• September 22nd, 2020

Informal sector needs help to operate under lockdown

The announcement by President Hage Geingob that informal traders would be allowed to operate under strict conditions until the country emerges from the Covid-19 lockdown on 5 May has been met with appreciation. However, a small business expert has cautioned that the sector will need special assistance to operate under strict conditions. 

Thousands of people were left out in the cold with no source of income when the Covid-19 lockdown, implemented on 17 April 2020, initially prohibited all informal businesses from operating. 

According to the 2018 Namibian Labour Force Survey more than half (57%) of the over 725 000 workers in the country are employed in the informal sector. This sector has also been described by economists as being of vital importance to the domestic economy as it contributes to an estimated 12% to Namibia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“The current prohibition relating to certain operations and closure of certain business activities have been revisited to allow for the opening of informal trading and open markets, subject to strict hygiene, social distancing and limit of gathering. The ministry of Urban and Rural Development is tasked to implement the modalities and enforce full compliance,” said Geingob on Tuesday. 

Commenting on the announcement, Danny Meyer, director at SME Compete, applauded the decision, saying: “The informal sector is the livelihood of so many Namibians. We are very pleased the decision was made and that the reality has dawned on the decision makers.” 

However, Meyer cautioned that “the devil is in the details”, adding that he would want to know exactly under what conditions informal traders may operate and that SME Compete would be ready to assist these traders when and where possible. 
“Many of these informal businesses would most likely need assistance to comply with the conditions of trading under the lockdown, such as special containers or extra water outlets,” said Meyer. He further emphasised that many in the informal sector also provide services and that the sector is not limited to only retail. 

Meyer pointed out the importance of the informal sector, which he noted is an incubator for many entrepreneurial journeys in Namibia. “Many of the informal sector players graduate to formal industries and they put bread on the table for thousands and thousands of people. There is no concentration of people in this country not being serviced by the informal sector,” Meyer noted. 

Geingob on Tuesday announced that the Covid-19 lockdown will be extended from midnight on Friday, 17 April 2020, to midnight on 4 May 2020. During this period, movements within the whole country will be restricted while regions will be grouped into zones, the exact modalities of which will be finalised by law enforcement agencies.
Meanwhile, Geingob also stated that the fishing sector operates in the food supply chain and will continue to operate under agreed health standards as they are considered to render essential services. 

Edgar Brandt
2020-04-16 10:12:12 | 5 months ago

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