Building a better post-COVID19 future for Zimbabwe’s informal traders

October 15, 2020

Ongoing work at the Budiriro Market

The formal and informal sectors in Zimbabwe have re-opened as part of government measures to limit the economic impact of COVID19.  Businesses, markets and services had been operating within restricted guidelines to help curb the spread of the coronavirus since the first local case was reported in March 2020.

Informal markets were instructed to stop all operations during the lockdown period due to their lack of basic infrastructure, large crowds, unhygienic and often unsafe conditions. As a country with the worlds 2nd largest informal economy, this affected a signification portion of the population – particularly vendors and farmers. Approximately 90% of Zimbabwe’s small holder farmers sell their produce in informal markets and their closure caused a ripple effect in the food supply chain - farmers no longer had access markets where they could sell their produce, traders could not access their customers and consumers were unable to purchase affordable food from their familiar vendors. According to the 2020 UNDP Socio-Economic brief, such disruptions to the food supply chain are likely to affect food security in a country where an estimated 59% of the population are already food insecure.

Petronella Gumbanjera, a 56-year old market trader of Budiriro high density suburb since 2004, relies on the income from her stall to support her family. She highlighted some of the structural issues at her market such as – a damaged roof over her stall exposing both the seller and their goods to the elements and the availability of a single toilet for both women and men. The market also lacked basic sanitising stations for customers to wash their hands which a key measure in preventing the spread of contagious diseases like COVID19.

With such issues it was apparent that the country’s markets needed to refurbished in a way that would ensure their continued operation during and beyond COVID19. UNDP, UNICEF and the Government of Zimbabwe are working together under the Partnership for Building Urban Resilience project to build market infrastructure that promotes a safer shopping experience, curbs the spread of infectious diseases and ensures food systems continue to operate during a crisis. This joint programme targeting Harare, Mutare, Masvingo, Gweru and Bulawayo, will achieve this by:

·        Developing a supply system that meets the logistical and storage needs of suppliers

·        Enhancing community engagement and awareness on the spread of COVID19

·        Promoting the use of accessible technology to connect suppliers to the markets, during and after the COVID19 lockdown.

Depending on the requirements of the selected markets, the refurbishment work will include: the provision of adequate toilets and handwashing stations, borehole drilling or rehabilitation, physical distancing measures and the erection of fences to secure goods and control entry into the market.

Rehabilitation of market stalls at Budiriro 1 and Glen View 1 shops is underway and Petronella describes how the changes are impacting her work in the video below:  

To gain more insight on the challenges being faced in informal sector, UNDP is also collecting data on the factors affecting vendors, informal markets and agricultural supply chains 
 in partnership with Knowledge Transfer Africa (KTA) , Magic Leap and Flow Immersive. 

Read ‘Loading: Data driven analysis of Zimbabwe’s informal sector and agricultural supply chains’