Hope for the Botswana Informal Sector

Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic, stressful as it may be, it did not bring only bad things. In light of the impacts of the pandemic, the Ministry of Investment Trade and Industry (MITI) devised a plan to revive the Informal Sector.

Presenting the Botswana Informal Sector Recovery Plan this morning, Minister Peggy Serame said they are working with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) to implement the plan. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is also part of the initiative.

LEA has been tasked with dealing with Informal Sector issues, as it is it’s culture, LEA will set up incubation facilities for the informal Sector. This is Phase 2 of the Informal Sector recovery plan. The first was the initiative of the Industry Support Fund where businesses are benefitting P1000 grant from LEA. According to the Minister, close to 30 000 businesses has already benefited from the grant as of last week friday. The P1000 grant initiative is still ongoing.

Phase 2 of the Informal Sector recovery plan is set to focus on addressing issues of place of operation and the market for the Informal Sector.

Letsholathebe, Madikwe, Lobu, Gantsi, Ledumang, Selibe-Phikwe has been identified as places where incubators for Informal Sector will be set up. Meanwhile, manufacturing facility for Informal Sector incubation at kanye is already in development process. Training and cultural change for the Informal Sector to be implemented as well. These incubators will focus on different industries, from agriculture, manufacturing, car wash, and many more.

Minister Serame also made an assurance that her ministry is in the process of engaging with other stakeholders on issue of places of operation. With the Local Government it will be ensured that permanent places of operation are secured. This will sort out an issue where the Informal Sector entrepreneurs were often chased away for squattering.

According to the study by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development carried out in 2015, it was revealed that more than 116 000 informal sector businesses exists.

However, the following challenges perculiar to the informal sector were identified; lack of places of operation, disadvantaging policies, and limited income among others. Serame says with the National Informal Sector Recovery Plan, the aim is helping informal sector to grow further, with possibility to graduate to the formal sector.

The Ministry has two (2) strategies of establishment of informal sector facilitation structures outlining how Informal entrepreneurs will get the help. First is to address challenges and clearly articulate who to engage in such. Second is economic revitalization- to ensure the sector is functional.

For her part, Ms. Jacinta Barrins- the Resident Representative of UNDP in Botswana says they are delighted to be part of the launch with seeks to improve livelihoods.

“The intention is that there will be a special Informal Sector unit established either in MITI or LEA and we will provide an advice to get that unit established, that’s one big area. The second big area we want to help is setting up an improvement on the business intelligence system that already started as part of COVID [Phase 1 of the recovery plan]. How to make sure the dash is there, how do we get full numbers and so on. Because that will allow us to respond. The third area is to provide digital virtual spaces, and again back to space- how do we make virtual spaces available? And if there is an issue on access to markets, how do we make that available? Towards digital training and providing that cloud space. We really want to help in that area. Lastly we want to do the feasibility study together with LEA and MITI around the possibility for some kind of social enchants, we want to explore if that’s possible.”

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