The Okavango Sub district council Chairman Lesedi Boy has said plans are underway by the council to put in place measures to assist small business that have been affected by the transition from the Mohembo ferry to the Mohembo bridge.
While the opening for public use of the Mohembo Bridge has brought much relief to communities on the other side of the Okavango river, it has also spelt doom for small business that have operated at the ferry site for many decades. However, some have argued that this provides opportunity for growth for these businesses at the bridge.
Boy said the plans are aimed at ensuring that those businesses adapt to sustaining themselves around the bridge, highlighting that the opening of the facility has attracted large numbers of people who come to view it, adding that these are potential customers for the businesses.
He further noted that the bus stops at the mouths of the bridge on both sides also provide perfect spots for affected small business to set up their stalls for commuters awaiting transport.
The development, which has eased movement of goods, services and people across the river people has reportedly seen the collapse of over 40 small business mostly owned by women on the both sides of the river.
One of those affected, Maapeo Sembungu who have traded along the area in Mohembo East for the longest time has claimed that in less than two months since the bridge was opened; more than 43 small businesses both in Mohembo East and West have collapsed, sending those affected home.
Sembungu said she was running a tuck-shop that provided mobile money services to the people in the area as well as those who traded by the ferry but that has all stopped.
Sembungu, one of the oldest business women in the history of Mohembo ferry revealed that she has been in the business at Mohembo since 1990 and has made end meet, sustaining her livelihoods and those of her children.
“As small business owners who sold airtime, fresh produce, fat-cakes, fish and catering businesses at the Mohembo ferry station we have all since been affected and we are now back home to be with our children whom we took to school with the proceeds from our businesses that are currently now suffering,” she told this publication.
According to her, for the 32 years that she traded at Mohembo ferry, she saw many of her colleagues who became successful business women and have since grown into big businesses that are now operating in Shakawe, Maun and Gaborone but having started at the ferry.
“One might think selling sweets, fat cakes and cigarettes is a small thing, but over time you make thousands of Pulas to confirm this, we have built houses and some have graduated from universities with proceeds from such products,” she said.
Meanwhile Bafana Letsatsi, who is a youthful comedian has suggested that the ferry station be turned into a museum to sustain such small businesses. He added that this will also create a platform for young people to showcase artworks and also host events to accommodate visitors and tourists who will from time and again visit Shakawe and the bridge.
“I went to the ferry station alone for the very first time and it was a quiet and cool interesting experience, therefore there is a need for business ideas to keep the station busy and generate income than to let for it to become a white elephant,” the Mochudi born comedian emphasized.