ZIMBABWE Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) chairperson Daniel Chinyemba says the availability of workspaces remains a major challenge for the sub sector.In an interview with NewsDay Business, Chinyemba said infrastructural development was not keeping pace with the growth of SMEs.

“There are a lot of challenges, particularly when it comes to workspace. SMEs are accommodated in very shabby places,” he said.“Here and there you have infrastructure built, but the rate at which the infrastructure is being built and the rate of increase in the number of SMEs is not corresponding. Most of the SMEs are on the streets.”

Chinyemba said local authorities should, therefore, see vendors as opportunities to boost their revenue instead of threats.“If you go to Mbare in Remembrance Drive opposite Mupedzanhamo, those people should be seen as opportunities rather than threats by the council. All they need is land where they can develop their businesses and then we get the taxes from them.

“They sell from the streets and it’s disheartening. If you go to Glen View, it is the same thing. If you go even to a place out of Harare you will find out that is the same challenge.”In an interview, a fruit vendor only identified as Jussy said he was selling fruits on the streets due to a shortage of space at council-owned sheds close to the Sunningdale 2 shops.

“I am in the streets like this because I could not find anywhere to sell my fruits because there is not enough space. Those that are in the sheds we just have to wait until they die so that we can take over,” he said.

“For now, I just have to settle for the streets. My wife also sells chicken cuts just in front of Choppies in the evening. During the evening the council guys would have gone home so it is not much of a problem.

“All we want is for the council to build more sheds for us to sell our products properly. I am willing to pay any amount to be in the proper space.”He said the city council destroyed the temporary shelters for clothes vendors and promised to provide proper selling spaces. However, the promise is yet to be fulfilled. The vendors have since restored the temporary shelters.

Melissa Maponga, a vendor, who sells clothes from a makeshift shed made out of wood and plastics, said: “I used to sell my clothes at Mupedzanhamo before it was closed. “After that, I tried selling my stuff in the CBD, but I was of no match to the constant racing with the council police. So, I settled for these temporary shelters. When it is raining like it is doing now, it is really hard to work.”

Maponga appealed to the city council to assist vendors by building sheds for them to operate from.“Business is not doing well these days, but it’s better than staying at home. I believe if we had a proper place to sell our stuff, customers would be able to see what we are selling.

“Right now, we are so crowded, and sometimes people come to steal our things because we wouldn’t even notice. The space is very small. We are kindly asking the city council to help us. We do not mind paying some money for us to have a proper selling place,” she said.