The Sunday Mail
Downtown Harare is an economic hub.
Here, money arguably changes hands more than in any other part of the city.
It is typically the Wall Street of the capital.
Household goods, school uniforms, stationery, groceries and building materials have huge markets.
But there is a distinctly burgeoining trade that oils and keeps this part of the city on its wheels – the motor vehicle industry.
From second-hand cars to ball bearings, spare parts, lubricants, batteries and tyres, downtown Kaguvi Street is seemingly the one-stop shop for these accessories.
Not only that, car sales and rentals, servicing, spray painting and panel beating are also done here.
The vehicle spare parts and servicing business is one of the most profitable in this part of town.
The business is booming and several entrepreneurs are pursuing this venture.
A survey on the main backstreets of the capital, namely Kaguvi Street, indicates that most of the spare parts dealers in this part of the world are retailers.
Peter Njambayo (40) is among the many retailers who earn a decent living through selling vehicle accessories.
He has been in the business for the past three years and used to specialise in electrical goods.
“I moved to vehicle spare parts because I saw the great potential of the business, especially now that many people are buying commuter omnibus and mushika-shika (illegal pirate taxis), which regularly need repair,” he said.
In his shop, he sells motorcycle tubes, tyres, brake pads, seats, helmets, shock absorbers, clutches, gear levers, rims, exhaust pipes, among other items.
Njambayo has stocked his shop to the brim, leaving little room for him to manoeuvre and serve his customers.
Most of his customers are pirate taxis and commuter omnibus operators.
Prices of goods in his shop range from $50 to $1 000.
According to Njambayo, the much sought-after vehicle spare parts are tyres and brakes.
“Tyres are on high demand because they need frequent replacement. Most operators replace worn tyres frequently,” he said.
Njambayo sells the tyres for between $40 and $79 in hard currency depending on the make and quality.
But motorists are not happy to part with the scarce currency.
The entrepreneur, however, defended the decision to sell in greenbacks.
“I buy the spare parts in foreign currency and for my business to remain afloat, I also need to peg the prices in United States dollars,” he said.
On a good day, he pockets as much as $600.
The ecosystem of businesses in this part of the city also includes people who also service the vehicles.
Spare parts are paid for in foreign currency, but labour is charged in bond notes or RTGS.
Brian Muranda, a mechanic, explained the dynamics of his business.
“Vehicle service kits are pegged in United States dollars. Engine oil costs $17 per 500 ml, with a litre going for as much as $25. This, however, depends on the type of vehicle,” Muranda said.
Brake pads for a commuter omnibus go for between $30 and $50, with oil filters ranging between $10 and $20.
According to Murandu, the number of people dealing in vehicle spare parts is growing.
“Although illegal pirate taxis are a source of anguish for councils, to us they are actually a blessing. Our businesses are booming because of them,” said a chuckling Murandu.
Like most other businesses, the vehicle spare parts industry has been hard hit by counterfeit products.
Added Murandu: “There are so many counterfeit spare parts in the market and it is difficult, if not impossible, to effectively deal with this menace. Counterfeits are cheap and do not last long.”
Online sources indicate that the global economy is predicted to grow by between 2 percent and 3 percent between 2011 and 2020, and Africa is expected to grow by nearly 6 percent, making it one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
As the size of a population grows and more people migrate to urban areas, the demand for a suitable and reliable means of transporting people and goods also increases.