Urban informality and livelihoods in Zimbabwe: A case of street vendors in Bulawayo’s two high-density suburbs

Abstract

Whitehead Zikhali

A casual walk in most of Zimbabwe’s towns reveals the predominance of urban informality. Some traders have participated in this economy for many years but the sustainability of some activities in specific locales has thus far remained unknown. The study investigated the sustainability of informal/street vending as a livelihood option in two high-density suburbs: Makokoba and Nguboyenja. It employed the sustainable livelihoods framework to ascertain the forms of capital available to these vendors in an urban setting. Employing a multi-sited case methodology in two of Bulawayo’s highdensity suburbs, the study revealed that vendors have limited financial and physical capital, a situation which curtails their ability to expand their businesses. In addition, they face depleting human capital due to migration of family members destined for other economically stable countries, but mostly to South Africa. Vendors also have very limited access to natural capital such as land ownership. Social capital however, is one area also in which the vendors have considerable strength through familial and business networks. Hence, presentations and discussions are presented in aggregate form. Moreover, in their operations, informal vendors utilise various strategies which include setting permanent places from which they operate or mobile units. In the sample, these strategies were distributed by gender. From the discussion, recommendations are that a broader, probability-based study be conducted for generalizable findings and that policymakers be sensitive when making broad pronouncements which have implications on the livelihoods and lives of these vendors

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