Unlike most of the malls in the country, the proposed Botswana Railways (BR) mall which is expected to be built in Francistown will have a special reservation for the informal sector.
This was revealed by the Francistown City Council (FCC) Principal Public Relations Officer, Joseph Wasubera in an interview with┬áThe Telegraph┬áon Monday. He said that BR has since engaged them to be part of the project so that they can assist on how the informal sector traders could benefit from the project.
┬á“Botswana Railways approached us with a proposal to build this mall because they have a piece of unused land in Francistown and they declared their interest to also rope in the city council in the project so that the informal sector is included. They have since made a proposal to us that they will have a special piece of land that will be specially allocated to these traders. This will be a rare project because most malls in the country do not cater for the informal sector. This is indeed a positive development for the people of Francistown,” said Wasubera.
BR announced last year that it is planning to build a state of the art mall worth over P300 million in Francistown.
He also added that as part of the project, BR has proposed to allocate the city council a piece of land to build a mini-taxi rank in order to facilitate transportation of customers to the new mall. Wasubera said such a move will also boost the local transport business. He said although BR presented a mere proposal to them, they as the City Council are optimistic that if the project becomes a success, it will be a blessing to the people of Francistown. He said the second city is strategically located and conducive for doing business.
“Francistown is a gateway to many North African countries; therefore the mall will attract foreigners and bring business activity into the city. This will in turn boost the economy of Francistown,” he added.
┬áHe said that BR is currently working around the clock to make sure the project becomes a success.
The Telegraph also carried out an interview with some informal traders in the city who said such a move by Botswana Railways will provide them with a good opportunity to sell their products and services better.
A wood work artist who sells wood work products along the busy Blue Jacket Street, John Chingo said in an interview that should such a project become a success, it will help him access more customers and help market his products even abroad.
“This will be a rare opportunity for us as small traders because; the business owners who own these kinds of malls would not allow us to sell our products near their buildings. They treat us like dirt. We are hopeful that such a mall will provide us with opportunities to even sell our products to foreigners because obviously tourists will flock into this new mall,” he said.
He lauded Botswana Railways for taking the plight of informal traders into heart.
Another vegetable and fruit trader, Keneilwe Nsengi also expressed her excitement to┬áThe Telegraph┬áover such a proposal. She however expressed fears that the project could become a white elephant as many others have failed before in Francistown.
“If we are given a space to sell our products at the new mall, it would boost our businesses as malls are busy areas with economic activity. However I have been disappointed by other projects in the city that we have been promised of and they really never took off. A clear example is the Francistown Stadium. I hope this does not follow suit,” she said.
Sharon Muzola, a tailor along the Haskins Street also said such a project will help her access many customers. “It is an opportunity for us as small business people to grow. It is a welcome development and we are looking forward to the success of this project,” she said.
Meanwhile, Wasubera said that the city council is currently refurbishing the walkways in Francistown to try and give the second city a facelift.
“The walkways at Barclays Plaza which is in the city centre are currently being paved to try and give Francistown a facelift. Our plan is to pave the whole city if the budget allows it. We also want to re-organise the placement of the informal traders stalls in the city so that there is no blockade of walkways in the city. Every trader should at least leave a distance of 2.5 metres around their stall so that there is no blockade in the walkways,” he said.
In conclusion he said the city council and informal traders have a cordial working relationship.