By Derrick Sinjela and Ashton Kelly Bunda
CARITAS Czech Republic (CCR) Head of Mission, Stefania Lagonigro describes 2020 as a year that normalized the noted devastating loss for everyone beyond Zambia.
In a Wednesday 19th May 2021 News Release, circulated by Public Relations Manager Mika Mwambazi, Ms. Lagonigro reflected that 2020 was a year, in which international shutdowns and the economic shockwaves caused by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic continued to stifle trade.
In the global south, the new normal is pushing small business to the brink of extinction, laments Ms. Lagonigro.
“As the coronavirus outbreak continues to ravage on, Caritas Czech Republic has embarked on a mission to provide vital Covid Relief support to underserved communities in Zambia. This intervention initiative aims to assist small businesses most affected by trade restrictions, with microgrants which would boost their operations. CCR would like to join government efforts to revamp the informal sector and mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable communities, women and the elderly. The contributions given to small business owners will help boost their businesses and make recovery possible,” says Ms. Lagonigro.
As part of the initiative, around 102 local traders based in Lusaka’s Mwamba Luchembe and Micheal Chilufya Sata markets were identified by Lusaka City Council (LCC) in Lusaka province and paid cash grants via mobile money.
An additional 82 traders in Mongu’s Kapulanga, Central, Black and Green markets were identified by Mongu City Council (MCC) in the Western province.
The traders are amongst thousands of small business owners facing severe revenue reductions across the country. On April 26th, the Caritas team begun verifying the microgrants in both Lusaka and Mongu.
On the ground in George Compound
23-year-old Susan Zulu, a household’s goods trader based in Mwamba Luchembe market received a K3,500 cash transfer. Susan represents the growing number of frontline youths who have made significant contributions to the economic recovery of their communities.
“My business was badly affected during the pandemic. I struggled to pay rent as my profits went down. But the K3,500 I received from Caritas Czech Republic has really helped boost my business. At least now, I will be able to stay on target and order new stock every week,” said an appreciative Ms. Zulu.
Another recipient of the cash grants is Dumisani Mwelwa. Dumisani was almost left penniless running a luggage stall which also supplies children’s essentials. The sudden reduction in traffic to his kiosk meant low sales volumes, a turn which has made it impossible for him to manage his operational costs.
“If my business investment generates enough capital, I’m planning to open up a shop and venture into a technology business trading in phones, laptops and computers. Since Caritas has helped us, I can now proceed with my future plans,” said Dumisani.
At the height of the pandemic, the common problems hampering small businesses include drastic reductions in demand for products and services due to social distancing regulations, as well as sharp drops in import volumes due to lockdowns. These factors amongst others, have colluded to deliver decreased revenue for small business owners.
Meanwhile, the job market continues to be driven by small to medium sized businesses and now more than ever, Caritas Czech Republic is resolute in its commitment to Zambia’s economic recovery. While the road to economic growth is still ongoing, the cash grants are providing a pathway for small businesses, their employees and the communities that depend on them to survive.
Caritas Czech Republic is an international humanitarian aid agency with its headquarters in Prague. The CCR mission in Zambia has grown steadily since its establishment, providing continuous support in development cooperation and humanitarian aid. CCR operates through its main office in Lusaka with Field operations in Western Province, Central Province, North-Western Province and Luapula Province.
CCR has been successfully implementing projects in reproductive health and nutrition, economic empowerment, as well as social protection for refugees supported by various donors including the Czech Development Agency, UNHCR, World Food Programme, Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Refuge Point, Good Neighbors and the Financial Sector Deepening Zambia (FSDZ).