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Soweto Travel Guide, South Africa


Soweto is actually a section of the City of Johannesburg, South Africa and the name is an abbreviation for South Western Townships, which describes Soweto’s location within the larger city.

Roughly, one-third of the Johannesburg’s total population lives in Soweto and the inhabitants are primarily black and quite poor. Some areas have a mixture of wealthy and poor residents, while other areas have households with low and in some cases, no income.

Soweto is largely comprised of immigrants from other sections of Africa with Zulu being the most prominently spoken language. 

Also, funding to the area was limited and roads and sewers were not developed. Most of Soweto’s roads are merely unpaved dirt. Soweto was intended merely to house immigrant Black workers who toiled as domestic help or factory workers; it was never allowed to develop into a community. Legislation limited the inhabitants of Soweto to running general shops, and butcheries, maintaining local eating houses,  or crafted goods in the outdoor markets.

To further curtail employment opportunities, the number of these enterprises was strictly controlled and enforced. A vigorous Black Market, or informal trading, as it is politely known, developed as a consequence of the severe restrictions, lack of education and general opportunity afforded by the population of Soweto.

Since 1977, the economy of Soweto has very gradually improved, although it remains an area where the people live in shanties, cardboard boxes and impromptu dwellings. Soweto today has several paved roads and much needed street lights. Soweto has a hospital and many medical practitioners. A new shopping area, the Protea Mall, has been built. Another is being planned, the Mponya Mall, in Kliptown one of Soweto’s neighborhoods. The  Orlando Ekhaya entertainment center has been built in Soweto.

Due to the rich ethnic and cultural mix of the inhabitants of Soweto, the area is becoming a cultural nexus and a vibrant nightlife is developing.

Soweto is the home of authentic African cooking and several restaurants offer African cuisine. Soweto is a tourist draw both for its emerging culture and its dire poverty.

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