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Connectivity lights up gig economy in SA townships

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 08 Jun 2023

Internetproliferation is leading more people living in SA’s townships to find and create employment opportunities in the gig economy.

This is according to the latest instalment of the Township Customer Experience (CX) Report, released yesterday.

Now in its third year, the report is compiled by digital CX agency Rogerwilco, in partnership with market research company Survey54. As part of the online 26-question survey, 1 082 individuals living in townships across SA were polled for the 2023 report.

While 70% of the respondents last year revealed they had made an online purchase, this year has been the reverse, with respondents saying they are using the internet to earn money.

The report’s findings show 63.3% of the respondents said they or someone they know have sold products and services online, or begun working online.

The data also shows there was no gender skew, with men and women equally likely to trade online.

Says the report: “The self-employed (70%) and students (67%) were the most likely to turn connectivity into money.”

The gig economy has been touted as SA’s next employment creation frontier, amid the country’s high level of joblessness.

Gig work can be defined as income-earning opportunities outside of traditional, long-term employer-employee relationships, typically conducted via an on-demand digital platform by independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm workers, on-call workers and temporary employees. It includes skilled opportunities that require specific qualification, talent or ability.

In SA, it is already noted as creating work in various industries, particularly in e-hailing, e-commerce, entertainment and online delivery services.

Mongezi Mtati, senior brand strategist at Rogerwilco, attributes the shift to the gig economy in townships to the availability of affordable and high-speed internet.

Mtati highlights the contributions made by initiatives like Isizwe.com's Kayamandi Fibre Project and others led by Vumatel in achieving this milestone.

In addition, mobile operator Vodacom last year launched Get-a-Gig through NXT LVL with a three-year vision of connecting one million youth to jobs or gigs by 2024.

Improved internet access also presents numerous opportunities for small businesses to thrive, Mtati notes.

One sector that has experienced notable growth is food delivery services, driven by the surge in e-commerce and the unique circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, he states.

While digital economy firms like Uber Eats, Checkers Sixty60 and Mr D are top of mind in townships, the report notes a slight rise in the use of local services like eKasi Delivery, Zulzi and YeboFresh.

In addition, digital access is reshaping the traditional stokvel landscape, with notable increases in membership among the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups.

According to this year's report, two-thirds (63.9%) of individuals in the 25-34 age group are now part of one or more stokvels, making them the most prominent demographic and accounting for the highest growth in stokvel adoption.

Additionally, the 18-24 age group has seen an increase in stokvel participation, rising from 37% in the previous year to 44% in 2023.

Mtati emphasises that innovative solutions such as the stokvel management app StokFella, combined with the rise of fintech solutions, promote financial inclusion and alternative savings methods among SA’s youth.

“As township residents continue to prioritise value over brand loyalty and increasingly support local businesses, the findings of this year's Township CX Report underscore the importance of brands actively engaging and establishing a presence within these communities.”

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