Mozambican Street Vendors Forge New Paths in Harare’s Economy

Facing Hardship, Young Mozambicans Turn to Vending Amidst Zimbabwe’s Challenges

by Adenike Adeodun

In the heart of Harare, Zimbabwe’s bustling capital, amidst towering skyscrapers and busy streets, a unique form of entrepreneurship has emerged. Young Mozambican men, their faces etched with stories of hardship, roam the city’s streets selling colourful sweets and mobile airtime vouchers. Known locally as ‘mano,’ these men have ventured from Mozambique, driven by the harsh economic conditions and civil unrest back home.

Harare’s informal economy offers these Mozambicans a lifeline. They have become a familiar sight, known as the city’s airtime angels, offering convenient services to Hararians. Their journey is one of resilience and hope, starting in Mozambique’s sun-drenched provinces where limited opportunities and a weakening currency push many young men like 22-year-old Gabriel towards Zimbabwe, seeking a semblance of prosperity.

Life as a street vendor in Harare is a relentless hustle, marked by daily challenges. According to a report by Newsday, these men face police crackdowns, fierce competition from local vendors, and the constant threat of deportation due to their undocumented status. The perils of the city, including exploitation and harassment, are ever-present.

Ricardo, 21, speaks of the hardships they face: “The police sometimes exploit our vulnerability due to our undocumented status, taking our goods. We face mistrust and competition, but we persevere for our families back home.”

Despite these challenges, they continue to serve a diverse clientele, from taxi drivers needing a quick airtime top-up to office workers seeking a sweet treat. “Their airtime and candies bring convenience and joy to our day,” says Tariro Nyatanga, an office worker in Harare.

Yet, the reality of their situation is not lost on the locals. “It’s tough for them. They live in constant fear of being caught,” Nyatanga adds.

The political and economic turmoil in Mozambique drives many, like Gabriel and Ricardo, to cross the border in search of better opportunities. However, they face an uphill battle with cultural barriers, legal challenges, and the fear of deportation.

As night falls over Harare, these young Mozambicans retreat to their modest accommodations in Mbare, starkly contrasting the city’s grandeur. Their living conditions are humble, sharing cramped quarters with the bare essentials. The communal kitchen, with its soot-covered walls, is a testament to their shared struggles.

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