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Zimbabwe’s political leaders are becoming infamous for talking and not implementing policy. For a country that was previously committed to a form of State socialism, the path Zimbabwe has taken is leading it back to the Stone Age. There is a disconnect between the view from below with the politics at the highest level of the State.

How is it that a country officially recognized for its exceptional literacy levels on the African continent has thousands and thousands of its people making a living selling trashy imported goods, shining shoes, selling airtime and rodenticides at street corners? Zimbabwe’s informal sector is pegged at 46 percent compared to South Africa at 17 percent and Malawi at 13 percent. Those who have presided over the ruin of the formal economy are now busy crafting measures to subdue the flourishing of the informal sector. The reason can only be to control money flow outside their reach without proper economic management strategies in place.

Excessive regulation in the Zimbabwean economy has forced a large part of the economy into informality. Instead of snuffing them out, government should admire and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of its people who have decided not to wait for donor hand outs. Unemployment remains over 80 percent in Zimbabwe and the government has no clue how to solve the riddle. So it is no surprise that a significant number of people are self-employed. Instead of waiting for politics to bring solutions, Zimbabweans have taken matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, wage employment predominates.

A salient but often ignored point is that in Zimbabwe, the majority of informal economy workers are women. But policies and developments affecting the informal economy have had a distinctly gendered effect. It is clear that the official real wage has turned traditional dependences of women on men and young and old on their head. It is high time government organises the informal sector and recognises its role as a profitable activity contributing to the economy. This can also improve the capacity of informal workers to meet their basic needs by increasing their incomes and strengthening their legal status. This could be achieved by raising government awareness, allowing better access to financing, and fostering the availability of information on the sector.

Limited access to funds is one of the major factors explaining the development of the informal economy. Facilitating access to formal financing channels such as micro-credit could be an overriding step to encourage informal entrepreneurs to shift toward more formal economic activities. However, raising the awareness of large conventional commercial banks of the potential of the informal sector is also essential. Zim-Asset remains just that, a buzzword for our politicians to make promises and more promises. Politics has failed us and Zimbabweans have taken charge of their livelihoods.

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Source : Financial Gazette