Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Street Economy

You never know what tomorrow will bring; so act today. That’s how I am feeling today. I was going to write a post on the street economy. The economy that the majority of our country’s sons and daughters thrive on.

That brings me to the question of street traders (call them hawkers). In the last 2 days we have witnessed to what to me seems like a public interest exercise. I witnessed and saw on TV some GSU hammer a street trader mercilessly as if the person has committed a crime against humanity. There is now a public declaration that anyone buying merchandise from the hawkers is to be fined 10,000 Ksh. or spend their days in some cell for 3 months. How enforceable that is, is a question for the courts.

Street trading is a two by two enterprise. They bring what they have on the streets and we buy their wares at cheap prices. Either way we all gain, if you think about it. Whether we like or not, street traders are here to stay. We engage in buying and selling in their wares in sheer pleasure. Infact the truth is many families are today being fed off the street.

What we should be asking ourselves then is “why do persons engage in street trading?”. The reason is simple; Convenience. The wares are on the street, I can pick the items after work. Second reason; Costs.

When the Government kicks out the street traders from the streets in the manner they do; I see a violation of a basic right. The Economic right. The Middle class everywhere in the world would love to stay in a good environment, forget the poor, and do nothing about it. Ignore the problems of the poor and you will forever put on those concrete walls several inches that Wangari Maathai was complaining about.

Anyone who has tried to do business in town can tell you; Rent per day could be as high as a Thousand Shillings. Count taxes and council fees then you end up with no profit. Doing business in town is a preserve of the rich, period! Yet you have a mass that is highly educated, yet there are no jobs to do. The number soars everyday you hear there is a graduation at some college or university.

The government then gives them an alternative of going to the backside of the Ngara Market. The street traders may have gone to no Business School but they no for sure their customers will not go to that side of town. That is why they refuse vehemently to go there. What Musikari Kombo & the city Hall Fathers sitting in their privileged leather seats see is a crime cartel. To me, it is just someone protesting against apparent denial of a right to live and earn.

I for one will admit to opposing the street traders for one fact. They breed crime and that is my main worry.

But think about it critically. What about their children? What about their daily living? Would you go to the streets to trade if you had an alternative? How would you like your friends seeing you shouting “Mia, Mia , Soo, ya mwisho, bei ya jioni” Obviously you wouldn’t ! it is not easy for anyone. Yet many have been rescued from committing crimes by engaging in street trading. Can you brave the merciless whipping from the city council askaris?

The City hall fathers should look for an alternative inside town where many can reach them. Convert a building into a hawkers market and place them there. Location, location, location is important to any business. Let them live and Earn!!!

The Mayor of Nairobi Goes Mad

Just what would be the justification of hiking the parking fees from 70/= to Ksh. 140 everyday? That is totally ridiculous. Whatever it is they are taking at City Hall should be withdrawn.


  1. kwanza congrats are in order however belated...
    now i can sue some buggers!!!
    do you do pro -bono?
    ha ha.........

    hawkers are a necessary evil that cant be wished away.
    however in typical kenyan fashion, a
    framework or whatever other buzzword...
    must be established to regulate their operations..
    and yes mungiki has infiltrated the hawking scene..
    it had to happen some time what with michuki kanyagiang their matatu juice...
    in the end no one benefits from ythe running battles.
    your justifications simply dont count..
    whatever you buy from hawkers is equally cheap in the s/markets and gikombas, but all in all hakuna kazi
    and a man's got to eat

  2. 140 per day? Aint coming back. Will just stay here and park my cows and donkeys inside my mud hut.
    That is ridiculous.....
    If hawkers are unable to sell many people wouldn't afford clothing and food: Heck I will be one of those people who wont afford. And the children of the hawkers will turn into the criminals we are trying to chuja

  3. First things first, The Mayor. His flimsy excuse was that it is easier to pay 70/= in the morning and 70/= in the evening. Bollocks I tell you! Pure B.S!
    But as for the hawkers, what happened to the plan for letting them sell on certain streets over the weekend? Plus what happened to them selling in certain alleys?
    Much as I support their right to make money I am against them clogging up the streets and stifling the businesses of those who pay taxes. Plus there is the fact that some of them are criminals.
    Have you tried driving through the CBD esp downtown where some have taken part of the road for themselves?!Impossible!
    If people can calm down and dialogue I am sure a solution can be found that helps everyone out.

  4. I'm with Acolyte on this one. There has to be a way to make a living without causing chaos on other's lives.

    As for those parking charges - where can i get a cheap mobike and driving lessons?

    PS: Sorry - the book aint mine. I borrowe. But if you want to buy try NuMetro Media Store (where you can also read a book in the store - three consecutive weekends and you maliza a book for free, hehehe...)

