Aroab SME owners hope for business uptick

Covid killed profit

04 March 2021 | Business

Our only customers were the pensioners, whereas before we had tourists crossing the border. - Loide Shikwanyu, Shop owner

Suzith Tjitaura – Small business owners at Aroab say they hope for better days as they have hardly generated any profits since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March last year.

Hendrina Jaartse, who sells clothing, said during the lockdown things got tough as they could not sell anything and this affected their livelihood.

“We see now that things are changing little by little, we can now make some money even if it is not much. We hope business will pick up again,” said Jaartse.

Loide Shikwanyu, who has a small grocery shop at the village’s small and medium enterprise (SME) stalls, said before the pandemic she made a profit and the shop could be stocked every week, but this is no longer the case.

She said they initially opened the shop to cater for locals as the main shop at the village is expensive and travelling to Keetmanshoop is not an option as it is a long distance to travel.

Tourists, however, later became a bigger source of income.

“With the closing of the border things became very hard. Our only customers were the pensioners, whereas before we had tourists crossing the border. We are making little to no profit,” said Shikwanyu, who has had the shop for three years.

To help curb the spread of Covid-19, the government introduced some restrictions including the closure of some borders such as the Klein Menasse Border Post about 35 km from Aroab.

ASSISTANCE

Jan Hendrikse, who owns a bakery at the village, said when the schools were closed during the first few months of the pandemic, his business suffered a blow as he could only supply bread to the little shops at the town and his profits were low.

“But now with the re-opening of the schools and the hostels, money has started to come in. My hope is to supply my bread on a bigger scale, grow the business and employ more young people from this village,” added Hendrikse.

The chief executive officer of the Aroab village council, Elsa Laubscher, said despite the negative impact the pandemic has had on small businesses, no business thus far had to close down.

“We did not have any businesses close down during this hard time. The village council is also in the process of erecting more SME stalls for the community to help them come up with small businesses to sustain themselves and improve their livelihood,” said Laubscher.

Aroab is located about 170 km east of Keetmanshoop. It has a population of about 4 500 inhabitants. - Nampa