MARKETEERS and traders at Lusaka’s City Market, which was gutted by an early morning fire on Tuesday, now
deserve more than sympathy.
Marketeers and traders need our collective empathy to help them recover from the inferno which has left them devastated.
Traders, small and medium enterprises play a significant role in the country’s economic development.
Beyond trading, traders and SMEs are family men and women who have hordes of children who look to them for sustenance.
So, this group of people needs help like yesterday to go back to work so that the economy and families begin to function normally.
The gutting of the market, one of the biggest trading centres in the country, comes barely a week after the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) held a meeting with representatives of Zambia National Marketeers and Trading Association, cross-border and vegetable traders to establish a mechanism of taxing these groups.
The inferno is a drawback as most of the people ZRA was targeting to start taxing have lost goods in the process.
It will delay ZRA’s taxing of the informal sector, just as it will reduce the income it has been receiving from cross-border traders and SMEs.
Helping traders to recover requires a multi-sectoral approach as different stakeholders will play different roles.
For instance, the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit is expected to mobilise resources for reconstructing areas of the market that have been destroyed.
However, the DMMU may not have the capacity to do so at short notice and will need the support of well-wishers such as the private sector.
Macro and micro-financial institutions should make money available for the marketeers and SMEs to borrow with almost no interest to help our traders recover from the trauma of losing goods in such a horrible manner.
Some micro-financial institutions already have traders and marketeers in their books and know the repayment ability of most of them.
For a long time, marketeers and SMEs may have overlooked the aspect of insuring their businesses.
The Pension and Insurance Authority and its members could move in to chat with marketeers and traders on the importance of taking out insurance.
Insurance firms may wish to put a human face to their chat with traders by not going there empty-handed but providing cash to some traders who have been affected.
The marketeers need our help like yesterday and we hope that the Office of the Vice-President, which manages the DMMU, will speed up the reconstruction of the market as well as the bailout of the traders.
It will help our hard-working traders and SMEs to overcome the traumatic event.