South Africa’s unemployment rate is witnessing some of its worst times since 2008. Formal jobs are seeing a major downturn and many families within the country are suffering from larger amounts of poverty as a result. Despite these trying times, there are those who are trying to create opportunities in the face of hardship and help those trying to stand on their own feet through jobs and special education. One example is the fashion designer company OneOfEach and how it is not only creating jobs but showing a blueprint on how to fight South Africa’s unemployment by providing opportunity.
Economic Ups and Downs
South Africa’s economy is actually doing quite well in comparison to many of its neighbors. It has the second largest GDP in all of Africa, as well as having a large working force that has helped the country create the second-largest economy on the continent. Despite these breakthroughs, South Africa is currently undergoing one of its worst unemployment rates since 2008. This has lead to many people questioning how one of the largest economies in Africa can have such a large unemployment rate. The answer is simply lack of jobs and wage inequality.
South Africa has extremely wealthy business owners that own large conglomerates and industries including many labor workers. The problem with this is that the number of people working in labor was and still is far outpacing the number of people creating small businesses and new jobs as a result. South Africa is suffering from a crippling problem that causes a small business to not receive the support it needs to be an accessible venture for those not willing to work in the labor force. Limited job creation stifles job growth as a result.
Strength of Small Business
This is where the company OneOfEach comes in. This is a company that fully displays the culture of South Africa through the designs of clothing and handbags. What started in 2013 as a small business between Pauline Chirume and her daughter, Tamburai Chirume, has evolved into a chain that has 17 stores across the globe. This company stands out not only because of how successful it has been as a small business, but how much it contributes back to the populace. This company has taken it upon itself to make sure others profit from their success to help fight South Africa’s unemployment by providing opportunity.
The Borgen Project interviewed the founder’s daughter to gain more insight into the organization’s operations. Pauline handles the creative side of the business while Tamburai handles the business end of things. Tamburai seeks to heavily involve female youth within the company as she wants to grant them an opportunity which is rare in South Africa. Tamburai mentioned that there are fewer opportunities for women to work in South Africa, which makes it especially difficult for single mothers. Tamburai seeks to employ women and single mothers so that they receive a stable income and job security. These women are also able to gain knowledge that can help them in the future and furthers the cause of fighting unemployment.
OneOfEach has several workshops where it teaches young girls how to manufacture items. These girls are all under the age of 35 and most of them come from poverty-stricken areas, including women’s shelters. The girls that receive training learn how to create items and the basics of the creative process. This is a great boon since most of the girls have never had any experience in retail or fashion design and thus earn a great amount of work experience. Despite all of this, what Tamburai considers one of the greatest accomplishments in her business is the fact that she can give health care to her employees, which is difficult for a small business in South Africa to grant. Tamburai feels that granting health care to her employees is a big step towards them gaining a decent lifestyle. She essentially wants to help these young ladies stand on their own two feet so that eventually they may gain enough education and experience to start small businesses of their own.
Helping the Jobless
Tamburai also notes how she feels that more opportunities like her business need to come into fruition to make a difference in South Africa. She notes that there are 6.7 million unemployed people in the country and she wants to do her part to make sure they have a chance. Tamburai also goes as far as to direct those under her wing to the American Corner, which is an opportunity hub where many can learn about different entrepreneurial possibilities in the country. The co-owner of OneOfEach feels that teaching people how to reach out and create jobs for themselves is one of the more effective ways to help deal with the unemployment rate in South Africa. She fears, however, that unless the government lends more funds and support towards small jobs, the impact will be monetary at best and stagnant at worst.
Tamburai is not incorrect about her observations regarding unemployment, nor should one fault her for trying to help women through her business. While 35 percent of men are out of a job, 43 percent of women are out of a job and having children or being single mothers may exacerbate this. With an unemployment rate of 29 percent which is currently climbing little by little, the country of South Africa has nearly 7 million people that are out of a job. The problem is not getting any better as the employment rate has only increased by 1.4 percent since the first quarter of 2019. If the job market does not include a flood of new jobs then the unemployment rate is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. If some of these young women can make the most out of the tools, skills and experience that Tamburai and her mother have provided, however, they may be able to make a difference in the fight against South Africa’s unemployment.
– Collin Williams