On September 18 and 19, 2023, the Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) held consultative meetings with Chipinge and Binga informal economy workers to discuss formalization and leadership development. The meeting was held under the Value Women’s Work initiative, which is currently being implemented by VISET in five project areas: Binga, Chipinge, Goromonzi, and Chiwundura.
The consultation sought to gather the views and perspectives of stakeholders and informal traders on the formalization strategy of the informal economy. The majority of participants thought the formalization agenda was a good idea, but that they believed it should be a process rather than an event that benefited informal economy workers. The ideal formalization that vendors would like to see is one which includes among issues such as; supporting business growth for traders, affordable operating ®istration fees, improved conditions of service for traders. They further stressed that formalization should provide access to decent & secure market spaces, capital, and social protection schemes for all players in the sector. The need for enabling policies and by-law reforms that support the transformation of street traders, including those with disabilities, was viewed as critical to the sector.
While the informal economy workers lauded the need to formalize the sector, they also identified a number of difficulties that they are currently facing and may have a detrimental impact on the formalization agenda. These challenges include multiple stall ownership by individuals, politicization of the sector, rampant corruption by enforcement agents, the misconception that taxing the informal economy is formalization, sextortion, a lack of awareness and information among informal traders about the formalization process. According to informal economy workers a fundamental danger to a sustainable transition to the formal sector is the lack of dialogue opportunities.
Informal traders also discussed some of the coping mechanisms they use to keep their enterprises running. Strategies include “mikando”(informal credit facilities), and some women submitting to forced relationships or “friends with benefits” with enforcement officers.
Informal traders cited local authorities, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), the Ministries of SMEs and Labour, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, informal traders, development agencies, and civil society organizations as the key stakeholders in the formalization agenda. Consultation with all key parties and inclusive decision making were deemed necessary for a sustainable formalization process.