Monday, June 21, 2010

The opportunities that come with the World Cup

The World Cup brings with it a chance to get a temporary lift in the economic fortunes of many in South Africa. About a dozen women took the opportunity to sell meals to the construction workers building the new soccer stadiums. These enterprising women hope that the money earned from cooking will keep their children in school and help to grow their businesses.

From the Washington Examiner, Associated Press writer Donna Bryson tells us the story of one of these women.

Cecilia Dube's dream has taken her from dust-choked building sites to university classrooms, from the rubble of demolished food stands to cooking meals in a park in an upscale neighborhood where fans watch World Cup soccer on a giant screen.

The World Cup. Biggest sporting event on Earth. The host nation's month in the world spotlight. Tourists in their droves. A jolt of adrenaline for a sluggish economy. Or so goes the promise of mega-events such as these. For Dube, some of the rewards have already arrived, but for her and millions of her fellow citizens, the route out of poverty has so far proved fickle and arduous.

Her dream is a humble one — to one day run her own restaurant. But for now, she must suffice with the title of "trained food handler," tending a food stand at the park consisting of a table, two chairs and a gas cooker. It's a long way from owning a restaurant, but at least she's no longer up before dawn frying doughnuts by candlelight.

Life for her and many like her is a constant struggle. Two decades after South Africa broke free of apartheid, being judged fit to host the World Cup is a huge achievement. But what it most desperately needs is more jobs, houses, clinics and self-starting, taxpaying entrepreneurs.

Dube would love to be one. After her husband's death left her without income, she worked at a fast food restaurant and traded in cheap clothes. She took extra work selling sandwiches in a tavern with no kitchen. When the tavern owner took over her business, she decided to strike out on her own.

South Africa had been picked for the World Cup and needed to build facilities. In 2006 Dube opened shop — in a shack, then a trailer — where the soccer authority's new offices were going up. The following year she moved to the nearby site of Soccer City, the main World Cup stadium. It was being renovated and there were hungry workers to feed.

For three years she was one of a dozen cooks providing meals at Soccer City. They called themselves the Soccer City Traders. A typical day would begin before dawn with Dube barefoot and hard at work by the light of a candle stuck in an empty soda bottle, making triple-decker bologna-and-cheese sandwiches and frying vetkoeke, South African doughnuts.

Then, one morning last October, came a catastrophe. Police arrived and told the Soccer City Traders they were in the way of construction. The police broke up the stalls, loading the scraps of wood, cardboard and broken plastic chairs onto trucks.

The men and women immediately held a protest march and headed to Johannesburg City Hall. They were told they could open shop in another area near the stadium. The next morning, Dube was serving breakfast as usual. Catastrophe averted.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

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