The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that throughout the world, between 50 per cent and 75 per cent of the non-agricultural labour force is in the informal sector. At the regional level, the estimate for southern Africa is 66 per cent, while at a country level, Zimbabwe’s estimate is at 52 per cent. Notably, the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and governments’ trade-related responses to contain the virus undesirably affected lives, livelihoods and cross-border trade in several southern African countries, particularly women cross-border traders in Zimbabwe. This rapid assessment reviews the impact of COVID-19 and Zimbabwe’s implemented policy response measures, in curbing the spread of the pandemic, in the context of the country’s women in cross-border trade (WICBT). In line with the previous survey findings in Africa, this study finds out that informal cross-border trade (ICBT) in Zimbabwe is dominated by women traders who constitute 89 per cent compared to 11 per cent for men. Majority of these women traders are into informal cross-border trading for basic survival reasons.
To exporting their products for selling in South Africa, they also import products for resale or consumption back home from the same country. These exported and imported products are categorized into food, textiles and clothing, building material and consumer goods. One of the key findings of the study is that continued government border closures, ban on movement of people and the prohibition of importing non-designated essential goods and services had a destructive effect on the socio-economic lives and livelihoods of WICBT. As an enabling factor, the survey finds out that 93 per cent of the WICBT mainly use or rely on the WhatsApp platform for communication and order placements, while the remaining 7 per cent either use the Internet (online) or websites for the same purposes. Following from this, the study infers that all WICBT in Zimbabwe are at the minimum, familiar with digital or electronic means of conducting business. Building from these key findings, the study concludes by proffering researchbased recommendations for consideration by policy makers in ways that will enhance the country’s cross-border trading environment amidst the pandemic, now and going into the future.