ZCIEA has been advocating for the recognition of the informal economy since 2017 when the organisation developed 4 Policy position papers which were used as an advocacy tool. During the Launch of the 4 Policy Position paper, ZCIEA made an effort to come up with the informal economy coalition with other informal economy organizations like Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA), Vendors Initiative for Social Economic Transformation (VISET), Women Alliance of Business Association of Zimbabwe (WABAZ) and Zimbabwe Cross Border Traders Association (ZCBTA) to strengthen the voice of Informal economy and influence policy change. The Coalition (Informal Economy Agenda) conducted series of advocacy engagements with policymakers to influence policy change and formalize the informal economy to improve the lives and working conditions of informal workers and traders in Zimbabwe.
In March 2019, the Informal economy Coalition drew up an Agenda for the Informal Economy under the title The Informal Economy Matters. This Agenda included a ‘Declaration on Recognition of, Respect for and Participation of the Informal Economy’ together with seven thematic areas under a National Policy Framework for the Informal Economy. The coalition successfully developed a National Policy Framework for the Informal Economy which was launched on the 30th of March 2019. The National Policy Framework has the following seven key themes: Theme 1: Respect for and recognition of the Informal economy, Theme 2: Development of linkages between the Informal Economy and Formal businesses, Theme 3: Market Access and infrastructure, Theme 4: Formalisation, Theme 5: Financial Inclusion, Theme 6: Social Protection and Theme 7: Devolution.
As an organisation, we have observed that policy change or review is not an overnight issue but a process and in 2019, the coalition hosted stakeholders’ capacity building with Parliamentarians in Marondera resulted in Parliamentarians embracing the informal economy language and appreciated the importance of formalising the informal economy. In 2020, the Coalition continued to have follow-up meetings with Parliamentarians towards the development of a motion on the need to formalise the informal economy. In January 2021, ZCIEA continued with its advocacy on the formalisation of the informal economy, one Member of Parliament managed to take the motion to the Parliament and moved the motion. The debate has been going on since January and the good news is the majority of Members of the Parliament and Senators now support the need to formalise the informal economy through an Act of Parliament. The motion was taken to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development to give a presentation on the position of Members of Parliament and Senators. Our next step is lobbying and advocating for a Bill towards the formalisation. Work is already in progress including of legal advisory services for an acceptable Bill submission in Parliament.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No 20) Act, 2013, in Section 24 under the heading “Work and Labour Relations” states as follows: The State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must adopt reasonable policies and measures, within the limits of the resources available to them, to provide everyone with an opportunity to work in a freely chosen activity, to secure a decent living for themselves and their families. The State and all institutions and agencies of Government at every level must endeavor to secure – (a) full employment; (b) the removal of restrictions that unnecessarily inhibit or prevent people from working and otherwise engaging in gainful economic activities; (c) vocational guidance and the development of vocational and training programmes, including those for persons with disabilities; and (d) the implementation of measures such as family care that enable women to enjoy a real opportunity to work.
The informal economy in Zimbabwe is estimated by the World Bank to be over 60% of the size of the formal economy – one of the highest figures in the world. It, therefore, contributes 40% of the total combined economy. In addition, it provides livelihoods for over 90% of the available Zimbabwe workforce. Nearly two-thirds of the people working in the informal economy are women. It is therefore a major contributor to national economic development. Despite this, there is no clear governmental policy on the informal economy.
Additionally, there is no ministry or department with specific responsibility for the informal economy and workers and the informal economy has little to no representation on bodies responsible for making policy or drawing up laws and regulations. The informal economy also has limited access to social protection; those working in it are harassed and criminalized while working spaces for informal economy businesses are restricted.
It is the view of the informal economy that it should be “at the table, not on the table”.
In March 2019 representatives of the informal economy drew up an Agenda for the Informal Economy under the title The Informal Economy Matters. This Agenda included a ‘Declaration on Recognition of, Respect for and Participation of the Informal Economy’ together with seven thematic areas in which policy should be developed. The Agenda stated that it was designed to lead to the development of a complete policy framework on the informal economy for implementation by the Government of Zimbabwe. This is that framework, which is designed to integrate the informal economy into the mainstream of Zimbabwe’s economic and social structures and ensure that the informal economy is able to achieve its full potential in contributing to the overall development of the economy of Zimbabwe.
This framework is based on the priorities identified in the Agenda and draws on further consultations with stakeholders that have taken place since the release of the Informal Economy Agenda.
DECLARATION ON RECOGNITION OF, RESPECT FOR AND PARTICIPATION OF THE INFORMAL ECONOMY
We, the associations listed below, representing informal economy businesses and workers throughout Zimbabwe, declare as follows: The informal economy in Zimbabwe contributes 40% of the total economy. In addition, it employs over 90% of the available Zimbabwe workforce. Nearly two-thirds of the people working in the informal economy are women. It is therefore a major contributor to national economic development.
Section 24 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe protects the rights of all Zimbabweans to work in a freely chosen activity, in order to secure a decent living for themselves and their families. Workers in the informal economy are Zimbabweans seeking to make a living or simply survive in a harsh economic environment. Recommendation R204 of the International Labour Organisation, on Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy, adopted in Geneva at the 104th ILC session on 12 June 2015, calls on all member states to pay particular attention to the needs and circumstances of those in the informal economy and their families and to progressively extend, in law and practice, to all workers in the informal economy, social security and decent working conditions.
In this context we call upon all political and business leaders in Zimbabwe to demonstrate their respect for and recognition of the informal economy in the following ways: A complete halt to the harassment and criminalisation of informal economy workers such as vendors and traders, and particularly to the destruction of their livelihoods. Provision by local authorities of appropriate facilities and trading areas for vendors and traders that provide them with ready access to their customers and markets.
Inclusion of representatives of the informal economy in all policymaking bodies where policies affecting the informal economy are made. Development by the Government of a national strategy on the informal economy that recognises its economic and social importance to the nation. Specifically, we call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to create a separate Ministry with responsibility for the development and implementation of policy on the informal economy and its transition to formality.
We urge all political parties to develop detailed policies on the informal economy for inclusion in their political platforms and manifestos.
We urge all local authorities to establish informal economy committees that will include representatives of the informal economy. We urge all business organisations to recognise the informal economy as a partner in the national economy and to encourage their members to include informal economy businesses in their value chains and business strategies, in order to develop essential linkages between informal and formal businesses.
We urge the Government of Zimbabwe to avoid taking actions against informal economy workers that result in loss of property and loss of livelihoods, but rather to promote their well-being in terms of ILO Recommendation 204.
Finally, we urge all Zimbabweans in positions of leadership, whether in politics, business, or local communities, to demonstrate leadership by co-operating and working together to resolve the critical economic issues facing the nation. This is a time for unity of purpose and recognition that all Zimbabweans are facing hardships, but it is the poor who have the greatest need and who require the greatest concern for their future wellbeing.
Our key areas for advocacy are the Seven themes which will be published daily from the 19th of August to 25th of August 2021.
Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA)
Vendors Initiative for Social Economic Transformation (VISET)
Women Alliance of Business Association of Zimbabwe (WABAZ)
Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA)
Zimbabwe Cross Border Traders Association (ZCBTA)