Perspectives: Zimbabwe’s youth unemployment and the informal economy (Part 2)

Youth entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe have limited access to the state of the art equipment and infrastructure to use to run their businesses.
  1. Sexual Harassment

Young women in the informal economy often complain of sexual harassment from both government and customs officials at the borders (Brenton, Gamberoni & Sear, 2013).

Due to a lack of clarity on what is expected of them at the border posts, young women traders are taken advantage of sexually by corrupt government officials in return for facilitating the entry of their goods.

A worrying trend is that young women often do not talk about the sexual harassment they suffer, fearing they will be seen as party to their own harassment.

Sadly, it is also known that young women traders or vendors entice customs or government officials sexually to ensure their goods are given preferential treatment in terms of paying taxes (Brenton et al., 2013).

  1. Unreliable Transport System

Transport system in Zimbabwe is very unreliable and costly, hence young informal traders face difficulties in transporting their products and raw materials which are mainly sourced from the major cities, Bulawayo and Harare and across the national borders namely in South Africa.

Most young informal traders who are in business do not have transport of their own so they depend on the public transport which is costly and unreliable.

  1. Lack of Access to Equipment

Youth entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe have limited access to the state of the art equipment and infrastructure to use to run their businesses.

Some businesses are operated from dilapidated buildings and in worst scenarios under trees or plastic made shades and a notable place is Magaba Market in Mbare which is one of the oldest and dirtiest suburbs of Harare.

Although youth who operates in these areas are skillful and innovative, they tend to lose part of their market share since customers usually develop a negative perception and attitude about the products and services which are being produced and marketed in these areas.

  1. Lack of Information

Another challenge is that poor access to information regarding access to capital.

 Youth informal traders find it difficult to get information on the available investment funds.

Even for those who would have had access to such information, the processing itself is usually too long and characterized by bureaucracy and corruption.

 Thus, by the time loans were processed some economic opportunities would have been lost.

Strategies for improving the lives of youth working in the informal sector

There is need for a collective national acceptance of the informal sector as new employer of the youths in the country.

The government of Zimbabwe has continued to lack the political will to align the relevant legislations to the new constitution provisions.

 Amongst other socio and economic rights; Section 64 of the constitution states that every person has the right to choose and carry on any profession, trade or occupation, but the practice of a profession, trade or may be regulated by law.

As a result citizens continue to suffer from human rights violations.

Despite these challenges the informal economy remain uncoordinated and have not build effective solidarity structures to be able to engage and defend their source of livelihoods and the alternative economy that has sustained the economy as a whole.

There is need for the youth in the informal sector to build a coordinated voice in order to be heard by the solution holders at various levels.

The disfranchisement and lack of coordination has exposed the group to land barons and political manipulation.

The politicisation has multiple effects; allocation of operating marketing space on political party lines is exclusionary thereby leading to loses of potential source of livelihoods.

Further to this the rental fees that are being paid daily to land barons and politicians is denying the country of potential revenue thus disempowering the informal sector players from demanding better service delivery and spaces to contribute to economic development.

Given the sector’s role in creating employment opportunities for the burgeoning urban labour force and improving livelihood, informal businesses should not be treated as a hostile group with a marginal role in the economy.

 Thus, along with designing strategies for the formalisation of informal enterprises, facilitating access to finance, training programmes, improving the business environment, and provision of business development services prepare youth to navigate the informal sector.

However, lack of working capital, working premises, adequate market and raw materials continue to be the major impediments for the youth players in the informal economy.

Given the immense contribution that the sector has, therefore, the government needs to consider the sector as one of the fundamental pillar to combat youth unemployment.

Thus, operators should be encouraged to join the formal sector by lessening the bureaucracy to get license, minimizing entry cost such as lowering registration or licensing cost, and providing tax-holidays for sometimes.

Policies that promote employment-centred and sustainable growth are vital if young people are to be given a fair chance at a decent job.

Youth labour market outcomes are closely related to overall employment trends but are more sensitive to the business cycle.

 A boost in aggregate demand is key to addressing the youth employment crisis as this will create more job opportunities for young people.

Furthermore, although the youth in the informal sector could have few resources in isolation, they could become a formidable source of resources when combined. Banks should thus engage the informal sector players and embrace the idea of fostering partnerships and clusters.

Under this arrangement informal sector players, through the assistance of banks, pool their resources by bringing their capital and expertise together to make a meaningful investment.

This also allows them to gain knowledge, further their skills through knowledge transfer from their partners than when operating as individuals.

If the youth informal traders come together to work as a group through registered associations such as Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) this would assist in identifying their location, assessing their challenges and also make banks aware of their existence.

In the final analysis however, there is need to reduce informal employment amoung the youth by lowering the cost of transitions to formality through the creation of an enabling policy and regulatory environment that reduces barriers to formalisation, while protecting workers’ rights and increasing the benefits of being formal by promoting a greater awareness of the advantages and protection that come with formalisation (business development services for MSMEs, access to the market, productive resources, credit programmes, and training and promotional programmes to upgrade informal economy units).

This is also closely linked to increasing decent work for young people in the informal economy by developing a national social protection floor for all, implementing a minimum wage and health and safety incentives, organizing workers from the informal economy and encouraging informal enterprises to join together in production conglomerates or cooperatives, and supporting the development of social economy enterprises and organisations.

  •  Wadzai is an informal economy expert and Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation  executive director.
  • These weekly articles published are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, managing director of Zawale Consultants (Private) Limited, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe . Email- [email protected] or Mobile No. +263 772 382 852

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