers.
“Every dollar I make makes a big difference, and that keeps me going,” she says.
Aikombo started trading in 2010. She sold 'oshikundu' (a traditional drink) from a 25 litre bucket. Throughout the years she started selling fruit, vegetables, snacks, sweets, recharge vouchers – whatever is needed in the community around her. On average, the business brings in N.dollars 13 000 per year.
This year, she hopes to expand it even more, hopefully in a permanent location safe from the sun, wind and occasional rain.
“It is just another year of working hard and making sure my business makes it into the new year,” a smiling Aikombo says while attending to her customers.
She is one of many vendors who, as most of Windhoek wakes up at around 06h00, has already started trading in order to help their first customers on their way to work or school.
They stop trading between 18h00 and 21h00, when their customers have made their way home from work.
Another vendor, trading in the One Nation informal settlement close to Omuvapu Street, is the 25-year-old vendor KK Shikongo, who says his hope for his business this year is that he can grow it by erecting at least two more stalls in his area.
“In business you never settle for less, and as a businessman you have to keep growing. You will face a lot of challenges but the secret is to just keep going. That is what helps you make money,” he says.
Shikongo also speaks about how running a business from a shack has its downsides, one of which is the rain which can damage his stock.
But damaged stock is easier to handle than thieves, who find it easy to get away at night in an area where there is no electricity. Working after dark, Shikongo uses a candle or torch.
Still, the young man is proud of what he has achieved. Looking around at the shelves packed with fruit, vegetables, snacks, cleaning products and toiletries, he recalls how he started off at the age of 21.
“I only sold cigarettes and sweets. I am proud of how it has grown over the past few years into a small mini market for the community,” he said.
A pleased Shikongo told Nampa his annual income of about N.dollar 16 000 has sustained his family of three for the past few years. He even managed to buy a 1991 Toyota Corolla last year.
Also trading in the One Nation informal settlement are Amon Nakafingo, 30; and Agnes Shidute, 35.
Their stock is similar to that of Shikongo and Aikombo, but when they started off this was not the case.
“We just started with a small table that I made. We sold onions and tomatoes for N.dollar 1. We then later added things like sweets, packets of soup and bread and actually had to buy a bigger table to accommodate everything. As the years went by we managed to make enough to build a shack,” Nakafingo says.
He said their biggest boost came in 2011, when the community in the vicinity started asking for more and varied stock, and they had to meet the demands of their customers.
“Customers are the most important people to a business, and I am glad that we have such a good relationship with ours,” he says.
The same customers now want them to start selling meat, fish and poultry.
“But it is not going to be easy as we don’t have electricity here,” Nakafingo says.
Their new year’s resolution is to once again meet their customers demands by finding an affordable and efficient way to stock meat, fish and dairy products.
This will make a big difference in Nakafingo and Shidute’s business, which has helped them to support eight children – some their own and others, family children - over the past six years.
At the moment, they make between N.dollars 14 000 and N.dollars 16 000 a year.