At the Francistown bus rank car boots have been temporarily turned into food caravans, with enterprising food vendors working overtime to serve night travelers. During the day, transport operators use every available space at the bus rank. And private cars are not allowed at the bus rank. In fact, there is no space for private motorists to park their cars at the bus rank. It is only at nightfall that the parking space at the Francistown bus rank becomes available. This is immediately turned into shops, thereby giving life to a bustling informal trade. As the exasperating traffic noise dies, it is quickly substituted by the smell from frying pans firmly placed on gas cylinders. The aroma of the frying marinated meat easily draws hungry night travelers. Fluorescent lights hung on vehicles to provide an extra draw-card in addition to giving the much-needed as darkness sets in. For a middle-aged Onalenna Baeng, night falls with the opportunity of making ends meet. Baeng sells soft porridge, beef and a number of foodstuffs including hotdogs. She also has a cooler box full of non-alcoholic beverages and now can’t stop thanking God for the thriving business. “There is a lot of competition from food vendors in and around the bus rank during the day hence I decided to sell during the night,” said the soft-spoken Baeng, as she dishes out food for her client.
At night, a plate sells for P20 while the same plate sells for P15 during the day, she says. Baeng added that the plate is sold at a lower rate during the day because of the stiff competition experienced at day time. Though there are a number of food vendors who have since adopted the car boot system, Baeng says competition is not stiff. She says cross border travelers from South Africa via Francistown en-route to either Zambia or Zimbabwe are making their business thrive. Just a few metres from Baeng, Rosemary Mmoloki (35) operates a bigger shop compared to that of her neighbour. Besides food, Mmoloki has got cigarettes in her stock to cater for night traveling smokers. “Cigarette has got money. And most of customers want to smoke as they munch their food,” says Mmoloki, adding that she gets sales of about P400 per night. When it is month-end, Mmoloki makes double if not triple the daily taking of P400 because “Batswana do not sleep on payday.” Informal sector is fast becoming source of income for many residents of Francistown due to lack of employment opportunities. Joseph Wasubera, the Francistown City Council spokesperson admits that vending space is running out within the central business district.