“Outdoor vendors also boost local economies and tend to source products from neighboring farmers, rather than international markets.
“We are wrong to think that we can just adopt solutions developed in wealthy countries that favor large commercial operations over small producers.”
- ILRI Scientist, Delia Grace
Local vendors in the Zambezi region of Katima Mulilo, Namibia have called for the dismissal of foreign vendors from the country. According to them, the vendors are creating undue competition for local businesses.
The demonstration was spearheaded by a traders group known as the Native Small Traders Association (Nasta), whose chairperson Simasiku Mulijani read out a petition at the council offices during the peaceful protest.
In the petition, they accused the foreign vendors of doing more harm than good. It read:
"Vending spaces in Namibia must be occupied by locals as informal business people and requires no academic qualifications. Foreign traders bring dirt to our country as they sell illegal and fake items at exorbitant prices.
"They are smuggling products into Namibia, and are not being taxed. It is painful to hear Namibians buying plots from foreigners who got them through land grabbing. It is painful to see foreigners conducting door-to-door business like we are a lawless country.
"Shoprite, Mr. Price, and Jet Mart should allow vendors onto their corridors, or else go back where they came from.
"We call on all vendors not to support these outlets until they allow us to do business in their corridors. Vendors are not thieves or beggars, but business people."
These are the five (5) things we learned from the protest:
1. Africans are finding a voice: The protest shows that Africans have found their voice and are demanding what is rightfully theirs. There is no doubt that the influx of foreign vendors like Shoprite, Mr. Price, Spar, etc has affected many local producers and businesses into the continent negatively. This is largely due to the fact that many of these companies stock mainly imported products.
2. African governments do not consider local businesses: Many African governments do not take local businesses, products, and entrepreneurs into consideration when giving licenses to foreign vendors, and this affects the economy in many ways while promoting that of the foreign countries.
3. The vendors have a point: The local vendors may be illiterates and poor, but they have a valid point when they said that these foreign vendors are not adequately taxed and they engage in smuggling of products from overseas. African governments need to do more in addressing these issues.
4. Uncontrolled competition kills local businesses: While economists may say competitions are good for business, we must agree that it is to a certain degree. When competition is not controlled, it can create an undue advantage which in turn kills local business. Local production cannot strive if there is high competition from foreign substitutes.
5. Africans are civilized people: Gone are the days when Africans were known for violent protests, looting, and riots in making their claims. The peaceful demonstrations show that Africans are taking the part of civility in making their demands are known; which is a welcome development.
Image Header Credit: The Namibia