Small businesses in Zambia are facing an uncertain future, as economic conditions continue to deteriorate. In a statement released today, Mr. Sean Tembo, President of the Patriotic Front (PeP), highlighted the dire situation facing small traders in the country.
“From 2020 to 2021, most businesses suffered largely because of the COVID-19 restrictions and the added cost of doing business due to compliance requirements such as masks, sanitizer etcetera. By the beginning of 2022, most small businesses were depressed and it was hoped that with the end of COVID-19, the year 2022 would provide some room for recovery,” said Mr. Tembo.
However, the economic situation has not improved as hoped. Mr. Tembo explained, “Throughout 2022, business was very bad especially for small traders. This was largely because of lack of liquidity as the New Dawn Government decided not to pay it’s many domestic creditors because they suspected that they were affiliated to the former PF regime, and paying them might amount to funding the opponent. Because there was no money in circulation, most businesses suffered regardless of their political affiliations.”
The rainy season, which typically sees a decline in business for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is set to further exacerbate the situation.
Mr. Tembo stated, “By December 2022, most traders were bracing themselves for the onset of the rain season. Business is often very bad during rain season for almost all traders and SMEs. Therefore, the period from December to around March is often a period of doom for most small businesses which are already depressed due to the after-effects of COVID-19 and lack of money in circulation.”
To add insult to injury, the government has introduced load shedding at the end of December 2022, which is seen as the final blow for small businesses already struggling to survive. Mr. Tembo said, “To add insult to injury, Government decided to introduced loadsheding towards the end of December 2022. This was seen to be the final nail in the coffin for small business, which were already extremely depressed.”
Adding to the economic troubles, the New Dawn administration has also embarked on a project to clear street vendors across the country. The definition of a street vendor has reportedly been expanded, which could have a significant impact on traders not only in the city center but also in townships.
Mr. Tembo said “It is evident that with the passing of each day, President Hakainde Hichilema is formulating and implementing policies which have only one effect; to kill the common man from hunger. But the question is; for how long will the common man allow himself to be squeezed before he reacts? My considered view is not so long. If the New Dawn administration continues on its current path of squeezing the common Zambian citizen, I foresee street protests before the end of 2023.”