Governor pushes for law legalizing hawking as legal trade

A hawker going about his business in Nairobi. The BBI report has proposed to exempt young business owners from paying taxes for 7 years PHOTO: COURTESY.

Nairobi, KENYA: Murang’a governor Mwangi Wa iria has sponsored a bill that will see hawkers across the country recognized as legitimate traders if passed as law.

The Bill, Hawkers and Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood) Bill, 2018, is aimed at providing a legal framework for recognition, protection and regulation of hawkers and street vendors in all the counties in the country as primary pillars of economic and social development by setting identification mechanism and minimum standards of operation.

The Draft Bill comes at a time when Nairobi is decrying the overrun of the central business district by hawkers while cases of harassments by county askaris persist in different county governments, especially Nairobi and Uasin Gishu, in the country.

Governor Iria said that the Bill, which was presented to the Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka on Tuesday, will see hawking legitimized as a business, structured from the counties to the national level and protected as important first line marketers in the country’s business value chain and the livelihoods of hawkers protected.

“We want them legitimized as our first line marketers because they are the most active point of contact between consumers and manufacturers besides creating a business environment that is controlled but one that is also recognizing the role of hawkers as players in our business value chains,” Mr Wa Iria said on Wednesday in Nairobi.

The governor added that hawkers will never go away but will remain an active ingredient of business value chains in the country for years to come and therefore Kenya must recognize them as economic facilitators, pointing out that in developed countries, hawking has been structured and it has yielded success.

“They are even in developed countries but they have been structured but in this country hawking has been demonized and criminalized and as we speak we have a major serious problem between the counties and the hawkers. They are being treated as pests and criminals and their lifestyle is like that of an antelope,” he said.

He said that they also want hawkers and street vendors to be mainstreamed into the national business organizations like the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) as they contribute about Sh3.6 trillion annually to the national economy, which is about 90 per cent of all contributions of all traders in the country.

“We want to form them into viable economic groups and within that, we want to create self-regulation for them. They must operate as cooperatives in Cooperative societies. This will enable self-regulation and also be regulated by by-laws regulating such cooperatives,” said the Murang’a Governor.

Mr. Iria stated that the Bill also seeks to create an authority, governed by a Board of directors appointed by the relevant cabinet secretary, to deal with street vendors and hawkers and decriminalize the trade by setting out clear dispute resolution.

The authority shall also facilitate the registration, regulation and monitoring of trade by hawkers and street vendors in the country besides establishing a national bureau and registry of the informal traders across the country.

He added that the bill seeks to have small-scale traders in Nairobi and other counties protected by coming up with trade zones in addition to setting specific times that hawkers will be allowed to conduct business in cities and major towns besides proposals for training for the hawkers.

Mr. Iria said that from next week, they will start engaging hawkers across the 47 counties in Kenya and other important stakeholders including those from the academic world to get views from them aimed at finding a lasting solution to the hawking and street vending problem in the country.