This past week I visited the historic Warwick markets with my SIT cohort. The Warwick markets are one of Durban’s main attractions and have existed in the community for over a century. The markets are divided into the following nine sections: Bovine Head Market, Early Morning Market, Berea Station, Brook Street Market, Music Bridge, Herb Market, Lime and Impepho Market, Bear Market and Victoria Street Market. Informal trading is quite common in South Africa. One will find local traders who sell affordable goods along the beach fronts in Durban and near local transit stops.
Despite drawing crowds of over 460,000 people per day, the Warwick Markets have had to fight for the right to stay in the Durban Metro Area. Often informal traders have to compete with larger retailers which have more buying power. However, they are not in this fight alone. Asiye eTafuleni is a non-profit organization that assists with Warwick Market tours and has dedicated time and resources to taking up some of the Market’s battles against the city. It specializes in the following areas: Inclusive Design, Urban Advocacy, Urban Education, and Urban Intelligence. eTafuleni gave my SIT cohort a tour of the markets beginning with Berea Station. I came across traders that sold handmade jewelry, clothes, handbags, shoes, spices, food, household appliances, etc. I purchased a handmade floral headband for my niece and handmade earrings for my mom while on the tour. After my cohort’s trip to the Warwick Markets, we reflected as a group on what it means to contribute to the local economy of Durban and to support local businesses. eTafuleni informed us during our tour that a lot of the traders have disabilities and come from impoverished communities. For many, the Warwick Markets have been their only source of income to support their families. The informal traders are also vulnerable to police surveillance, and those without permits put their livelihoods at risk just to make ends meet. I am glad that I was able to support the local traders at the Warwick Markets. This trip made me reflect on how I can support local businesses back home in New York City and support organizations that I believe are doing good work in the community. I’m excited to see what other valuable insights I will glean from my time in South Africa.