THE Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) says Zambia should find a lasting solution for vendors.
Researcher Bright Chizonde said CTPD recently concluded a study focusing on the informal food market in Zambia which will be launched today.
“We take note the importance of the food market in providing accessible and affordable food products to the majority of the Zambian people. In Lusaka, 42 per cent of all households buy from informal market vendors, and another 44 per cent buy from small-scale grocers, shops or bakeries, with only 12 per cent buying in supermarkets,” he said.
“Furthermore, the food market is responsible for a significant level of informal sector employment in Zambia. In 2014, 90 per cent of workers in Zambia were employed in the informal sector and almost 80 per cent of informal workers were employed in agricultural-related activities, including food production, distribution and processing.”
Chizonde said it was therefore important to seek proper policy solutions to deal with health concerns associated with vending and the informal food market in general, instead of seasonally accommodating and repressing the traders.
He said the research paper provides evidence on the current status, perceptions, challenges and policy context of the informal food markets in Lusaka and Kitwe, with the purpose of identifying key points for action and policy.
Chizonde said it had been found that informal food markets offered crucial opportunities for livelihoods and income generation, especially for women, the young, and the less-educated.
He said such also played a critical role in linking the urban poor to key markets for fruits, vegetables and meat products.
“However, traders still face a number of challenges, including lack of access to capital and credit, spoilage due to lack of storage, and competition from import markets. Informal, trust-based credit from suppliers and membership of informal saving groups are key coping strategies,” he said.
“CTPD established that few traders are members of associations, as they do not trust them to represent their interests. Even though the government acknowledges the size and existence of the informal food sector, policy is strongly biased towards formalisation.”
Chizonde said government agencies lacked tools to deal with the informal sector, leading to its marginalisation.
He said while the dominant discourse and action of the government was not favorable for the informal sector, there were windows of opportunity in agencies such as the National Pension Scheme Authority and the Ministry for Local Government.
He said there was a big, untapped role for urban planning to integrate municipal planning on food systems.
Chizonde said such planning should involve the development of a platform of dialogue between stakeholders from the different parts of the food system, including informal vendors.
He noted that there were several opportunities for improving the daily life of those who work in, and benefit from, the informal food market, including the upgrading of infrastructure, simplification of market levies, and the promotion of value addition.
Chizonde said those issues must be seen not as expenses to improve the lives of a few vendors, but as investments that could benefit millions whose food was provided by informal markets.