Poverty and Informal Sector in Bukavu: Profile of Agricultural Product Retailers During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Keywords:poverty, street trade, COVID-19, agricultural products, Bukavu
Informal economy sector offers job opportunities and is often the unique source of income for many urban dwellers in developing countries. A survey was conducted in the town of Bukavu (eastern DR Congo) to examine the socioeconomic status of 93 agricultural commodity vendors and the impact of COVID-19 on their daily lives as well as their businesses. Vendors are predominantly women (83%) and few men (17%) from disadvantaged urban entities and rural areas, working with a mere capital varying from 2 to 120 USD. This business capital also highlights the urban-rural gap and gender differences to access to the resources. Over 43% of these vendors work 9 to 12 hours a day and sell mainly fruits and vegetables (67%). A large proportion among them (53%) earns less than 1.90 USD per day, which is insignificant to meet the basic needs of their households in that town where the cost of living has become expensive and exacerbated by the devaluation of the Congolese franc compared to the foreign currencies. Daily earned incomes are mainly allocated to food expenses and the payment of debts contracted by households (81-93%). Most of these vendors reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated their daily lives by influencing the exchange rate (60%), the increase in food prices (72%) and the rise of police harassment (9%). These results should challenge the public authorities who will realize that the analysis, often partisan, made by political actors of the economic growth still masks deep disparities and misery within society.
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