- Figures from Statistics Botswana point to 15% growth in unemployment in less than a year
Selling meals on the street has become a new normal in Gaborone, even the country at large, as more people struggle to make ends meet.
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic might be the main reason behind this rapidly growing business as erstwhile breadwinners lose their jobs. The country’s high unemployment rate is also more ancient contributing factor in the rise in vending food by the roadside.
This ‘trend’ is borne by figures from Statistics Botswana which estimates that at the end of the last quarter of 2020, the total number of unemployed people reached 238,731, an increase of 5.4 percent on the first of 2020.
The ‘trend’ has generated mixed reaction from restaurateurs. Tebogo Molebo, who runs Unique 2 Pub and Grill in Ramotswa, says the mushrooming of street food vending is bringing her business it to its knees.
“Their numbers (street food vendors) have grown in the COVID-19 era,” Molebo noted. “The most unfortunate thing is that some set up their stalls right in front of our restaurants. On top of that, they lower their prices, knowing very well that customers will go to them that way. That is not fair on us because we have overheads like rent and electricity to pay.”
According to Molebo, who has been running her restaurant for five years, she no longer makes money the way she did before due to street vendors of meals.
But Molebo’s sentiments are not shared by Ranko (he refused to give his full name) of Chillies Restaurant in Gaborone who says he is in full support of street vendors of meals even though they are his competition. “They have their legion of customers that they attract and I have mine,” Ranko said.
“So I cannot say they have affected my business. I have no problem with them because just like me, they have families to feed.” The Chillies employs 53 people at its three branches across Gaborone – Bontleng, Broadhurst and Gaborone.
At Morula Restaurant, the manager Tumelo Lekone noted that street food vendors do not affect their sales in any way. “Our restaurant offers fine dining,” Lekone pointed out. “People come here with expectations of having that fine dining experience.
“This is not only about eating but is about relaxing and enjoying your meal in a comfortable atmosphere. I cannot therefore say the street food vendors have affected our business.”