Informal Entrepreneurship and Cross-Border Trade between Zimbabwe and South Africa

Zimbabwe has witnessed the rapid expansion of informal cross-border trading (ICBT) with neighbouring countries over the past two decades. Beginning in the mid-1990s when the country embarked on its Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP), a large number of people were forced into informal employment through worsening economic conditions and the decline in formal sector jobs. The country’s post-2000 economic collapse resulted in the closure of many industries and created market opportunities for the further expansion of ICBT. This report, part of SAMP’s Growing Informal Cities series, sought to provide a current picture of ICBT in Zimbabwe by interviewing a sample of 514 Harare-based informal entrepreneurs involved in cross-border trading with South Africa. Traders who met the following criteria were selected for interview: (a) trading in the informal sector and not registered for tax purposes; (b) in operation for at least a year to allow for a retrospective analysis of start-up, problems and opportunities; and (c) conducting business primarily between Harare and Johannesburg. In addition, 24 in-depth interviews as well as two focus group discussions were held with the cross-border traders in Harare.