Special Reports

Kampala city without street vendors, hawkers

For so many years, the Kampala City Council (KCC) allowed and considered street vending/hawking as a positive alimentation approach for many poor town dwellers. In 2010, the Parliament of Uganda passed a bill that shifted the administration of Kampala city from elected (KCC) to central government-appointed officials KCCA_ACT_2010 (1)

A video on a normal day of  street vendors operating on Kampala streets before evacuation

The thesis given for this change was that it would improve working conditions or reduce systemic corruption of very poor groups, and streamline service delivery Statement (1)

An observation is that Kampala City has since then had a tremendous increase in numbers of street vendors and hawkers between 2014 until date. The central government and KCCA officials have termed hawkers/vendors’ business personality and refusal to vacate the streets as a big obstacle to development Abstract-2019.

A picture showing some of the vendors and the people buying (PHOTO/ Muzaki Sharon)

The brutal eviction operations by KCCA law enforcement officers have prouduced very limited success. This article argues that deliberate neglect of market vendors’ needs and corruption embedded in the process of demolishing, redevelopment, and management of redeveloped/purchased markets have left thousands of low-income market vendors and hawkers without enough relocation alternatives.

A video of eviction operations by KCCA

Many resorted to street vending thus, turning an already existing issue into a crisis. Having contributed to this street vending crisis, state actors have since then used ruthless means to evict but without success. Street vendors have used disobedience, building alliances with opposition politicians, and bribing some KCCA law enforcement officers to frustrate KCCA eviction work.

The elevated fear by the central government that continued rude eviction of street vendors and hawkers without any viable livelihood option would have serious political drawbacks combined with the other factors to further mislead KCCA efforts to oust them.

Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) together with the Police have embarked on an operation to evict all Batembeyi (Hawkers), Mobile Vendors, and mobile money kiosks from the streets of Kampala in a campaign aimed at decongesting the city PHOTO/Muzaki Sharon)

Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) together with the Police have embarked on an operation to evict all Batembeyi (Hawkers), Mobile Vendors and mobile money kiosks from the streets of Kampala in a campaign of decongesting the city. Photos by Muzaki Sharon

The vendors in Kampala are a mere representation of who we are as a population.   No country can be better than her people. Vendors are only a mirror of our national average per capita income. Since the majority of Kampala is a hand-to-mouth feeder, they automatically become the immediate target market for these vendors.  Therefore, evicting them off the streets is like trying to pocket an elephant.

A video of vendors on Kampala streets

Not only in Kampala city that vending and hawking is done but rather cuts across the country a case in hand is Kasese municipality

A video of a young man hawking on one of the streets of Kasese

Solving these entire vendors’ fracas, demands of us an ability to develop a long-term mindset of addressing the general socio-economic situation in this country.  We need to try and build a service-based economy that gives real meaning to the wallets of the general public, in such a way that the majority are able to afford the basic supermarket charges.  Once the country’s purchasing power parity rises, vending will never be a point for discussion.

Chasing vendors off the Kampala streets is synonymous with climbing a tree while pocketing.  It only serves a short-term ambition of decongesting the city,but it fails terribly on addressing the real cause.  Vending is a mere consequence of low public purchasing power parity.

A video of some of the people airing out different views on eviction from Kampala City

The Kampala City Resident Commissioner (RCC) Hussein Hud who addressed the press on a Thursday, December 23 0f 2021 at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala, announced that street vendors had until January 10, 2022, to vacate the streets and take up available space in markets.

The Kampala City Resident Commissioner (RCC) Hussein Hud addresses the media on a Thursday, December 23, 2021, at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala (PHOTO Muzaki Sharon)

A video of the Kampala City Resident Commissioner (RCC) Hussein Hud addressing the media

Hud noted that vending and hawking is illegal because it congests the city and robs the government of revenue since street vendors and hawkers do not pay licenses to operate.

An audio sound of the Kampala City Resident Commissioner (RCC) Hussein Hud addresses the media

 

A picture of congestion down town-Kampala, Photo by Muzaki Sharon

This Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) official Hud also said that if vendors want to sell merchandise in Kampala, they should get working space in arcades, shops, and city markets where they shall be licensed to operate their business. He noted that the government has provided space in markets including Usafi and Wandegeya for the same purpose.

 

With the current security threats of terrorism, Hud said the existence of street vendors and hawkers possess a security threat to the city as terrorists could disguise themselves as vendors to cause harm to people, adding that criminals engaging in petty offenses like snatching bags and phones from people on the streets could also disguise as street vendors or hawkers.

