Exploring informal cross border trading and poverty reduction in Harare

Chadambuka, Rumbidzai Ann
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Informal sector in Africa is a major source of income and entrepreneurship for those with less skills and the unemployed. ICBT is a common informal activity for poor households, and it is a survival strategy for the marginalised, especially women. ICBT is mainly attributed to failing economies and poverty in Africa. This study explores how ICBT contributes to the socio-economic needs of Harare households. There is scant literature on ICBT's contributions to day-to-day basic needs. Thus, this study sought to fill this gap in literature by exploring the contributions of ICBT in Harare households. A qualitative study was conducted with twenty participants consisting of thirteen women engaged in ICBT, five family members and two agents. Participants were recruited using snowball and purposive sampling and, on the basis that they were female, resided in Harare, engaged in ICBT between Harare and Johannesburg or a family member staying with the female trader or an agent of the trader. Face-to-face and telephonic interviews were conducted with participants using narrative approach and were audio-recorded. Data were analysed using thematic data analysis ICBT has made positive and negative socio-economic impact in the home. Due to failing economic conditions in Zimbabwe, both the employed and unemployed, educated and less educated, find themselves in ICBT to generate income and to supplement their low salaries. ICBT has empowered women in Harare by making them financially independent to cater for their family needs. Women’s role has been changing from unpaid household chores to being breadwinners and this earns them respect they never had before. The sector has its own challenges mainly due to changes in economic trends, government regulations, societal and cultural expectations, and Covid-19 pandemic. These challenges do not necessarily stop ICBT because traders always find other ways to continue in business. Strengthening context-specific and context-driven policies that are supportive and not hostile to ICBT should be prioritized in empowering women and curbing the challenges they face in ICBT.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Management, University of the Witwatersrand, in 50% fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Management (in the field of Governance: Development and Economics), 2021