Yeukai Karengezeka Municipal Correspondent
Epworth, a sprawling settlement south-east of Harare, has potential to morph into an industrial hub if entrepreneurs operating in that area receive the requisite support.
A visit to the area by this publication this week showed that there is a lot of economic activity driven largely by small businesses involved in flea markets, carpentry, bicycle repairs and trade in various foodstuffs, among other things.
Most of the businesses are operating in the open due to the absence of requisite infrastructure.
Mary Mugaretu, a vendor, said they did not have proper facilities such as sheds, toilets and running water, exposing them and their businesses to risk.
“As you have observed, 80 percent of the vendors at this marketplace are selling their products either on makeshift tables or on the ground because there are no sheds, and when it its starts raining, we pack our staff and find somewhere to hide until it stops raining.
“Our local board built a small shed ages ago and that too has deteriorated over the years, and urgently needs repairs,” she said.
She said they were paying monthly rentals of $4 to the local board despite the absence of key amenities. Mr Clever Rezu, a carpenter said that the local board should also designate proper areas for them to operate from.
“Most of us are operating from our back yards, but for us to be taken seriously, we need to be operating from clearly designated areas where we have enough space to store tools and raw materials and finished products.
“I believe that we produce competitive goods, but at times we lose out because people do not take us seriously since we are operating in the open.”
Epworth Local Board chief executive Dr Wilton Mhanda said plans were there to renovate the infrastructure and there was something already happening with a women’s projects.
He said they were in the process of rehabilitating non-functioning boreholes in the entire town. Apart from challenges with infrastructure, other entrepreneurs also raised concerns over the operating environment.
Kudakwashe Vera, who is into the furniture-making business said their suppliers of wood were charging them in foreign currency, making it difficult for them to buy more material.
“Business is very low these days, clients rarely come to buy furniture. The biggest challenge is where we buy the material, they are charging in forex, yet that does not match with the amount we are selling our products in local currency,” he said.
Mr Nyandoro, who has been repairing bicycles since 1997, said his business was thriving.
“I have been running this business for over the past two decades and it has been running smoothly. I am managing to look after my family well.”