But what is most perplexing is that the owners of the shops — mostly Nigerians, Chinese and Indians — are rarely seen in banks depositing their day’s takings.
This has reinforced the widespread conception that most of them either keep their monies at home or repatriate profits to their native countries, causing a serious liquidity crisis in Zimbabwe which is emerging after a decade-long economic downturn.
Most of them have fallen victim to armed robberies in recent months because they are known to keep huge amounts of cash in their homes before they find a way of taking their “loot” back to their countries.
Foreigners from the East, mostly Chinese, began flooding the country after President Robert Mugabe’s administration adopted the “Look East Policy” after he and his party counterparts were slapped with targeted sanctions by Western countries on allegations of gross human rights violations.
Nigerian communities followed suit and have virtually taken over the capital by randomly opening small and medium-sized shops in various downtown city corners.
Sources in the banking sector last week confirmed that very few Chinese, Indians or Nigerian nationals have bank accounts in the country.
Those that have accounts, the sources said, use them to send monies to their home countries. They said a number of Chinese nationals running businesses are reportedly banking their takings with a known reputable international bank in the country and they withdraw the money only when they are back in China.
Although the sources could not give a figure of how much foreigners expatriate on a monthly basis, they were adamant that it runs into millions, figures which can help ease the current liquidity crunch the country is experiencing.
“These foreigners are the chief culprits,” said one source.
“But Zimbabweans also shun banking their monies because they do not have confidence in the sector. Very few have the money to keep in the banks anyway.”
It is estimated that US$3 billion is circulating in the informal sector.
Most Nigerians, Chinese and Indians approached by The Standard refused to divulge their banking preferences.
Some were even hostile.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe boss Rosemary Siyachitema said if indeed the reports that foreigners were not banking their monies locally were true, then this had negative implications on the consumers at the end of the spectrum.
“Certainly the lack of money in circulation results in local companies failing to access that money which they need to implement their own capital projects while capacity utilisation levels remain low,” she said.
“Consequently, locally produced goods become more expensive and there is very little produced for exports, a factor which contributes towards stunted growth of the economy,” she said.
Retailers’ Association of Zimbabwe official Themba Ndebele declined to comment on the development.
But president of the Nigerian Community in Zimbabwe Simon Udemba said most Nigerians have “settled down” and would not engage in any unbecoming behaviour.
“The Nigerian community has families and investments in this country,” said Udemba. “There is absolutely no reason why we would seek to work outside the confines of the law. In fact, we have already adapted to Zimbabwe as our home country.”
He said there were about 500 Nigerian nationals living in the country engaged in the manufacturing, wholesale, and retail sectors as well as property businesses.