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February 01, 2013

Experience Africa in Greenmarket Square

Greenmarket Square trader Jannet Mwaniki is originally from Kenya. Photos by Lynnette Johns

Jannet Mwaniki has been trading on Greenmarket Square for six years, selling her pretty wire and bead range of baskets and bowls, hand-painted material and figurines from across Africa.

Mwaniki, who learnt to make arts and crafts at school in Kenya, is one of many people from across Africa who have set up shop in Cape Town, adding to the already rich cultural diversity that city has to offer. While African-themed restaurants have long been an established part of the city life, in recent years entrepreneurs have found niches in a range of trades.

Greenmarket Square is filled with goods from across the continent, such as wooden figurines from Kenya, drums from Senegal and Mozambique, masks and hand-painted material from practically every country.

Mwaniki says she settled in Cape Town because she knew business would be good in the city. She says: "Over the years I have built up a customer base and many tourists tell their friends and they come here to buy from me." 

Mame Cheikh, from Senegal, shows off some of the drums he sells

Many of the city's immigrants have fled their war-torn countries and found a new home in the Mother City but others, like Mwaniki, travelled all the way to the southern end of Africa to seek business opportunities.

Mame Cheikh, from Senegal, has also been in Cape Town for six years. Dressed in traditional African garb he sits on a chair in the shade, waiting for potential customers. Drums are his best sellers, followed by the different masks he has on display.

Cape Town has become a true melting pot of cultures. Somalian traders have set up shop in malls selling snacks and cold drinks, and there are little "hole in the wall" shops – but then there are bigger spaces, like the Pan African Market in Long Street, which sells everything from curios to African clothes.

There is also a Kenyan curio shop in Shortmarket Street, and directly opposite is Little Ethiopia, a tiny restaurant that serves authentic Ethiopian food.

More than a few tourists have also discovered the delights of visiting a traditional African hair salon, to have their hair shaped into intricated braids.

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