Informal food traders will be the worst casualties of the Lockdown – Community Extension Senior Lecturer

Xolile Mkhize

As the Lockdown continues in South Africa, informal food traders and street vendors will be the worst affected even as the government relaxes the Lockdown regulations to allow for greater economic activity.

Community Extension Senior Lecturer, Xolile Mkhize, explained that the Lockdown has been especially harder for spaza shops owners and informal food vendors who sell their products on street corners and along the road. Although street vendors have been permitted to trade, their businesses have already been compromised in that most of what they sell are not a need.

“If they have no license, they are in trouble,” said Xolile. “If they have a license, they can trade but the demand is very low because people are staying in their homes.”

The low demand is partly the result of restriction of movement which has seen more people at home with enough time to prepare their own meals.

A person who used to be a regular customer of a street vendor would now go to buy once or twice a week. Sales have completely dwindled in cases where vendors catered specifically to employees of a specific organisation or people who visited a specific organisation/institution.

“It is going to take street vendors quite a long time to recover from the impact of the Coronavirus because their business relies on interaction with the customers and the customers are not going out, which poses a big threat in terms of access to their market,” said Xolile.

Xolile explained that the two products that remain in high demand in the informal economy as the Lockdown continues are airtime and bread, two products that street vendors do not supply.  Informal food traders will have to review their business strategies along with many other businesses if they are to survive even after the Coronavirus-induced Lockdown.