Esselen Street

I was invited to speak at the Neo-Venture Business Seminar yesterday and amongst the many topics I touched on, ‘the mystery of Esselen Street’ (now Robert Sobukwe Street) was one of the few subjects that caught the interest of the audience .


Exactly 1kn long and hosting over 2000 (known) businesses, Esselen street is easily the uncovered ‘innovation hub’ of Gauteng. From the many Hair Salons and Clothing Outlets to the battalion Cell Phone Stores, Internet Cafes, Pawn Shops, Fresh Fruit Stalls, Shebeens, Furniture Stores, 2nd Hand Shops, XXX Rooms, Butcheries, Gambling Spots, Computer Repair Shops, Eateries, Night Clubs and Churches, Esselen Street is the perfect one-stop shoppers paradise.


The existence of the above businesses has also created massive opportunities for local entrepreneurs. Esselen street by default now attracts Loan Sharks, Car Parking Fellows, Prostitutes, 5-min Car Washers, Pie Sellers, Drug Dealers, Street Preachers, “Record-Label-Owners-Launching-Artists” and the random opportunist (also known as the tso-tsi).


I postulate that at least One Billion Rand is transacted in cash every day on Esselen street, I lived in Sunnyside for 6 years, I should know. For perspective sake, about 100 Billion Rand in ORIGINAL CURRENCY is currently in circulation nationally, “original currency” being the key word.


Another point to note is that the bulk of businesses that run on Esselen Street are owned by foreigners, most of whom are already nationalized in South Africa – but what this usually means is that most of the cash generated on Esselen Street ends up outside South Africa.


Further, those in business know that once the cash element is introduced in transactions; the compulsory evil of BUSINESS TAX automatically becomes a moral issue. If my postulation is anything around the truth, this clearly means that the South African government loses a minimum of R100m (one hundred million rand) in taxes everyday from Esselen street alone.


If you were robbed in Hatfield, Arcadia, Muckleneuk or one of the neighboring areas and your phone was stolen, there is a 90% chance that your phone has been refurbished and is now comfortably sitting in the shelf of a cell phone shop on Esselen street ready for purchase by another user. Are you a student in Tuks? Was your laptop stolen from the library? It’s probably in a pawn shop on Esselen street. Ok, the purpose of this post is not to highlight the already known evils of Esselen street or throw a punch at the many illegal immigrants and businesses that currently run there (we will leave that for another day), my point here is just to give a perspective on the scale of cash flow in Sunnysde and the tax loss thereof.


Make up your own mind if this is an issue, but whilst deciding, think about the so-called Global Tech Giants – Facebook and Apple. Are you aware that Apple till today close many of their online deals in Ireland although they are head-quartered in the USA??? Say you are in South Africa and you buy a product online from Apple, did you know that Apple claims that the deal is sealed in Ireland??? This is simply because they want to avoid the massive 35% corporate tax in the US imposed on businesses in their income range. They would rather opt to pay a minimized 2% tax in Dublin, Ireland.


Facebook, Ebay and many of these TOP companies you look up to and want to work for also adopt this practice. So before we think of rising up in arms to burn down businesses on Esselen Street and kicking all the immigrants back to their countries, just note that the iphone, android, pc, tablet or even the platform you are currently using to read this post was probably produced/sold/transacted in a manner where tax was evaded. You my friend are part of the problem.


Follow @lawUMK.


Lawrence Umukoro is an entrepreneur and producer who has a passion for business and producing theatre, film and live events.  He owns and operates Umukoro Productions, a film, theatre and live events production company, currently producing various events in Pretoria, Perth, Lagos and California. He loves traveling and has to date visted 32 countries in 4 continents.  Lawrence is the founder of Young Revolution (presenters of Tshwane Entrepreneurship Week and also the world famous Strictly HipHop Dance Competition). Young Revolution, now in it’s seventh year, focuses on mentorship and youth development with a critical focus of giving young people the sense of possibility.  Mr Umukoro was born in Nigeria and educated in South Africa, Australia and the USA. He is proud to be a graduate of Edith Cowan University Australia with a B.Eng (Hons) in Electronics and Communications Engineering. He may be reached at  Lawrence plans to retire @ 35.

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