Creating spaces for the informal trader

Home Focus Creating spaces for the informal trader

Samuel Wadzai and 
       Luise Mwanyangapo

A street vendor is broadly defined as a person who offers goods or services for sale to the public without having a permanent built up structure but with a temporary static structure or mobile stall. Street vendors may be stationary by occupying space on the pavements or other public/private areas, or may be mobile in the sense that they move from place to place carrying their wares on push carts or in cycles or baskets on their heads. In this article, the term urban vendor is inclusive of both traders and service providers, stationary as well as mobile vendors and incorporates all other local/region specific terms used to describe them, such as, hawker, sidewalk traders.  This article is an attempt to locate street vendors as a special component of the urban development plans by treating them as an integral and legitimate part of the urban distribution system by providing them with profitable spaces to operate and trade from. This is largely due to numerous town councils and municipalities encountering the issue of road side and street trading in their regions of ward, thus the greater part of them have acquainted by-laws, policies and directions which control the way they work and how their businesses grow. 

The demarcation of vending sites should be city/town specific. To make the plans conducive and adequate for the vendors of the respective city/town, should take the following crucial considerations on board:
It should take into account the natural propensity of the street vendors to locate in certain places at certain times in response to patterns of demand for their goods/services. 

City authorities should provide sufficient spaces, designated as ‘vendor’s markets’ in layout plans at locations of such natural markets, for the number of vendors (static and mobile) which can cater to demand for their wares/services. If aspirants to such location exceed the number of spaces available, excess may be regulated by fees or lottery and not discretionary licenses. In any case market forces relating to price, quality and demand will automatically curtail the number of vendors to sustainable levels. 

Mobile urban vending should be permitted in all areas even outside the designated vendors’ markets, unless designated as ‘no-vending zone’ through a participatory process.  The ‘no-vending zones’ may be notified both in terms of location and time. Locations should not be designated as ‘no-vending’ zones for frivolous reasons; the public benefits of declaration of a no-vending zone should clearly outweigh the potential loss of livelihood and non-availability of goods and services that it would involve. With the growth of a city/town every new area should have adequate provisions for street vendors. 

Furthermore, it is critical to ensure that the designation of vendor’s markets/no-vending zones should not be left to the sole discretion of local authorities but must be accomplished by a participatory process by a Town Informal Economy Committee (which for large towns/cities may be constituted on the basis of wards). The membership of the Committee may comprise of Local Authorities, Municipal and Republic Police, Line Ministries such of SMEs and Local Government, Associations/Organizations representing Vendors and Representative of leading financial institutions

The vendor’s representatives should preferably constitute at least 50% of the total number of members of the committee. At least two thirds of the representatives of street vendors should be women. The committee should ensure that provisions for space for vendors’ markets are pragmatic, consistent with formation of natural markets and sufficient for existing demand for vendor’s goods and services. Provisions of space may include temporary sites designated as vendors’ markets (e.g. as weekly markets) whose use at other times may be different (e.g. Public Park, parking lot). Timing restriction on urban vending should correspond to the needs of ensuring non-congestion of public spaces/public hygiene. The committee should ensure continuation and up-gradation of weekly markets. In terms of the Monitoring Mechanism, this article suggests that, the Committee be entrusted with adequate powers and resources to monitor the vending activity of a particular ward and the quality of the services provided, take corrective action when required, report to City Level Committee, if required recommend revaluation or changes in specified norms for vending, report to the Central Ministry on the functioning of the Street vendors of the State. 
In Zimbabwe and Namibia, the Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET)

Chapters have been on the forefront of encouraging the Governments and their agencies in the two countries to adopt approaches that foster the growth and development of the informal economy. The VISET Namibia Chapter, which is set to be launched on the 14th of November 2019 – a date set aside as International Vendors Day, has developed solid proposals that champion inclusive growth of the informal economy. The VISET Namibia Chapter will act as a solidarity, resource and information center for street vendors whose constitutional rights to livelihoods, decent work and social security are constrained due to unfavourable policies or lack there off. Obviously, the governments are keen to bolster this segment however, the informal economy is currently not meeting the sectors potential sustainable employment and  profit targets.