Today I have some unsolicited advice for Mr. Gakuo. I'm sure he is quite excited about the new Muthurwa market for hawkers recently setup by the Government at a cost of Sh. 1 billion plus ($14.3M). But I doubt that the market will achieve its primary goal, removing hawkers from the street. There are many reasons for this:
- Hawkers go where the market goes, and many buyers who give life to the street hawkers will not go to Muthurwa market
- Muthurwa market with its limited spaces is already grossly insufficient for the swelling numbers of hawkers
- The KSh. 100 daily entrance fee will appear prohibitively high for some hawkers vis-a-vis the expected fall in sales from relocating.
These fast moving 'luxury' items (hereinafter FMLIs) are things bought on the whim which the buyer doesn't really need but buys because they are cheap enough. If the item bought does not satisfy the wants of the buyer there is a low risk of buyer disappointment since the item was relatively cheap. Such things include: clothes and shoes(almost entirely of the female kind), bootleg DVDs and CDs, beauty accessories and mobile phone accessories. Of course in addition to the FMLIs we have the fruits and vegetable hawkers, but I'll consider these separately.
The FMLIs are bought mainly by: the working class leaving their offices starting from 5 pm; and by evening students in the several Nairobi colleges/campuses leaving their classrooms around the same times. Most of these buyers will make impulse purchases from the hawkers as they walk towards their bus stages, which are concentrated between Globe Cinema Roundabout, River Road, Railways, and Tom Mboya Street or Kencom Bus Station. This explains why the most coveted hawking streets are Kimathi Street and Moi Avenue: still in the 'respectable' side of CBD yet near enough to the bus stages (so less opportunities for muggers and less distance to walk with luggage); and away from the hustle and bustle of matatus and their conductors.
Based on these observations I present the following solution. Instead of chasing hawkers to where they do not want to go, why can't Gakuo and co. regulate hawkers to where they want to be. This can be done in the following way.
- Designate as hawking zones, those streets with highest pedestrian traffic and lowest vehicular traffic. e.g. Kimathi Street.
- Designate 6 pm and 10 pm as operational times for the hawking zones
- Ban vehicular traffic in the hawking zones during operational times.
- Have foldable stalls available for daily rent from the city council by interested hawkers
- Ban any hawkers who do not have a city council stall.
- Require food vendors to get health certificates
- Install sufficient lighting in the hawking zones
- Use rent fees to make sure there are adequate facilities for waste disposal.
- Have a tourist corner where items targeted at tourists can be sold