“Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) participated at a Policy Dialogue Forum on the Informal Sector in Zimbabwe that was held in Harare at Parkview Restaurant on 3rd of May 2018”

Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) was represented by its National President (also Streetnet International President) Ms Loraine Sibanda, Secretary General Mr Wisborn Malaya and members from all the 30 territories throughout Zimbabwe. The dialogue forum was organised by the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) in conjunction with Oxley Consulting.

The dialogue forum was a culmination of a survey that was conducted by Oxley Consulting from the beginning of the year (2017). To that end, the dialogue forum was held primarily to discuss the survey results and to develop, through dialogue, policy proposals regarding the informal sector for submission to the Government of Zimbabwe.

The Dialogue Forum involved representatives of the private sector in both the formal and informal sectors, together with representatives of labour and leading economists. Other notable organizations and delegates that attended the forum includes, Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) represented by Mr Michael Ndiweni , Zimbabwe Cross-Border Traders’ Association (ZCBTA), Street Wise Informal Traders’ Association (SWITA) President Edward Manning, Vendors’ Initiative for social and Economic and Economic Transformation (VISET) Mr. Samuel Wadzai, Mr. Farai Mutambanengwe, Executive Director of Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Zimbabwe (SMEAZ), Director of Small and Medium Enterprise Development Corporation (SMEDCO) , Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Dr.J.T. Chipika, Economist Professor Ashok Chakravarti, Midlands State University Head of Economics Department Dr. Joyce Chigome, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries Mr. Sifelani Jabangwe.

Dr. Mungai Lenneiye, former World Bank Country Representative in Zimbabwe presented a summary of conclusions of the Forum held in October 2017. Mr Mark Oxley, CIPE Field Representative in Zimbabwe welcomed the delegates.

Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations secretary-general Mr Wisborn Malaya said the informal economy employed the bulk of the local workforce.

“The informal economy has a role to play in the development of the economy. We are looking at how best there can be policy intervention to change the mindset of how people operating in the informal sector are being viewed in Zimbabwe,” said Mr Malaya.

“If it wasn’t for the informal economy, this country would be a disaster. Rather than being destructive, those without formal jobs have found alternative ways to pay bills, take care of family, and contribute to the economy,” says Wisborn Malaya

“President Mnangagwa says that Zimbabwe’s new economy should leave no one out, but the informal sector is already being left out. Decisions are made for us when we are not there. Let’s sit down and come out with solutions collectively. We need a space to share our concerns with government,” says Wisborn Malaya

“We would like to see Government’s intervention and policy makers taking up the responsibility of closing the gaps that we have identified, and this includes policy intervention by Government. Ninety-four percent of people working are those in the informal sector and people are still surviving due to activities carried out in the informal sector,” he said.

“We’re calling upon all stakeholders for engagement to see how the operations of informal trades can be improved. The government should create frameworks that can regulate the operations of traders in the informal sector and create domestic investments, says Wisborn Malaya

Centre for International Private Enterprise Africa (CIPE) regional director Mr Lars Benson said the informal economy was a major contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“When we talk about the informal sector, we do not only focus on street vending but rather there are entrepreneurs and other small businesses. The informal economy is huge and it is a big contributor to gross domestic product in Zimbabwe. Our goal is to work with our partners and there has to be a collective approach to solve problems faced by the informal economy,” he said.

Streetnet International and Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations President Lorraine Sibanda made a presentation on Engagement between Informal and the formal business sector- building linkages.

“Given the overwhelming size of the informal economy in Zimbabwe and the intricate links between the informal and formal economy there is need for an appropriate policy response that promotes linkages between the two and also balances the relative costs and benefits of working formally and informally. To understand this linkage between the informal enterprises and the formal businesses it is important to consider the nature of production through which they are linked,” said Ms Lorraine Sibanda.

“Most informal economy traders and enterprises buy from and supply to the formal businesses. For example, the Home industry in Glenview Harare, popular for furniture production, sell their products to established retail outlets. Mashumba market in Mzilikazi, Bulawayo also houses skilled carpenters and crafts people who supply formal businesses. The list of examples is endless.

These home industry workers buy most of the processed materials they use from the formal sector. This constitutes indirect backward and forward linkages because there are no specific policy programmes designed to promote such backward and forward linkages between the informal and formal economies at both local and national levels,” she said.

In Zimbabwe, the majority of national policies focus on the small formal economy while neglecting to address the booming, unregulated and unprotected informal economy. There is need for supportive policies for the informal economy in order to bridge the “hostile” gap between the informal and formal economies and facilitate a developmental “cohabitation” which is most likely to result in: the growth of the formal economy (as informal enterprises gravitate towards formality in a conducive environment).

Formalisation is having the business registered with any government agency and a process whereby workers are organised into worker associations and/or trade unions. It also goes beyond the mainstreaming of economic activities in the informal economy into the formal economy, thus, it takes into account the reduction of decent work deficits. Bringing informal workers and enterprises under the protection of the law would be a major step forward to moving out of informality and towards decent work.