By Zimbeni Mphande
Bomzi Lekgoro is an indomitably exuberant award-winning hairstylist whose passion lies not only in styling hair, but also in the arts, posterity and skills development. As a certified freelance hairdresser, Bomzi believes freelancing and creating your own ways of earning income is the best way of earning income because “you work on your own terms.” Although she has worked with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, Bomzi is more interested in giving back to communities like Soweto where she grew up, than she is in the bourgeois lifestyles of celebrities.
I spoke to her during the wake of Statistics South Africa’s (StatsSA) Quarterly Labour Force Survey, according to which; the percentage of persons aged 15-34 who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) is a distressingly high 63.4%. As far as StatsSA is concerned, “4 in every 10 young people did not have a job” in the first quarter of 2019.
Author of Kasinomic Revolution and informal economy expert, GG Alcock says; instead of throwing more money into the formal sector and hoping for different results, those concerned with improving the statistics, should rather focus their attention on the informal economy if the country’s youth unemployment statistics are to improve. He also suggests that because informal sector jobs are largely unquantifiable, unemployment statistics don’t necessarily paint a full picture. “We need to recognise that informal jobs are jobs, not survival or subsistence businesses. If we recognise and measure this, we will have a very different unemployment rate and we will give more import to informal businesses.”
This is because “the informal economy is all around us and is not just selling ekasi,” as is often misinterpreted. The author indicates that young people are perfectly situated to take advantage of a misunderstood informal economy where a kota outlet “earns R100 000 a month” or a hair salon that “turns over R50 000 a month.
This is where Bomzi’s career began – in a hair salon – and now she has set her sights on giving talks to young high school students who are interested in becoming freelance hairstylists and says she wants the government to help educate the youth “to do anything that you want based on your skill because skill is important. If you see a skill in a kid, enhance it at a very young age because if they have nothing else, they have their skill to help them with everyday life.”
The hairstylist goes on to mention that it is not a dream of hers to open her own hair salon but rather to go above and beyond that by opening a “hair institute”; an umbrella corporation that creates its own hair products. “There’s a difference between working in a hair salon and working on set. I saw how the two worlds are different and what I would like to get from this institute is teaching whoever is going to leave the salon coming into the industry, how things work, how to address things on set… cause some of the things that you do in a salon, you can’t do on set – it’s not a hair salon.”
Bomzi’s anecdote is contrary to the common portrayal of the informal economy as a large group of unskilled workers, and shows that informal employment is complex and made up of various sectors. “It creates jobs and generates incomes at a scale far larger than it is credited.” (Kasinomics Revolution, 2018)
The world is moving towards a personalised working environment where the worker dictates the terms. Mr Alcock speaks about this (amongst other things) in his book. In order not to be overtaken by the KasiNomic Revolution all segments of both the formal and informal economy must adapt to this new philosophy.
He also predicts that if informal jobs were adequately tracked, “unemployment would probably be around 10 – 15%” and advises members of the youth to “collectively push government, municipalities, financial institutions and policy makers to recognise them, to fund them and to support their businesses.
Follow Bomzi on Instagram @iambomzi and on Facebook: Hairdiaries With Bomzi
Alcock, GG. (2018). Kasinomic Revolution. South Africa: Tracy McDonald Publishers