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Legal framework necessary for street vendors’ prosperity

Legal framework necessary for street vendors’ prosperity

A few days ago, speaking during the swearing-in of newly appointed ministers at the state House in Chamwino-Dodoma, President Samia Suluhu Hasan echoed her government’s huge opportunity for petty traders to pursue income generating activities.

Without going into the details, President reiterated the environment that put petty traders at risk and sometimes in look like conflict that unnecessary pushes shop owners to offload their goods to petty traders to sale leading among other aspect loss of taxes not being paid.

While petty traders need to adhere to the country’s laws and regulations regional commissioners and districts commissioners have been tasked to devise proper control while organising them so that they conduct their endeavours properly.

Much as President’s directives are crystal strong, in my opinion, without legal frameworks governing street vendors, controlling hawkers is going to be an uphill exercise since customarily in Tanzania petty traders go to what is likely to be their potential buyers in their various places i.e., roadsside, residentials, recreational areas such as bars and of late making use of pedestrians walkways and not buyers customarily have a habit of going to petty traders designated areas.

Smart RCs and DCs to relocate petty traders in my view must be a smart move if the exercise must be successful, otherwise exercising force without rationale on what govern measures to be undertaken will be messy.

But it is important to ask ourselves how or why street vending and the use of urban public space is mushrooming in our cities? Is it because of administrative failure or because of what I can term as livelihood strategy amongst a less disadvantaged group of young people in Tanzania? Put it differently, do RCs and DCs have tangible solutions apart from repositioning petty traders to designated areas? Where did we as policymakers got things wrong in permitting mushrooming of indiscriminately use of street vending and the use of urban public space?

I might be mistaken, but I am one of those who imagine that in Tanzania, urban public spaces, such as open spaces and particularly right of ways, have become assets for livelihoods.

Consequently, urban public space is perceived as a physical asset that is used to sustain the livelihoods of the less disadvantaged group.

Street selling or trade is a visible and contentious component of the urban economy and merchants operate their businesses in areas that can be classified as public spaces and are originally unintended for trading purposes.

A consequence of such behaviour, not only changes space use but can turn out to be health hazards and risky for merchants.

With the arrival of modern retailing fixed retail operations, supermarkets, or min-supermarket and small mangi shops numerous expects that street selling would go away, yet today, in Tanzania it persists even where local regulations seek to ban or restrict it that has triggered her excellence Samia to once again caution RCs and their DCs to innovatively crack their leadership style on how to arrest this challenge.

Unfortunately, her excellence directive and order are taking place when street economy forms a constituent of many low-income municipalities and depends on the innovative use of space to survive and flourish including sources of local income.

For example, along with Mbezi Tangi Bovu-Kinondoni District, each petty traders trading on a pedestrian walkway pays Tsh. 2000 for garbage collection every week.

I will not go into details, but a parallel scenario is all over the places along Dar es salaam streets where vendors pay even more than what I have cited.

It is true, in recent times, street trading is presenting new challenges for urban administrations charged with the management of space in the country but what about levies collected? In reality, in my view, there is no shortage of urban public space for trading, but the most challenge is how administrators take time to think of a workable solution.

For instance, Dar es Salaam city of Mwanza city, but not in Moshi Kilimanjaro has been preoccupied with the dilemma of street trading for many years. In Dar es Salaam and Mwanza to site few examples of street vendors operate on pedestrian walkways and streets, thus impeding both pedestrian and vehicular traffic and causing unnecessary congestion, especially in the city centre.

Conceivably, I see issues differently, but the major challenge linked with street trading in major cities and other towns in Tanzania include congestion because of the ever-increasing number of street vendors operating on sidewalks and the streets in front of established businesses outlets.

Subsequently, there is an intense struggle for space between the traders i.e., with fixed outlets and the pedestrians on the pavements and most of the pedestrians are, consequently, forced onto the streets, resulting in sometimes uncalled for accidents causing injuries and loss of life in addition to for poor environmental sanitation, largely arising from littering of the streets and sidewalks and dumping of garbage in open drains etc.

Why should we now turn into laws and policies regulating street vending? I am convinced, is high time for the administrators in government led by Her excellence Samia to be ground-breaking enablers and initiators. Each of the regions must have a clear sense of national legislation that establishes the broad framework for regulating street vending if at all this document exists.

Municipalities also need to pass local legislation in the form of by laws, regulations, or ordinances to regulate street vending. If none are in place, they should start working from now onwards.

Given, these regions and their respective municipals work with a common goal, although these legal instruments might not be legally binding, they will express governments’ commitment to supporting street vendors and provide a backdrop against which to analyse the laws regulating street vending.

The problem is that, over the years, various attempts have been made by the government to address the problems associated with street trading without much success.

Both persuasive and sometimes uncalled for brute force measures were employed in the past without attaining the desired impact and, despite continuous harassment and decongestion exercises, street traders returned to the streets after a short time.

Undeniably, there are no prearranged areas for street traders, and they are, therefore, located in spaces that are meant for other uses. This marks arguments and conflicts with urban authorities.

The challenge for urban executives under their RDs or DCs is how to adjust competing demands on public space, especially, the need to have room for essential pedestrian and vehicular movements in areas that have become de facto places of work.

The consequence of this is that, unless there is a conscious effort to effectively assign some public space to take care of street trading in a very proper manner, street vendors will continue to invade public spaces to the embarrassment of capital and municipal mandates. RCs and DCs the ball is on your hands.

Tanzanians envision you coming up with thoughts that might enhance the design of national policy for street vendors. Keep in mind, President Samia said, she wants a positive outcome and nothing else.

Her chosen leadership style is more on strong action and not blares. Working through her pen, in my opinion, is a sturdy cautionary to those who will fail to deliver.

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