In August last year 2021, State Minister for Kampala Metropolitan Area Kabuye Kyofatogabye ordered all street vendors and hawkers to go and operate at USAFI Market but not on lanes roadsides and streets. “I want all vendors to go and operate in designated areas, not the streets where they are causing congestion,” the Minister told media. “We are taking initiatives to decongest the city and we all agreed with KCCA that vendors should go off the streets,” he added.

State Minister for Kampala Metropolitan Area Kabuye Kyofatogabye, Photo by Muzaki Sharon

Some hawkers and vendors vowed not to leave the streets due to lack of capacity to afford rent expenses and taxes, and also the fact that they were afraid of losing customers. Those that persisted were arrested by the authorities and taken to City hall where they would be charged for disobedience.

Over the years, KCCA has made several attempts to get vendors off the streets but in vain. Most of the vendors in the city trade small household items like clothes, kitchenware, shoes, and fruits.

The Street Vendors, Photo by Muzaki Sharon

Until this year January 16, 2022, where the Kampala Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Hudu Hussein gave all street vendors and hawkers a week to vacate the streets before they are to be forced off the streets. “As we all know, 10th January came and it has gone. Some vendors and hawkers are still selling on the streets. I am appealing to them now. Please leave the streets within five days from today. The concerned security agencies in Kampala have given the vendors and hawkers a grace period within which to leave the streets. Instead of 10th January, we are now saying leave by 16th,” Hussein said Press Release – RCC.

 A video of security agencies on Kampala streets

He asked those vendors to relocate to Usafi market or Wandegeya markets in peace before they will be forced to do so. The amount of money the government invested in building these markets is unaccountable. And some among the political showbiz masters in Kampala think nothing should be done,” Hussein said adding; “The simple issue of vendors being relocated from streets to the Markets has been politicized.”

The RCC appreciated the vendors and hawkers that have moved to the markets so far adding that more changes are bound to happen in this city for the good of the city and no one can stop them so long as it’s in the best interests of the City.

“I want to appreciate the vendors and hawkers that have moved to the markets so far. You have done the right think. My hope is that no force at all should be used. I expect all well-meaning people of Kampala to understand that this is for the good not just of Kampala but of Uganda as well. Therefore, whether by consent or force, I thank those that have relocated to the markets from the streets. More changes are bound to happen in this city for the good of the city and no one can stop them so long as it’s in the best interests of the City.”

“Please I appeal to you my mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters vending on streets. It is for your own good. I am pleading with you now because, on 16th January, we may have a team in Kampala Streets to help you leave. It is better for you to leave unassisted. We want to believe that by Sunday, the vendors will have heeded this call. Thank you,” he added.

Despite Government efforts to get rid of street vendors by constructing new markets and renovating existing markets in various city suburbs, street vendors remain unmoved, and street vending continues to flourish on the streets of Kampala.

KCCA enforcement officers confiscate merchandise from street vendors. Photo by Muzaki Sharon

Street vending and hawking evictions aren’t only being implemented in a city like Kampala but also in municipalities like

A video of eviction that took place in Busia municipality

Street vendors are broadly defined in this article as traders that use their bodies, wheelbarrows, handcarts, bicycles, temporary shades, trees, fences, mats, tables, and racks to carry, display, and sell their commodities. They have long existed and still do business in many cities both in developed and developing countries. Some argue that if properly managed, street vending can provide a meaningful livelihood option, particularly for unemployed and poor urban dwellers.

Others argue that street vendors undercut city authority/government revenue collection targets, inconvenience the flow of people/traffic, and take away customers from off-street rent/tax-paying businesses, among others. Because of the constantly changing opportunities and challenges that come with street vending, it is an occupation that falls in and out of favor across space and time.

Kampala City Council (KCC)—the predecessor for Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA)—had for many decades tolerated street vending as a positive livelihood strategy. After the dismantling of KCC, street vendors fell out of favor from the new KCCA. Their presence, working spaces, and rights came under total suppression. Similar instances of street vendor repression and their determination not to vacate the streets occurred in Malawi after Bingu wa Mutharika came to power in 2004. Street vending is a complex occupation driven by various factors in different cities.

Therefore, it is difficult to precisely explain the presence of street vendors in any city. In many sub-Saharan African cities, street vendors are a sub-group of a bloated informal sector which the World Bank blamed on the “urbanization of people without capital” or population increasing in urban centres without formal or industrial jobs. In the case of Uganda, a bloated low paying informal sector can be traced way back in the unfettered structural adjustment

A Kampala map locating areas known for vending and hawking in the city

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