Wisborn Malaya, Regional Focal Point Coordinator talks about his experience and challenges in the East & South African Region

Wisborn Malaya, General Secretary of Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) who is also a Coordinator of StreetNet Regional Focal Point for East & South African Region acquaints us with main challenges and concerns related to his activity as a RFP Coordinator.

StreetNet International in its structure has four Regional Focal Points (RFPs) a main role of which is to coordinate affiliates’ activity in the region and to keep StreetNet International Council informed regarding the composition, function and activities of RFPs.

Today we will talk about the RFP for East & South African Region. The following nine affiliates belong to this RFP: AEIMO (Mozambique), AZIEA (Zambia), Eastern Cape Alliance of Street Vendors and Ubumbano Traders Alliance (South Africa), KENASVIT (Kenya), Khathang Tema Baits’okoli (Lesotho), MUFIS (Malawi), TUICO (Tanzania), ZCIEA (Zimbabwe).

One of the main challenges in coordinating RFP, Brother Wisborn emphasized a communication problem. "Until now it stays as a very big problem, as some of our affiliates still don’t use Skype app which is the main communication tool for gathering all affiliates representatives. Or, even, if some of them have Skype and all communication options, they seem too busy to have a scheduled Skype teleconference. That’s why it’s a challenge for us to hold regular monthly online meetings, but when there is a call for a regional or international activity participation they respond very swiftly", – notes Wisborn, – "We still have to organize and re-organise Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Angola, Uganda".

According to RFP Coordinator, the other challenge which is also crucial in proper functioning of RFP is weak financial capacity or just lack of any financial resources.

RFP Coordinator says: "Unfortunately we can’t even implement our Strategic Plan (2015-2016) which requires some financial obligations and contributions in its fulfillment. However, just recently we started to work on fundraising to search for some partners who can financially assist our organization ZCIEA as well as to extend its support to the whole RFP. We are still making close follow ups on the potential support for the regional work by one of our local funding partners through their regional office. Our StreetNet coordinator is also now part of this initiative. We have a rather good Strategic Plan which was developed by all affiliates concerned and includes a lot of new initiatives in promoting street vendors’ rights and interest in the region. We also can’t afford any regional exchange visits which are so important for affiliates to share their experience and to learn from each other.

However, from our side we try to advise affiliates’ leadership to follow their constitution and to hold their Congresses on time as this is one of the most important principal for any democratic membership organization. Up to date 5 of our focal point affiliates have held their democratic congresses between the last 2013 StreetNet Congress and up till now.

We need to promote youth participation in our activities as they are the today and tomorrow’s hope for continuous movement building. That’s why it’s so essential to involve young boys and girls into union activity and trainings".

Wisborn Malaya also pointed on the progress made since the last StreetNet International Congress in Chile in 2013. He noticed that they managed to have two focal point workshops, the aim of which was: to identify and provide solutions to challenges facing the focal point in organizing and implementation of work; to review the focal point work plan; to address the engagement and involvement of the youth in the StreetNet activities and possibilities of establishing the youth commission; to come up with better methods of promoting the Informal Traders to work in partnership with the Cross boarder traders in their countries etc. Wisborn also added that more affiliates started to participate in the RFP activity. So that now all of them can speak with one voice, as unity became one of their main values.

There are also some successes of RFP within the last few years and one of them is participation in SADC People’s Summits, which took place in Zimbabwe (2014) and Botswana (2015), and on which informal workers defined their demands. More information about this event can be found here: http://www.streetnet.org.za/show.php?id=652

As a Coordinator of Regional Focal Point, Wisborn Malaya suggests for each RFP to try searching for financial resources by themselves and to get support from StreetNet International Office for this initiative.

In conclusion he stressed: "The East & Southern Africa focal point believes together we can make it. What is important is to maintain the "Nothing for Us Without Us" mentality. On behalf of the focal point I also thank the StreetNet Coordinator Pat Horn, the entire StreetNet working team and Leadership for a job well done by acquiring StreetNet Premises in Durban South Africa. Such an achievement is not done by opportunists but by the visionary. We trust that the StreetNet family will continue to grow besides the shrinking down of activities and office running funds. We trust that the efforts of ICC will bring about the hope every StreetNet member is anticipating for".

Interviewed by Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Media Officer