University of Pretoria

Exploring street trading dynamics in urban settings

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posted on 2024-01-24, 10:49 authored by Fanelesbonge KhuzwayoFanelesbonge Khuzwayo

This dataset aims to capture the qualitative aspects of street trading in urban areas, specifically in the Pretoria CBD. The research focused on understanding the motivations, challenges, social dynamics, and benefits associated with networking. Furthermore, it assessed how external shocks such as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted these social networks. The below describes the methodology used.

The study aligns itself with the constructivist paradigm popular for its efficacy in unearthing multiple truths. This paradigm emphasizes people’s perceptions while considering that social realities are context-specific and constantly changing. The philosophical paradigm that underpins this study therefore allows for a qualitative approach.

An ethnographic research method was utilized as it encompasses a broader cultural context that looks at in-depth descriptions and meanings given to a phenomenon by that group. These ‘thick descriptions’ are embedded in what the study terms as the social life of street trading. Using ethnography, the study contextualizes how street traders mutually cooperate within the Pretoria Central Business District (CBD) to mitigate unfavourable and untenable working conditions, times of tense economic crisis, and other socio-economic realities compounding their activities.

Based on the above, a single case study was appropriate for investigating the embedded practices of street traders. This research used a single case study of informal traders in the Pretoria CBD, looking specifically at the types of social networks that develop and how traders engage with those. The scope of this case study was bound by time and place, specifically, the decision-making process of street traders over eight months within the Pretoria CBD. The study examined a specific social phenomenon to extrapolate emerging themes to elucidate greater clarity and new ways of understanding the social aspects of street trading.

Sixteen participants formed part of the study using participant observation, non-participant observation, and open-ended interviews. Thematic analysis was applied to the qualitative data to discern common patterns and emerging themes. The findings reveal that streets are highly contested economic spaces and are spaces of vulnerability where social capital is crucial for survival. In addition, the data highlights that social networks among street traders are a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that have the power to benefit traders in several ways. These networks facilitate resource-sharing, access, agency, resilience, a sense of belonging and mutual support.


National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences



Anthropology and Archaeology

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