  5. Oh my!!!! 140!!! Do they ever think of stopping with these absurd jokes that are not funny to anyone but them?? As for the hawkers...since they are clearly not going to a dead market area and neither do I! What exactly do our leaders suppose they do with themselves? I agree their existance should not suffocate the cbd, I agree with shiro, put them in a designated area with some thought put into it. Somewhere with a market who will buy from them...throwing them to the ends of the earth will not do anything for them

  6. The NBI mayor, obviously hasn't got a clue about economics. Double the parking fee to raise money for wages?! Recurrent expenditure!??!
    Apart from being completely unimaginative and taking business as usual (like Kenya is utopia so nothing to fix really) these 'leaders' are clearly here only to 'eat' and get chauffered around in that green Merc E-Class. Whatever happened to plans to have mayors face a direct election?

  7. Hey Aco & Ichiena, i do not suppose that the hawkers to stay on the streets. Hell No!
    But i do have a big problem with the way the GSU Men were hammering them. Assuming they are even thieves why hammer innocent people.

    My point being, there should be a hawkers market in some part of town. You should see where they are being thrown too. Nobody would ever go there. Ngara in itself isn't the safest of places!

    @Kritik, thanks a lot. But when is the last time you went to Gikomba? Be honest. It is easier to relocate them to a housed part in town.

    @h n h, yeah parking fees is being doubled. I hope not though. Nairobi will soon be the most expensive city to live in

    @Kips, imagine thats how much will be payin for parking the cars in the lovely streets in Nairobi. Never mind there is the 50/= tip you leave the dude watching over your car, otherwise you will have all you side mirrors gone by the time you are through with your errands.
    At least we agree the hawkers should be given a designated point. But throwing them where their customers will not reach them. And on top of that treating them like common criminals.

    @gathunuku, it is all intended that folks will find getting their cars to town a bit pricey and will take public transport. As it is now public transport is in turmoil if you ask me. Just ask those who queue for hours on end or have to hang around town waiting for their queues to end. We definitely deserve to vote for the NBI mayor directly not what those goons in name councillors do.

  8. This hawkers issue is really being blown into a big problem yet can easily get solved. Just allocate them a convenient place where their customers will go instead of literary throwing them 2 Ngara where they might as well starve 2 death.
    I agree hawkers cn be a nuisance esp when they decide 2 occupy the pavements n walkin is virtually impossible. N some of them r muggers in disguise.
    Locations: The area at globe cinema where maasai market is. They cn go there all days but vacate on Tuesday for the Maasai market. Hv u seen the new stalls that hv been put up outside Nairobi hospital, then City Council shld emulate that. They r really nice n attractive.
    Some of the hawkers can be allocated back 2 the alleys that the govt hd assigned 2 them. That ws really convenient.
    As 4 the parking fees...thats an exorbitant fee coz they dont provide security 4 the parkin lots 2 ensure the vehicles r safe. If they do, probably then that wld be ok, in my opinion.

  9. Street Traders
    Thing 'bout making the city crowded is utter UPUSS!! Are we goin' to forego their basic human right to live, for....wats that they're sain'?! C'mon!! we can't sit on our high pedestals and judge what we cant even begin to understand.I therefore concur with Miss.Shiroh get a building and put 'em there-smack right in the middle of town. Waive the taxes or smthn but don't try to level out the playing field assuming that everybody's the same we're not!
    Am an ardent user of public trasport....Is it that bad???He he he!
    Oh! n b4 I 4get 10000 bob!!!...3 months!!

  10. @ ichiena, talk to me, i'm secretary of a biker's club, i can organise one for you.

    shiroh, first you tip them 50/- for parking? jeez. a pao tosha. but that's you.

    this biashara of street hawkers may never end. whenever they are relocated to new premises another group appears from nowwhere and are back in the streets. more running battles. more allocations. they move and another breed comes's like a vicious cycle...and unfortunately, just like 'the baks', i offer no solution. just my two pence worth.

    oh, and di you hear that kanjo now wants to take over running of the city toilets from the NCBDA? that's just plain bollocks.

    let's vote for mayor.

  11. Hi Kamum,

    This has been purely a matter of disorganisation. everyone is to blame.

    If the powers that be can come up with a tangible and sustainable solution for hwakers, that is convinient to them and their customers, then it would work out. Allocate specific areas for hawkers to opeate from which are accessible to the common wananchi. They have done that in the past, but the measures put into place to ensure that arrangement was adhered to was not strong enough. In that respect, they have failed.

    On the other hand, the hawkers have themselves to blame. They infiltrate every fucking space on sight, they congest the streets, they cause mayhem. They just wont stick to their designated spaces. They want to come closer. Maybe if they stick where they should be, then theior customers will get used to coming there!!!
    I'll tell you what, maybe if they stick to their side of the bairgain, they will be looked upon with favor.

    And as far as they are causing crime, all the congestion and stuff, at the same time, kicking them out menas that a bulk of them will resort to crime, a lose lose in the end for all.

