This past week we attended a conference hosted by the ICC and Technoserve in Maputo, Mozambique. Our founder, Suzana Moreira was invited as a panelist, discuss the role of women in internal trade and some of the challenges experienced by Mozambican women traders.
More than 7 million Mozambicans work in the informal sector across different sectors of activity, with the majority working across the agriculture value chain which contributes more than 23% to the GDP of Mozambique and to more than 80% of the employment rate of which 50% are women. The agricultural value chain is a major contributor to livelihood support and capital generation in Mozambique. But the make-up of this is complex because over 70% of the population live in rural areas, with almost 40% residing in the northern and central regions. With the bulk of commercial activity occurring in the south. In terms of infrastructure, the north-south road infrastructure is underdeveloped and a large part of trade is happening from east to west. The gender dynamics are different too, men are the dominant traders in the north, while in the south we see many more women involved in trade.
In addition, the majority of internal trade, inclusive of agribusiness happens in the informal sector and needs formalising and this is where the challenge comes in. Formalisation presents challenges to many of those that are participating in internal trade, they lack the right structures, and their margins are too low. And to increase business for these small business entrepreneurs’ means that they have to become more efficient which presents another challenge since they have to upgrade their business operations and in many instances the cost of capital prevents them from doing so. Increasing formalisation also presents challenges to those who are already formalised as the informal and formal sectors are so closely interwoven and dependant on each other.
Mozambique is heavily dependent on imports of products from neighbouring countries, who themselves are utilising the infrastructure of the neighbouring in order to get the products into Mozambique. The development of quality secondary roads can facilitate internal trade but these are medium to long term solutions. In the absence of these developments what should we be focussing on?
Most of our work has been carried out in the markets across Maputo, predominantly with women informal traders and informal cross border traders, who don’t produce or process any of their products. They have mentioned that their challenges include access to capital, the cost of accessing capital, cash flow, cost of logistics, access to affordable storage space and sensitivities towards pricing.
We as women, can make a difference in the agriculture value chain by playing a greater role structuring the value chain, in clustering the various actors.