Enterprising residents are selling goods from their vehicles in Zimbabwe

Cars have become mobile markets in Zimbabwe where enterprising residents are selling goods from their vehicles to cope with economic hardships caused by the coronavirus.

With their car doors and trunks wide open by the side of busy roads, eager sellers display a colorful array of goods in Harare, the capital city.

In the trunk of a car, packets of rice, sugar and candies are neatly laid next to baby clothes, while blankets are displayed on the roof. 

Such unlicensed street vending is illegal and police have made a few arrests, but not enough to discourage the widespread practice.

Unable to cope with the double burden of the economic decline and restrictions caused by the coronavirus, many of the few industries and companies still operating in Zimbabwe are either closing down or cutting jobs.

About 25% of jobs in the formal sector could be lost due to the contraction caused by COVID-19, according to the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce.

The figures could be even worse, said Peter Mutasa, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, noting that even formally employed people such as civil servants earning less than $50 a month are complementing their incomes by selling goods from their cars.

“Wages are now useless because of inflation,” he said. “Everyone is crying.”

Selling from cars is also prevalent in other parts of Africa.

In Zimbabwe, selling items from the back of car trunks to beat economic hardships is not completely new, but it was mainly limited to those selling second-hand clothes.

Now, newly unemployed people clog roadsides and street corners in both rich and poor suburbs in Harare to sell from their cars. Many said the items for sale are smuggled from neighboring South Africa, which has closed its border posts with Zimbabwe as part of lockdown measures.

Zimbabwe’s economy had already shifted from full-time, salaried jobs to self-employed trading due to a steady trend of de-industrialization over the past two decades, and the coronavirus has just worsened the situation, said some economists.

“We were never used to this,” “But we were forced to leave our offices and our shops.”

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