Lungiswa Mama (left), whose stall is at the Mdantsane Highway taxi rank, was one of 90 informal traders who completed the Hawkers Capacity Building and Training Programme.(Image: Shamin Chibba) For Lungiswa Mama, an informal trader from Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, business at the Highway taxi rank will never be the same. As of this week, her fruit and vegetable stall will reap profits she has only dreamed of – until now.This is because Mama and 89 other informal traders from East London, King William’s Town and Mdantsane recently completed the Hawkers Capacity Building and Training Programme.Earlier in December the 90 hawkers were commended at a graduation ceremony at the East London City Hall.The training programme is the brainchild of the Buffalo City Municipality (BCM) who had set aside R400 000 for this year’s course.Speaking at the ceremony, BCM mayor Zukisa Faku said that findings indicated that there were more hawkers than formal businesses in the city.“It can be proved by the fact that one finds up to three hawkers’ stalls in front of a single shop in town, not to mention the fruit and vegetable vendors who do not have stalls. The municipality can therefore not ignore this industry,” she said.“In this financial year, we will have to maximise the municipality’s job creation potential, and open new and affordable markets for our people to pursue.”BCM providing business knowledgeAccording to Samkelo Gqeba, BCM’s communications officer, the goal of the course is to equip hawkers with knowledge that will enable them to grow their business. “The course is aimed at building the capacity of street traders to enhance the growth and sustainability of their businesses, through the provision of business skills training.”Gqeba added that hawkers ran their ventures haphazardly because of poor of financial management and their failure to diversify their business.Therefore, the curriculum was divided into five parts, namely basic bookkeeping, stock control, health and hygiene, marketing and customer care, and costing.The programme began in 2007 after the BCM’s research discovered that hawkers, particularly at the Highway taxi rank, played an important role in the area’s economic development, and boosted job creation. It also found that many hawkers had neither the knowledge nor the access to information needed to grow. Since then, the municipality’s Mdantsane One Stop Shop has conducted the course.According to One Stop Shop coordinator Khungeka Somnono, these subjects covered aspects of business the hawkers were previously unaware of.“Participants have gained a lot from the training because they did not know certain things such as the need to register a business.”She said the training has helped hawkers understand the basic principles of running a successful enterprise. “Now they have learned they must have a bank account and save their profits. Others did not know about stock control. They only placed orders as they wished,” she said.Mama said the knowledge gained from the training has helped her business to soar.“I was taught how to deal with different types of customers in a professional manner. Now I am reaping the rewards because I am able to retain old customers and attract new ones.”The BCM course has also inspired her to tackle issues such as slow trade in the middle of the week.“The training has taught me to think out of the box and look for other business. I have decided to sell airtime to supplement my profits,” said Mama.