Feature: Zambian street vendors cash in on masks amid economic downturn

Source: Xinhua| 2020-05-18 17:57:16|Editor: huaxia

LUSAKA, May 18 (Xinhua) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage societies across the globe, street vendors in Zambia's capital Lusaka are cashing in on locally-made face masks.

The street vendors, many of whom before the pandemic were involved in selling goods such as clothing and phone accessories on highways and busy streets, have added face masks to their trade portfolio in efforts to meet the demand and also to counter harsh economic times.

The demand for face masks has kept the business running not only for the vendors but also for tailors in Zambia's major towns and cities, reports indicate. A good number of tailors have since added to their works the sewing of face masks.

For both the tailor and vendors, trading in masks compensates for the downturn in their main businesses.

The face masks which range from K5 to K15 (about 0.8 US dollar), are being sold at almost every turn in trading places. Tailors spoken to also mention of people requesting for custom-made face masks which cost twice as much.

There are also designer masks under renowned designer labels, which are being sold at more than one USD each and are mostly stocked by clothing stores situated in big shopping malls.

"I am assured of at least K50 per day just from face masks sells. On a good day, I can sell even up to 10 face masks. This is helping me to have some income for essential needs during this tough period," said Ernest Chibwe, who conducts his business on Cairo Road, a busy road in the Central Business District of Lusaka.

Chibwe whose main area of trade is phone accessories and simple electronic gadgets explained that he decided to venture into selling face masks after noticing a growing need for the product particularly among the busy working class who are often too busy to go and buy the masks from shops.

Another street vendor Robert Musonda based in Lusaka pointed out that venturing into the sale of face masks has helped him to continue running his business which according to him was almost closing.

Musonda who deals in ladies clothes and footwear laments that the advent of the coronavirus pandemic has adversely affected many small-scale traders like him, many of whom have been pushed out of business.

"When I noticed that my sells were going down and the demand for face masks was rising, I decided to approach a friend of mine who is a tailor to make face masks of different kinds and for different income groups. Selling face masks has helped me to stay afloat. I think it is always important to diversify and look at other income-generating opportunities," he said.

He adds that for some street vendors particularly those that move from one place to another, selling face masks is helping in mitigating the impact of lockdowns and providing them with some form of livelihood for now.

And Felix Chanda, a tailor based in Lusaka, explained that the business of making face masks started booming immediately after Zambia recorded two first cases of COVID-19 in March this year, adding that that government's move to make the wearing of masks in public places mandatory helped to push sales.

"People have no choice but to buy the face masks. The demand for the masks will be there for months to come and I expect orders to keep coming through," Chanda said.

"Unlike most masks from well-established stores and medical stores, ours are affordable and can be washed and reused. This is helpful for lower-income groups in cutting down on expenses," Chanda said. Enditem