Informal Trader



What is a Hawker / Informal Trader?

A Hawker or Informal Trader generally sells goods on the street or at a market. 

They may sell foods like fresh vegetables, or hot food like vetkoek and mince. They sell clothes and handbags, cooldrinks and cigarettes, curios and cell phone chargers.  Actually, a Hawker or Informal Trader can sell almost anything to anybody to make a living.

In the past, Informal Traders  would ‘set up shop’ to sell their goods from unused spaces, conveniently chosen near public transport, like taxi ranks or bus terminals.  Some traders even sell at robot intersections.

These days, Informal Traders need to be legal! 

Every Hawker or Informal Trader needs an Informal Trading Permit.

If Traders are not legal, the police may confiscate (take away) all their goods and, in some cases, lock them up. 

Each city’s local government has their own rules and regulations regarding trading.  They also have their own licensing department where they issue Informal Trading Permits. 

GET LEGAL Visit your local government to get a copy of their rules and regulations and apply for an Informal Trading Permit.

What does an Informal Trader do?

  • looking out for gaps in the market – What do people want? What can I sell?
  • getting all the right paperwork – reading and understanding the city’s rules and regulations
  • getting an informal trading permit
  • looking for the right goods to make or sell
  • setting up a stall and displaying the goods well
  • being friendly to all the customers
  • collecting money and giving change
  • packing up and cleaning up
  • keeping enough stock to sell

Are you … ?

  • a risk-taker?
  • a person with a mind for business?
  • good at mathematics?
  • a hard worker?
  • friendly?
  • a good negotiator?
  • observant?  Always looking for things to sell?
  • legal?  Do you have the right permits?

How do I become a legal Informal Trader?

First, ask yourself these 10 questions:

  1. What sells, what doesn’t
  2. Is there a need in my community that is not being filled?
  3. Can I fill this need?
  4. Where can I get my goods from at a good price?
  5. Do I need a table, shade, or money box etc?
  6. Am I prepared to work hard?
  7. Do I need help?  Who can I employ to help me?
  8. Do I know the rules and regulations regarding trading in my area?
  9. Where do I want to set up my ‘stall’?
  10. Do I have my Informal Trading Permit?  Visit your local government’s department of Economic Development.  They will help you.


With hard work and dedication you may find your informal trading business taking off.  You may become an entrepreneur and employ people.  And those people will employ more people. 

So be observant – look for the gaps – there’s one waiting for you out there – you just need to find it.

Good luck!


OTHER CAREERS TO CONSIDER:  Cashier or Wire & Recycled Artist

Is becoming an Informal Trader/Hawker the right career choice for me? 

See below for more info.