The Ban on Hawking in Nairobi CBD: A Necessary Move?

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

In a bid to restore order and dignity to the bustling streets of Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD), Nairobi Governor, Johnson Sakaja, announced a crackdown exercise against hawkers operating in the city. The move, which took effect on Thursday, October 26, 2023, seeks to address the long-standing issue of street hawking within the CBD. The absence of organized markets for hawkers has been a longstanding issue in Nairobi.  This has led to the proliferation of street hawking.

“Hawking on the roads is not negotiable,” emphasized Governor Sakaja during a consultative meeting. “Nairobi will be a city of order and dignity. There will be no hawking on roads, and that is not negotiable.”

Hawking has been a common sight in Nairobi’s CBD for years. It’s not uncommon to see vendors selling a variety of goods, from fruits and snacks to clothing and electronics, along the city’s pavements. While this practice has provided employment opportunities for many and offered convenient access to essential items for residents and visitors, it has also posed several challenges.

According to Governor Sakaja, hawking on the streets not only hinders pedestrian and vehicular movement but also poses safety risks for both hawkers and motorists.

“On Moi Avenue, there will be no hawking. We have a plan for that area, and investors have brought in money. I’m also looking out for the commuters of CBD who use that lane,” said Sakaja.

However, it’s crucial to consider the effects of the ban on the hawkers themselves. For many, street hawking is a source of income that sustains their families. The sudden loss of this livelihood could be devastating.

Some have argued that this ban deprives individuals of their livelihoods and unfairly targets those trying to make an honest living. Despite the concerns, the governor has maintained his stand. “It’s like looking down on someone else’s work. Someone who has decided to earn an honest living instead of becoming a thief,” Sakaja noted, addressing the need for balance and understanding.

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