Gerhard van Wyk was born 31 years ago in Johannesburg. He grew up in South Africa's largest city and worked in the advertising industry in Cape Town for ten years. Making commercials and organizing events. In 2019 he ended up in Meerssen because of love. Chretien Ploum was born in Heerlen and grew up in Kerkrade. At the age of 26 he emigrated to Cape Town, where he subsequently worked in the five-star hotel industry for 21 years. Family circumstances ensured that he returned to Kerkrade five years ago, together with his South African wife and son.
Like-minded people After leaving South Africa, both had one and the same feeling: homesickness. For Gerhard it was the reason to set up a club of like-minded people. In South Limburg alone, 300 South African families or young people who study at Maastricht University live. “That's how I got to know Chretien,” says Gerhard. “We talked a lot about the country we love so much and came to the conclusion that we both wanted to do something on the one hand and give something back to the country on the other.”
Second stream of income The concept of 'ubuntu' comes from the Zulu saying 'umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu' or a person becomes a person through other people. Both Gerhard and Chretien attach great importance to this. "That's why we decided to start a webshop with products that are made in South Africa," says Chretien. “These are unique products that cannot be bought anywhere else. With this we generate a second income stream for the artisans in South Africa. Fair prices for fair products. We do not pursue profit with the webshop. We do want to earn part of our living with it, otherwise we would have had to become a foundation.”
Stock in Meerssen The duo now has about 20 producers in South Africa who supply them. “They are often one-man businesses,” explains Gerhard. “We have a contact person in South Africa whom we know well and who arranges the purchasing. More and more people are also knocking on our door who want to make products for us.” All products that are for sale via the webshop are also in stock in Meersen. Shoes, t-shirts, bags, wines, earrings, scarves, pillows, sheets, blankets, tablecloths and even spices. Everything has a South African touch. “We are also considering selling products that have added value and are produced in the Netherlands, for example,” says Chretien. “We then donate part of the proceeds to a non-profit organization in South Africa.” UitAfrika.nl also supports Dyer Island Conservation Trust. An organization dedicated to the conservation of the black-footed or spectacled penguin. It is the only penguin that breeds in Africa. The species is only found along the South African and Namibian coast and, like so many special animals, is threatened with extinction.
Gerhard and Chretien do not yet have any plans for a physical shop in Limburg with South African products. “Let's make the webshop a success first.”