Protests: Shield CBD traders from intrusive hawkers

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 00:00 |
Street hawkers. Photo/Courtesy

Last week traders operating regular business premises and malls in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area protested hawking activities gone haywire.

According to the Eastleigh  Business District Association officials, members’ investment of over Sh100 billion in diverse businesses face uncertainty and dwindling returns. To rub it in, the traders say, they have to cough up Sh1 billion in taxes to the County government. 

The figures both in terms of investment and taxation are huge. And it’s not that they (traders) fear competition from hawkers. Their concern is the intrusive nature of the hawking and the cartels apparently stoking their activities.

Kenya’s urban centres are experiencing an unprecedented upsurge in the number of hawkers offering a wide range of merchandise, in many instances right outside the premises of licensed trading premises. Unlike in Eastleigh, their activities are less brazen.  In Eastleigh, it’s throughout the day.    

  Besides sustained intensity and sometimes arrogant intrusiveness,there is nothing new about this state of affairs. Truth is that hundreds of thousands of Kenyans are forced to turn to informal means to earn a living.   

However, there are apprehensions over hawker invasion and impact on security and order as they often block entry into shops for  which owners pay rents, rates, salaries, utilities and so on. Hawkers also block  entire sidewalks meant for human traffic, thus interfering with mobility and accessibility.       

 There is the argument that the solution does not lie in hounding out hawkers but nurturing their entrepreneurial zeal more purposefully. The contention being that they are not a menace but  breadwinners   so the objective should be to decriminalise hawking and allow the businesses to incubate and grow. But this must mean coming up with some structured operations  and providing them with designated areas.         

It is the ideal situation. Unfortunately fired by a  sense of self-entitlement, hawkers are averse to any regulatory regimen. This is the reason for outcry by Eastleigh traders as hawkers insist on spreading their wares in front of validly mandated outlets. It’s anarchy. Doubts linger whether the Sh50 hawkers reportedly pay reaches County coffers. A similar problem simmers within the CBD at the City Market. 

Even free market mechanism they feel entitled to cannot work unless tempered with order. 

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