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City Council should Curb Hawker Situation

The Nairobi-hawker situation has grown into a menace not only for the Nairobi City Council but also for the pedestrian, businessman and traffic authorities. On an average afternoon, Kenya’s capital city looks like a market place with hawkers showcasing their wares in what primarily should be pedestrian walkways. The situation has left the pedestrian with constricted walkways as they meander through the wares and have to dodge the city buses at the same time. Civilian harassment cases by the hawkers have been on the rise especially in the cases where they accidentally step on their wares hence presenting a secondary problem; a problem arising from notable entitlement of the hawkers to the spaces.

The city buses which provide transport for the city dwellers have not been spared by some hawkers working from the roads as well as from their parking spaces and terminals.

Shop owners are among the biggest losers of hawkers’ presence. The hawkers, some of who trade in the same goods as the shop owners, have relatively less priced items. While that may be a good alternative for the customers, it does spell doom for the shop owners.

The biggest of the challenges to the shop owners is the distraction the hawkers have on the visibility of wares. Speaking to a few shop owners, some admitted that hawkers are gutsy enough to set up their shop on the entrance to their businesses.

The situation has elicited little response from tough talking local county authority with an exception of the spectacular races between the county officials and hawkers. The measures of arrest by the county askaris have turned into another corruption racketeer with rumours of top members of the council being beneficiaries. Once hawkers are arrested the county officers will request for bribes of upwards of Ksh. 3,000 depending on the size of your stock failure to which the wares are confiscated without any legal charges as should be the case.

This is according to hawkers operating on the streets.

If the results of the current measures is anything to go by, then no solution is likely to come by any soon. The number of hawkers has been on the rise and so has been the number of corruption cases.

Investigation reveal that spaces initially set aside for market development within most Nairobi’s residential estate have been taken by developers through corrupt deals in a bid to feed the insatiable real estate boom.

As the Nairobi’s unemployment rate sours, hawkers-who are primarily small time business persons-have therefore resorted to the Central Business Streets; a place where they are assured of customer numbers and no tax levies.

The authorities may need to step out of their furnished offices and speak to the hawkers. Proper attitude should show the county council the amount of revenue they are losing as well as traffic congestion brought about by the presence of the hawkers. Effective measures need to be taken to care of this problem that stands in the centre and feeds the cycle that is corruption, loss of county revenue as well as traffic congestion.

Yegon Emmanuel
Multimedia storyteller - yegonemmanuel.com Co-founder and Communications Director at Mobile Journalism Africa (mobilejournalism.co.ke)

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