Little money in pockets, expensive products in markets

Covid-19 has opened a new floodgate of economic difficulties, with consumers grappling with increased prices of basic commodities.

‘Many African countries, scarred by previous pandemics, realised quickly that there was very little room for error, and did what they needed to do.’ A man has his temperature checked in a shop Harare, Zimbabwe, in October. Photograph: Aaron Ufumeli/EPA

Low incomes and high cost of production has condemned millions of Zimbabweans to a life of destitution as they struggle with increased costs of electricity, transport and basic foodstuffs such as bread, milk and cooking oil.

Besides Covid-19, the weakening of the bond notes against major global currencies (another negative impact of the Covid-19) has also resulted in financial hardships for many. In addition, closure of businesses, pay cuts and job losses continue.

Products whose prices have shot up include electricity, milk, bread, onions, transport, school fees and cooking oil.

“It is not about the cost of living going up, it is about the effects of the coronavirus on people’s income,” said Joy Kizito, an economics lecturer at Trust Academy. She said it would take some time before the crippling effects of the pandemic subside.

David Mukucha, the managing director at Mapuvire Supermarket, blamed the weakening of the bond notes for the increase in prices of most products. Most of the finished products, or their raw materials, are bought from outside the country using foreign currencies such as US dollars.

However, a unit of the local currency is trading at around 100 against the dollar, having weakened from 85 before the country reported first cases of Covid-19.

A weak bond note makes imported items expensive. “Immediately the bond weakens, it affects almost everything,” said Mukucha.

But besides the prices of commodities going up, consumers do not also have as much money as they had before the pandemic to spend.

Industries such as aviation and hospitality have barely recovered. A lot of hotels remain unoccupied while some have shut down completely, sending home thousands.

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