Byo Vendors Go Online Amid Covid-19 Trading Ban

Due to the COVID-19 prohibitions barring informal traders from operating, a vendors lobby group in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo is offering online trading lessons to its members while also developing an online market application to push sales, 263Chat Business has learnt.

Zimbabwe has been in lockdown for the past two months and despite partially opening its economy, the informal sector remains sidelined.

Yet this is a sector comprising of over 60 percent of the country’s economy.

Bulawayo Vendors Association (BVA) a local lobby group for the city’s informal traders is not seating back and watch while its members plunge into poverty during this lockdown.

“Faced with the prohibition of informal traders from selling we have realised that we need to be proactive and not wait for government money but find ways to function under these difficult conditions and what we have done is that we are developing an application that will assist traders to upload their goods and sell online and we are training our members to use ICTs to be able to trade on twitter and facebook for those with access to smart phones,” BVA executive director, Mike Ndiweni said.

“We have to adopt trading online because selling in markets is currently prohibited and the government is adamant in denying us the opportunity to work yet we know informal traders constitute 70 percent of out economy,” he added.

Business at the city’s popular market trading places like Egodini, 5th Avenue Vegetable Market, Old Renkini which is next to Madlodlo beer garden in Makokoba, Sekusile in Nkulumane among others was greatly affected by the Covid-19 lockdown leaving thousands of traders dependant on these markets places vulnerable to starvation.

More and more traders have been advertising and selling their commodities on various social media platforms but there is yet to be a huge online market platform that incorporates as many products with a capacity to also draw huge followership from clients just like BVA is developing.

“Leveraging on digital applications is vital for today’s busineses nomatter the size, be it vendors or a big corporate. Smart business through an application especial mobile apps enables traders to be availed to an online community which is connected to the market,” online marketing strategist, Godknows Homwe told 263Chat Business.

Zimbabwe has the world’s second largest informal economy and the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to see some formal jobs being lost and more numbers flocking into this sector.

But online trading has its own challenges for Zimbabwe’s struggling informal sector.

Price of data and smartphones remain far beyond the reach of many and this could detriment efforts to go virtual.

But with relatively few designated vending sites across major cities, analysts say online trading will help the sector at a time most vendors have lost their trading stalls which were destroyed by local authorities during the lockdown.

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