By Florence Nakazi and Asiimwe Racheal Marrion

Florence Nakazi Passport

Street vending in Kampala has emerged as alternative source of employment for individuals who cannot afford the cost of paying regular rent in buildings or market stalls. Unlike other informal business in Kampala, street vendors are characteristically small, less profitable, may entail some mobility through hawking, and deal mainly in food, beverages, textiles, and other cheap/perishable products like fruits, among others. In Kampala alone, it’s estimated that there are about 10,000 hawkers.

Vending businesses are faced with a number of challenges. First, child labour is synonymous with vending given the fact that many underage and often out of school children help their parents in this kind of work. Second, having no fixed place of business aids in movement and trading in counterfeit goods. This can have long term consequences if the counterfeit goods have any potential side effects. Third, the presence of vendors on the streets restricts access to customers for the formally registered traders, most of whom pay taxes and trading licenses. This is considered as unfair competition because of similarities in the traded merchandise. This has created recurrent conflicts with traders' body Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA).

However, there are some advantages of having vendors on the streets. Specifically, the large population of unemployed persons in urban areas implies that vending offers a lifeline to support low income families. Without this alternative, some street vendors could resort to criminal activities in order to make ends meet. As such, street vending serves as a social safety net.

A number of efforts have been undertaken by KCCA to plan and manage street vending in Uganda. Markets in Kampala have been constructed to reduce the number of vendors on streets. KCCA created affordable work spaces in Wandegeya (about 1200 workspaces), USAFI market (about 2000 workspaces). In addition, Busega market is under construction and it is expected to create additional 1400 spaces. However, these have not been fully occupied due to opposition from street vendors who countered that they could not afford to pay for the said spaces.

In another endeavor to offer alternatives to street vendors, KCCA gazetted a Sunday market along Luwum Street at a daily rate of 10,000 shillings. However, street vendors’ grievances include: they struggle to afford the fee; 4 days in a month does not provide sufficient earnings to meet household needs; and availed spaces are not enough to accommodate the 10,000 vendors on streets.

Going forward, it is clear that there will be a continuous struggle by authorities to manage street vending on Kampala’s streets. More vending zones ought to be gazetted. KCCA ought to involve vendors’ representatives (platform for vendors in Uganda PLAVU) in planning for street vendors. PLAVU noted that KCCA planning focused on creating more workspaces for vendors without due consideration of vendors’ needs. It is to this effect that Wandegeya and USAFI markets have not been fully occupied despite KCCA efforts to create affordable work spaces for vendors. There is also need for KCCA to develop incentive mechanisms that will attract street vendors to work spaces created in the new markets.