Study of Hawkers (Street Vendors) claim to urban space within the CBD of Nairobi. (A case Study of Informal Activities (Hawkers) in Nairobi CBD.

Some of the biggest challenges facing urban centres in Kenya today is how to tackle the issues of unemployment, through the provision of viable areas for self-employment opportunities as well as improving the quality, standard of living and infrastructure. The urban spaces are not designed to empower people or provide vibrant places where opportunities for small entrepreneurs and informal activities (hawkers) can trade and manufacture at viable locations.

Most urban centres in Kenya are faced with the challenge of trying to deal with hawkers (street vendors) within their Central Business District (CBD). In most of the cases hawkers have not been allocated space to operate from. Though ignored by planners and harassed by the Local Authority enforcement officers, the hawkers within urban centres, have tended to acquire and control space informally. The situation in the CBD of Nairobi has reached crisis stage. This raises critical questions; who designs cities? What procedures do they go through? What are the empowering agencies and laws? What role do these assign to hawking and street vending activities?

The study examined the problems besetting developments that underestimate and ignore the "hawkers" role as a powerful agent in the development process and space utilisation in urban centres, assuming that environments should be designed for those who use them or are affected by them, rather than for those who own them (Jacobs and Appleyland, 1987).


The research put into perspective the elements of power, control over space and the conflicts that emerge with regards to urban space utilization. This stem in part from the fact that most planning projects are implemented with missionary zeal (to remove hawkers from the CBD) and bear little reference to hawkers' needs and priorities.


The study defined the role of civic authorities in present "issues", and prompted them to re-examine conventional concepts in urban design. This was done by considering architecture and urbanism as disciplines based on knowledge of space instead of an endless battleground for conflicting and shifting opinions on transforming and transformed urban space.


The study also endeavored to develop a framework for the spatial requirements for hawkers operating within the CBD of Nairobi. This was prompted by the inadequate identification of an appropriate methodology and criteria in the relocation process of hawkers to the back lanes and alleys. The issue of managing the hawking activity after relocation was emphasized. The identification of an appropriate Local Authority (LA) department, planning, legal and financial framework was expected to provide a fundamental basis for the policy formulation and the relocation process.


From the fieldwork and data analysis, spaces the hawkers were allocated were not suitable for the development and operation of their business. It was also noted that, whereas the LA was concerned with providing "proper" or "ideal" trading spaces for hawkers, so as to resolve their claim for space within the CBD, the hawkers had reorganized the sizes of the spaces "allocated" to them, in their desire to have "ideal" spaces that support their business activity better.


The lanes and alleys where they were relocated to had not sufficiently resolved the conflicts the hawkers faced with formal businesses and NCC enforcement officers.


The study concluded that even with all the policies and strategies in place, without proper enforcement methods, ways of evaluating and monitoring the way forward, the city will continue to face the same challenges it is facing now only at an increased magnitude because of the number of unemployed who want to engage in the activity to earn a livelihood The study further observed that, the same spaces, if they were redesigned, could potentially empower, inform and spatially define more appropriate urban spaces and streets along designated pedestrian corridors or mobility routes, providing suitable conditions and capacity to react and respond to the needs of the hawkers. This would certainly fill a vital gap in knowledge and effectively develop useful information, when planning for hawkers operating in Central Business District of most urban centres in Kenya.


The study makes a number of both long term and short recommendations. The long term recommendations include the development of periodic markets through the effective utilization of urban spaces, evaluation of the urban fabric so as to create a pedestrian precinct and lastly land acquisition within the CBD and in the residential neighbourhoods to try and provide suitable trading environments for the hawkers and to resolve the conflicts that have developed and will continue to take place within the CBD if the issues relating to hawking are not addressed. The short term recommendations are change of altitude and NCC recognizing the potential of hawking in generating revenues and also providing employment. Improving the infrastructure that are in place to try and harmonize the operation of both the formal activities and the hawkers. Also the idea of allocating traders sufficient trading spaces and providing mechanism for the hawkers to be represented in decision making and lastly reviewing the rules and regulations that hinder the development of the activity