THIS opinion contribution seeks to contribute to the speedy actualisation of the formalisation strategy for Zimbabwe. From the onset, it is vital to acknowledge the work done thus far by players in the informal economy ecosystem to ensure that there is a draft formalisation strategy document which is now awaiting cabinet approval.
The commitment and level of participation during the consultative stages of the process brings hope to a sector that has suffered a lot as a result of lack of recognition and support from the government and local authorities.
Methods for regularising the informal economy can take various forms, which include registration, taxation, organisation and representation, legal and social protection, business incentives and support.
The benefits are many - formalisation contributes to the establishment of better (decent) jobs, creates a broader tax base that may allow lower rates, possibly increases investment and strengthens the social contract and as well as rule of law and democratisation of informal economy governance.
Formalisation also leads to access to finance and market information, thereby enabling improvements in the productivity of informal units. Increased productivity means better incomes.
What needs to be done by informal economy workers to prevent and avert wrong labelling?
While monitoring by external authorities is important, it is extremely vital for the informal economy workers and street vendors to practice self-regulation especially with respect to the following;
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Hygiene and quality control: It is important with respect to food vending especially in sensitive areas like near schools, parks and other areas with substantive human traffic and where there is considerable exposure to children. The Informal economy workers must assume responsibility to keep the environs clean – by properly disposing the waste all the time. In this regard VISET has an ongoing campaign dubbed Clean Cities Campaign dedicated to encouraging the organisation’s members to work in clean domains.
It is proposed that every city or town should also have trained self-regulation ambassadors who will monitor and educate other vendors in area they operate from to practice self-hygiene and cleanliness.
De-congestion of Central Business Districts (CBD): Informal economy has become the biggest employer and refugee occupation for many Zimbabweans, employing over 95% of the economic active population and 60 % being in street vending. Of great concern is that, the demand for vending sites far exceeds the available spaces leading to congestion of pavements and sidewalks. Given this imbalance between available space and the number street vendors willing to occupy these spaces, an alternative model which enables the livelihood – congestion trade-off must be adopted.
The demand for vending in a particular area can be matched with the supply without over-congestion if zoning plans provide adequate vending spaces both with respect to location and time. A system of registration of vendors and non-discretionary regulation of access to public spaces in accordance with the planning standards and nature of trade or service should be adopted.
Every land use has a ceiling and it is true for informal trading also.Overuse can cause complications drawing stringent actions, which can be avoided if the specifications are adhered to. Therefore, the quantitative norms should be respected by informal economy workers as a measure of self-regulation in terms of numbers players in a particular trade to be allowed in a place.
Registration system in participation with informal economy unions and associations may be used to regulate the scale of operation so that the ceiling limit is not crossed.
In such cases as when the ceiling has been reached, measures must be put in place to incentivise informal workers to go to such areas that would have been deem deemed to be not natural markets.
Such measures include supporting economic activities in these areas e.g. Coca-Cola Open Space Area (along Seke Road), Coventry Holding Bay in Harare to promote the flow of human traffic which would translate to markets.
Relocation and Rehabilitation: Street vendors are most vulnerable to forced eviction and denial of basic right to livelihood. It causes severe long-term hardship, impoverishment and other damages including loss of dignity. This opinion contribution therefore posits that, no informal economy worker should be forcefully evicted. They would be relocated with adequate rehabilitation only where the land is needed for a public purpose of urgent need. Therefore:
Eviction should be avoided wherever feasible unless there is clear and urgent public need in the land in question.
Where relocation is absolutely necessary, notice of minimum 90 days should be served to the concerned informal workers.
Affected informal workers/representatives must be involved in planning and implementation of the rehabilitation project.
Affected informal workers should be assisted in their efforts to improve their livelihoods and standards of living or at least to restore them, in real terms to pre-eviction levels.
Loss of assets should be avoided and if possible compensated.
State machinery must take comprehensive measures to check and control the practice of forced evictions.
Spatial Planning norms - demarcation of trading zones: The demarcation of vending sites should be city or town specific. To make the plans conducive and adequate for the informal traders of the respective city or town, the following should be adhered to:
It should take into account the natural propensity of informal economy workers to locate in certain places at certain times in response to patterns of demand for their goods and services.
City authorities should provide sufficient spaces, designated as ‘Informal Economy Workers’ markets’ in layout plans at locations of such natural markets, for the number of informal workers (static and mobile) which can cater to demand for their wares or services. If aspirants to such location exceed the number of spaces available, excess may be regulated by fees or lottery and not discretionary licences. In any case market forces relating to price, quality and demand will automatically curtail the number of traders to sustainable levels.
Mobile urban vending should be permitted in all areas even outside the designated informal economy workers’ markets, unless designated as ‘no trading zone’ through a participatory process. The ‘no trading zones’ may be notified both in terms of location and time. Locations should not be designated as ‘no trading’ zones for frivolous reasons; the public benefits of declaration of a no trading zone should clearly outweigh the potential loss of livelihood and non-availability of goods and services that it would involve.
With the growth of a city/town every new area should have adequate provisions for informal economy workers.
Designation of Informal economy’s markets/no trading zones should not be left to the sole discretion of local authorities but must be accomplished by a participatory process by a town informal economy committee.
- Wadzai is an informal economy analyst and VISET executive director.These weekly New Perspectives articles, published in the Zimbabwe Independent, are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, managing consultant of Zawale Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe (CGI Zimbabwe). — [email protected] or mobile: +263 772 382 852.