Sparkling future looms for Zbar’s traders

Sparkling future looms for Zbar’s traders

A COMMON sight in Africa’s sprawling peri-urban areas is the widespread proliferation of petty traders, hawking items from garden produce to imported consumer goods.

It is difficult to know really whether these small-scale merchants represent a burgeoning class of entrepreneurs or the underemployed, unemployed and the poor people. However, recent development in Zanzibar may give a clue.

Small unlicensed businesses have for many years constituted an integral part of Zanzibar population, which unfortunately, the authorities loathed and subjected to repeated acts of intimidations, humiliation and violence.

Prior to last year’s general election campaigns, which had Dr Hussein Mwinyi standing and emerging triumphant on Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s ticket, petty trading in Zanzibar was total hell. Beatings, arbitrary arrests and confiscations of merchandise by merciless city askaris were some of the acts that had lowered the status of small entrepreneurs in the city as human beings.

The hustlers were in steady running battles with the authorities. But, Dr Mwinyi had pledged prosperous lives to all islanders, including petty traders and hawkers—Machingas. Majority of Zanzibar city dwellers are in the informal sector, with street trading among the most vibrant activity.

Thousands of petty traders in fruits, vegetables, second-hand items, household utensils and soft drinks are the people whose operating environment Dr Mwinyi had pledged to uplift.

And, through directives on human and courteous handling of petty traders, President Mwinyi has not only stopped the harassment but has as well fortified the status of the economic undertaking especially by himself declaring a small entrepreneur.

September 23, 2021 remains the most memorable day for Zanzibar Machingas. It was the day in which the new, enviable chapter for small business was opened as President Mwinyi rolled out the Machingas’ identity cards (IDs), with himself receiving ID number one as the country’s top entrepreneurship pioneer.

“So, President Mwinyi is my colleague; that itself makes me cheerful and confident in my business,” Darajani-based spice dealer Aisha Ramadhan says of President Mwinyi’s membership to Machinga club, “…and if we have the country’s president as our associate, then ours is the club of the elite.” An emotional fruit vendor, Ayoub Khamis, speaking at Kikwajuni-based Sheikh Idrissa Abduwakil hall where President Mwinyi was rolling out the IDs, said, “I’m pleased to see this happening; I never believed it.

God bless our beloved president to accomplish all the pledges he has made for wananchi.” Almost all small traders have embraced the IDs whose issuance started on August 3, 2021, subject to payment of 30,000/- as annual fee. For, by virtue of holding the card, they will freely conduct their businesses without any bother. President Mwinyi hypes the ID as the most relevant document for small traders.

“These identity cards will have huge benefits to us entrepreneurs; it’s through registration that the government will easily identify needy traders and extend relevant support to them,” he said at the event to distribute the IDs.

With the IDs come the 100bn/- financial boost to entrepreneurs. The government has marshaled resources and arranged with some commercial banks like People’s Bank of Zanzibar (PBZ) to provide credit facilities to the needy entrepreneurs.

The government and the banks have allocated 50bn/- each, bringing to 100bn/- the total fund to support entrepreneurial activities in the country, said President Mwinyi, imploring small traders to register for the IDs and form groups to easily access the fund whose priority spending is on the areas of training, loans and marketing services.

“The potential beneficiaries of the fund must undergo relevant business training prior to receipt of the loans; the other amount will be directed to marketing of the traders’ products and services.” Already, the country has a good number of separately operating empowerment funds, which Dr Mwinyi said will soon be merged to create one strong account capable of making an impact on entrepreneurs.

The head of state as well vows to explore the lasting solution to erratic release of the 10 per cent allocation by the district and municipal councils to the youth, women and people with disabilities. Zanzibar-based entrepreneurs will soon be swimming in capital affluences.

But, from where will the well-equipped traders with capital and training operate? That won’t be an issue, for plans are under way to construct modern markets for the adequately financed traders.

The government has almost concluded consultations with potential investors in the construction of modern markets for small business operators in the country.

“We will soon embark on construction of modern markets at Jumbi and Chuwini areas,” said President Mwinyi, adding that plans were underway to reconstruct Darajani and Kibandamaiti markets in the central business district of Zanzibar city.

Minister of State in the President’s Office, Regional Administration, Local Governments and Special Departments, Masoud Ali Mohammed, speaking at the September 23, 2021 event, said the IDs roll-out builds the base for a vital group in the economy; majority of us are the product of small entrepreneurship.” With Machinga ID number two, Mr Mohammed appreciates President Mwinyi’s commitment to emancipate entrepreneurship in the country.

It remains the responsibility of the ID holders now to observe the rules and regulations by restricting themselves to their prescribed business areas. For, if the truth be told, the Machingas are sometimes a serious problem to other members of the public.

Some rude traders have been displaying their commodities on the roadsides and pavement, obstructing movements by motorists and even pedestrians.

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