    Clearly, you can see i blame everyone.

    The hawkers must not abuse rules and convenience for the rest of we mortals in the name of 'earning a living', they must stick within the stipulations. Surely, they can organise themselves better. The council should cater for them, And in return for that, they, the hawkers, must adhere to the rules so we can have the streets less congested.

    I have had my laptop stolen in that melee of hawkers along with some important stuff, and I have also had a woman yell at me for tripping over her tomatoes.
    Maybe if she was not in my immediate path, I would never have tripped on them. In fact, I was already bending to help her pick them up, but since she thought its her right to spread her wares in my path, then yell me over an accident, then she might as well knock herself out picking her tomatoes. Sheesh!!

  12. karisa maitha had worked out a good model of controlling the hawkers in 2002. he took them to the backstreets which today are occupied by street families and were required to clean the rubbish afterwards.

    otherwise it is unacceptable to have them all over the town. soon nairobi will be a marigiti. especially now that mungiki is part and parcel of the hawkers, insecurity will be on the rise.

    otherwise they should go to ngara market. we will still go there like we used to go to gikomba and other places for cheap bargains. as much as they want t make a living, how about the shops whose fronts these hawkers put their wares?

  13. @Uncy,when those street traders are on the streets, things get messy. And they are very arrogant too. So i think allocating them space somewhere in town would help

    @bantete,yeah i am with you on that one, Hawkers also have a right to earn, we should find a way of accomodating them in the streets.
    I use public transport too. My many woes are from taking the mat/bus.
    If you get arrested, call me, you know i harrass them till kingdom come

    @Modoathii, which club is that? Aai Ichiena you will end up conned.
    No i dont tip them, i see my pals tipping them. Seeing i might own my ka beetle maybe sooner than i expect (who says i cant dream). Obviously i will give them 10/-.But even pao increases your costs to 160 per day think about it!
    Ngai fafa, kanju should be dissolved from taking running of the toilets. haki ya mungu

    @kenyanmusings, I am fine Kamum
    Now this is a tough one. Hawkers are street men, find streets to accomodate them.
    I feel you on them putting their wares everywhere on the street and expecting you to be the one to move. Kwanza there are those tough ones watching your moves and waiting for you to step on the tomatoes. If not controlled they are a complete menace.
    But yet again, i do not think they should be left on the street, find the solution to place them somewhere their customers can reach them. Not at some backyard of the Ngara Market. personally i do not see myself struggling to reach places where even the mats have refused to go.
    Blame the City Fathers,It is easy

    @Jp,miss Karisa Maitha and his street solutions. The man had instant solutions for everything!
    If you are not cleanign the loos, You get sacked.
    And that backstreet thing was so working. I remember one particular hawker i really liked who used to sell tops for chics. So he would go like
    "Hata Mgongo wazi, mkono moja" He was so creative.

    Though afterall i think unfortunately ours is a poor society, even the Middle Class has to suffer a little discomfort for the have nots,small price for undistributions of resources!!!

  14. While I do not consider the methods that have been used to kick the hawkers out of the city I am strongly convinced that it is something that has to be done.

    I can vividly recall five or six years back when the every street below Moi avenue was owned by hawkers. They started off with some vegetable, kidogo mitumba checked in and soon after radios, irons and cd's followed. Walking on Tom Mboya street or Mfangano street was a virtual nightmare the hawkers had taken over the side walks and extended to the road itself. The streets were filthy every morning since the kind of rubbish they left behind was too much to be cleaned. At some stage things got so bad that some dudes were roasting maize at Kencom. Honestly, how can we have guyz lighting fires in the middle of the city esp considering we do not have a fire brigade. One of the few things the government did well is to clear up the streets lets keep it that way.

    I acknowledge everyone's right to survive but that does not mean we condone muggers, corruption or even hawkers.

  15. I was going to write a post on the street economy. The economy that the majority of our country’s sons and daughters thrive on...................

    I think thats the best series you would have thought of...i mean none of us had ever thought of that idea anyway....

    Am also running my tour around African cities and hope you will enjoy...

  16. Hawkers fulfill a need so they'll always be there. Most of the solutions people have suggested make sense, hopefully they'll also last long-term.

  17. @aJamaa, i don't fancy having hawkers all over town. But still we need them (for real) and they need us. So its a symbiotic relationship we have there. I guess allocating a space in town or like what Karisa had done on back street, would so have worked.

    Ooh i do remember the nightmare when all those dudes were allowed in town. I dont figure would like to revisit the scene

    @eddie, too bad they were kicked before i could write about it.

    @GND, I mean we have to get a solution. You can't throw guys to dangerous zones and expect them to sell

  18. A spanner in the works here, the idea of the 140 bob was to decongest the city, read encourage guys who come and park their motis it town and leave them there all day then drive them home in the evening, to take public transport. Think about it.