Botswana: Vendors in Sombre Mood

Gaborone — Over the years, street vending has been the backbone of economic activities for most unemployed individuals who are mainly bread winners of their families.

This proved ideal since it helped to reduce high dependency on government or reliance on hand-outs for survival. Those actively engaged never returned home empty handed as they manage to pay their bills and attend to other monetary needs.

Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, which called for safety measures such as closure of borders to control the spread of the virus, most vendors particularly those who order clothing merchandise across the border to resell locally, struggled to survive.

The vendors preferred to order their merchandise direct from manufacturing firms and retail shops in South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique.

Since some of cross border activities had been put on halt, some vendors struggled to keep their business afloat.

Recently, BOPA took to the streets at the bus rank in Gaborone to hear how the vendors had been affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

One can easily pick up the gloom mood from most of them; the hype activities to lure in customers to their stalls were minimal, some of the stalls were dull while others were empty with bare tables only, perhaps to mark the operational space for individuals who would return back when the situation normalized.

In an interview, Mr Tokana Molebatsi, 56, said closure of borders had negatively affected his profit margins, noting that he used to travel twice a month to South Africa to purchase different items directly from manufacturing firms since it was cost effective.

"Although the suspension was done for a good cause, that left me counting losses, I never had any chance to prepare for it and therefore ran out of good quality stock," he said.

Mr Molebatsi said the pandemic had left them with a lesson to pounder on and he felt the need for government to empower more citizens to venture into more clothing firms.

He said that would save vendors from ordering across borders and thereby creating employment opportunity for locals.

Mr Molebatsi decried that though some local shops sold clothes in bulk, it was unfortunate that they did not manufacture them; rather they order to resell at very high prices making it difficult for vendors to make a profit.

He further said he resorted to engaging a local designer to design some football T-shirts and face masks among others to survive.

Ms Kefilwe Malela, 42, also suffered a hard blow as she depended on vending and due to COVID 19 pandemic she struggled to make any reasonable profits.

Mr Malela said she was aware of government initiative meant to help street vendors to resurface back, however he was skeptical to take a risk.

She said the little profit margins she generated were allocated to different commitments such as paying up transport fee and her personal expenses.

Source : BOPA

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