Header Ads


By Jaymo Wa Thika

Over the past few days, there has been so much talk about hawking and the mushrooming informal business structures within Thika town vis a vis the Kiambu County government’s directive that they be relocated away from the CBD to allow formal business entities to breathe and thrive.

Some people view hawkers as nuisances due to their “improper” location, creating a wide range of spatial problems including congestion, hygeine and cleanliness among others. As we all are aware, hawkers position themselves along major arteries, nodes of shopping and employment, commercial areas such as shopping complexes, landmark areas such as schools, hospitals, offices and market areas.

These are all strategic locations. Consumers choose street hawkers due to the accessible distances to their place of residence and work.

One thing is certain though, the town has turned into one disorderly concrete slum and something needed to be done to restore order within the CBD. These informal traders have been one of the main reasons for the traffic congestion as they attract buyers, with the narrow roads adding to the woes of the pedestrians and motorists.

On Tuesday, 11th October 2022, you, Governor Kimani Wamatangi met hawkers, food and fruits vendors, as well as formal business entities at the Thika Sub-County Hall to discuss the way forward over the impasse. Among the temporary measures derived from that meeting included allowing street vendors to sell their wares beginning 6pm as the county Government sort a permanent and more sustainable solution to this very thorny issue.

It was agreed that all (both informal and formal traders) had the right to earn some decent living, as long as none infringed on the rights of the other. It is on this light that I have opted to write this open letter to H.E. the governor, hoping that my two-cent idea might help to unravel this puzzle and create a win-win business situation for all.

As we are all aware by now, “the Hustler Nation” survives by working in the informal sector. For this lot, hawking is one of the means of earning a livelihood, as it requires minimal financial input and the skills involved are low.

The reason why hawkers storm busy streets is to capitalise on impulse buying and easing the burden of potential customers from going “long” distances to buy what they need. Hawkers also provide a one-stop shopping scenario where one can buy almost everything they need at one particular region.

They follow clients and will feel lost if confined in places where human traffic is low.

Majority of the urban setups prevent any type of vending on the streets or uncontrolled construction of business structures within the CBD. The local government is therefore obliged to make adequate provisions for constructing, altering and maintaining public streets and markets and provide suitable places for vending.

You, my governor, promised to allocate all these traders in places where they could make good sales and make it unattractive for them to get back into the streets. This can be easier said than done since hawkers capitalise on human flow and it might prove tricky considering being in a set marketplace away from the normal routes people use to get home or to these busy places might significantly reduce their sales.

However, such challenges can be overcome by introducing some stimulus to attract human traffic such as allocating matatu termini next to the set markets. Another enhancer to doing good business for these hawkers is zoning these markets into units that sell specific types of products eg vegetable zones, fruits zones, utensils zones, clothing zones and so on and so forth. 

This way, word will go round that if one wants a particular item, they are guaranteed of getting it in plenty in a particular zone.

The fear of hawkers losing business will therefore be needless as the buyers will know the specified area from where the hawkers will be operating, rather than mixing up all types of businesses to a point of confusion. 

The zoning principal has worked so well for Madaraka Market in Makongeni for instance, where people travel far and wide to buy greens and farm produce as they are guaranteed of getting them there in plenty. It is the same principal that has made Gikomba market so popular (mitumba), so is Eastleigh, Kamukunji, River Road and Grogan Markets in Nairobi where people frequent to buy specific items. In all these markets, distance is not a hindrance. The driving factor is the knowledge that one is guaranteed of getting what they would want to buy.

In all these zones, traders don’t have to struggle much looking for customers but customers go looking for them in their specific product zones, thus leading to more sales. 

The hawkers may face some hiccups in the early stages but once the zones are established, their business will flourish.

Your county government should provide them with stalls, if possible, complexes, trading sites and other essential facilities that help to boost their participation. This can be possible if your government plans well and collects data on the actual number of vendors for proper planning.

Undoubtedly, street vendors play a very vital role in the urban economy as suppliers of cheap goods to the public while maintaining their importance as a channel of multi-retailers, behaving like supermarkets or department stores though at a lower level. Relocating them and the attempt to formalise their activities should be carried out with greater attention to the needs and demands of the public, accessibility and convenience.

I believe in your able leadership that is devoid of populism and that you will solve this problem once and for all as we gear towards making Thika a Smart Industrial City.

Thank you sir.
 Jaymo Wa Thika

1 comment:

Powered by Blogger.