By Patience Rusare
LOCAL small-scale business people are raring to take over after the 30-day ultimatum given to foreign retailers expires.
This comes amid reports that Government is in the process of identifying indigenous Zimbabweans who would take over ownership of the businesses, a move meant to avoid creating shortages when foreigners leave.
In May this year, the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment published a statutory instrument (SI 66 of 2013), ordering all businesses operating in the country to apply for indigenisation compliance certificates within six months.
Non-indigenous entities are still operating in the reserved sectors, but are expected to comply with the requirement to relinquish their holdings in that sector by 1 January 2013.
The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act lists agriculture, transportation, estate agencies, tobacco grading and packaging, advertising agencies, milk processing and provision of local arts and crafts as reserved sectors of the economy.
Identified sectors also include retailers, wholesalers, barbershops, hairdressings, beauty salons and bakeries.
Zimbabwe Tuck-shop Owners Association Chairman, John Musara expressed gratitude saying the move is aimed at promoting indigenous small-to-medium enterprises.
He however said there was need for tuck-shops to be legalised so that the retail sector can meaningfully contribute to the country’s economy.
“The Government should salute the initiative taken by so many jobless people and assist them in making their small businesses a success,” said Musara.
“The City of Harare should regulate us instead of threatening to shut down our operations and demolish our structures.
“Destroying us is not a solution.
“We are ready to comply with the law that will regulate our businesses.”
The fear comes amid reports that the Harare City Council will crack down on illegal structures such as tuck-shops, unplanned buildings and other structures that are illegal.
Musara said besides employment creation and sustainable poverty reduction, if legalised small-scale retail businesses can contribute meaningfully towards national economic growth.
Zimbabwe is experiencing an economic boom in the retail sector as more people are venturing into retailing.
Tuckshops have generally become a source of livelihood for many people in Zimbabwe’s high density suburbs servicing smaller communities and neighbourhoods with daily household needs.
Musara said despite not being recognised, many tuckshop owners have grown and diversified into hardware, agro business and manufacturing and assembling of pool tables, scotch carts and tobacco bailer boxes.
Local small-scale retailers argue that foreigners should rather streamline investment in large-scale capital intensive projects such as infrastructure, energy and mining among others that have downstream local employment creation effects.
Ellen Masango who runs a canteen in the capital applauded the move by the Government against foreigners setting up small retail shops.
“’We are witnessing the sprouting of restaurants in most central business centres in major towns where foreigners sell sadza and rice during lunch hour,” said Masango.
“But will this ever change Zimbabwe’s economy?
“We need serious investment.
“How can they come all the way to set up canteens here as if we do not know how to cook and sell sadza here?”
Government has previously expressed concern at the influx of foreign investors running small-sized businesses and banking most of the income in offshore accounts.