INFORMAL traders associations have said access to finance, embracing technology and improving working infrastructure are key strategies that have to be implemented to revive the economy post COVID-19
This comes after realising that a large segment of the population in the country is in the informal sector, with women constituting the bigger percentage.
In an online meeting on ‘Rethinking Strategies Post COVID-19: Focusing on Women in the Informal Economy,’ Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCOHDD) director Janet Zhou said the formalisation of the informal sector will ensure that women informal traders will not only enjoy incentives from the government but will also contribute to the country’s gross domestic product.
“The issue of formalisation should go beyond the government seeking to raise revenue from informal traders; it should come with incentives, access to finance which at the moment requires collateral, safe spaces for women to operate in as well as enjoying the job security that comes with it.”
Zhou bemoaned the debt effects of the country post COVID-19 especially for women informal traders stating that: “the international community and the international financial constitutions are extending debt repayment schemes to countries and Zimbabwe did not qualify because one of pre conditions was that a country must not be in default and must be up to date with debt repayment as such the country is operation under limited fiscal’. This will adversely affect women in that most of them will not be able to bounce back to business because as most of them will need finances to restock.
She said the use of technology will help traders reconnect with old customers as well as create new markets as part of efforts to stay in business.
Michael Ndiweni the director of Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association said his organisation is working on an application to encourage informal traders to trade online.
“We are working on an application for buying and selling for traders. Traders will be uploading their products in the platform, traders are then able to log in and be able to see who is selling what. We are trying to embrace the fourth industrial revolution were people are able to use Information Communication Technology for conducting business transactions so we are working on an app that will encourage trade between our members” he said.
These traders however need to be connected to the internet in order to use the application. This might hinder online trades for most traders because of the inflated data costs.
“We are aware that data is expensive part of our advocacy is to push for internet service providers to reduce data costs. We know it will not be easy but we are going to try because we cannot run away from the fact that Information Communication Technology is the new reality” said Ndiweni.
Ndiweni said registered informal traders tend to benefit from online trading if the strategies are well implemented.
The Director of Economic Justice for Women Projects, Margaret Mutsamvi encouraged women informal traders to join associations in order to learn how to brand and market their products.
She said: “Not being part of these progressive associations means that the inequality gap will increase between those who are being successful in their businesses and those who are not”.
The economic crisis in Zimbabwe has led to the ‘informalisation’ of the economy and has led masses to venture into the sector. Reports indicate that the first quarter revenue report by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority shows that revenue inflows have gone down because much of it came from the informal sector.
The organisations, therefore, called on the government, local authorities and other stakeholders to help in implementing the identified strategies in order to boost economy.