Hawking Vibe

City of Nairobi

Hawking as a survival strategy for the urban poor in nairobi. Nairobi is facing momentous challenges after years of neglect by poor leadership and governance.

street vendor

A street vendor walks past a pedestrian with his merchandise from river road, Kiambu road.

At four o’clock the temperature has dipped enough to break the camp in the city. I clear the dust and sweat from my face and start walking, studying the area around me for a moment. I have to be precise and get the right angle to start my activity within 200m by 200m space. Its the Globe round about, close to the Nairobi fire station.

fire stationSome of the biggest challenges facing urban centres in Kenya today is how to tackle the issues of unemployment, through the provision of viable areas for self-employment opportunities as well as improving the quality, standard of living and infrastructure. The urban spaces are not designed to empower people or provide vibrant places where opportunities for small entrepreneurs and informal activities can trade and manufacture at viable locations.

taking positionNairobi is faced with the challenge of trying to deal with hawkers within their Central Business District (CBD). In most of the cases hawkers have not been allocated space to operate from. Though ignored by planners and harassed by the Local Authority enforcement officers, the hawkers within urban centres, have tended to acquire and control space informally. The situation in the CBD of Nairobi has reached a critical stage.

Hawkers run away from the city council askaris after they appeared from the vicinity.

Hawkers run away from the city council askaris after they appeared from the vicinity.

This raises critical questions about who has the role to designs cities and what procedures do they have to go through. What are the empowering agencies and laws? What role do these assign to hawking and street vending activities? I believe it should not just be about harassing the hawkers but at least being able get the right policies that drive the society.

runawayThe elements of power, control over space and the conflicts that emerge with regards to urban space utilization. This stem in part from the fact that most planning projects are implemented with missionary zeal (to remove hawkers from the CBD) and bear little reference to hawkers’ needs and priorities.

Matatus hekd up in traffic along Tom Mboya street as the city askaris engage the hawkers in a street battle.

Matatus hekd up in traffic along Tom Mboya street as the city askaris engage the hawkers in a street battle.

The short term recommendations are change of altitude and Nairobi city council recognizing the potential of hawking in generating revenues and also providing employment. Improving the infrastructure that are in place to try and harmonize the operation of both the formal activities and the hawkers.

Order has to be restored in the city to have a proper way of doing business.

Order has to be restored in the city to have a proper way of doing business.

Also the idea of allocating traders sufficient trading spaces and providing mechanism for the hawkers to be represented in decision making and lastly reviewing the rules and regulations that hinder the development of the activity.

Photography and text:: Joel Lukhovi

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