Seminar on Street Vending in Nairobi: from violent environment to inclusive urban space? on the 22nd of April at 2.00 Pm at the IFRA Offices
Urbanization and Street Vendors seminar series
The seminar series Urbanization and Street Vendors address the issue of integrating informal trade into governance and urban development. The seminar series aims at addressing informal vending as an individual and a collective resource. It address issues like the spatial dynamics of street vending, the landscape of actors and politics of street vending, the urban governance and the public space, the circulations and urban-rural linkages of informal vending and the insertion of informal vending to transnational networks.
Session 1. Street Vending in Nairobi: from violent environment to inclusive urban space?
Brigitte Dragsted Mutengwa. PhD Fellow, Department of Culture and Global Studies, Aalborg University
Violent exchange among refugee street vendors and policing authorities
Nairobi has one of the largest populations of urban refugees in the world. Although refugees are formally required to live in designated camp areas, they are largely tolerated in the city and rarely sent back to the camps. Newly arrived refugees soon end up in the informal economy while they wait for years or even decades to have their refugee status determined. Whereas all street vendors, Kenyan and non-Kenyan, face harassment and extortion of bribes from authorities such as county askaris and police officers, refugee street vendors are particularly open to extortion since their ‘illegality’ extends not only to their economic activities but also to their being in the city in the first place. In the encounter between refugee street vendors and policing authorities, the manifold ‘illegality’ of the vendors prompts a material exchange – the payment of a bribe, the confiscation of the vendors’ goods, arrest and detention of the vendor until family members come and pay a release sum. If exchange is understood in the sense proposed by the classical anthropologist Marcel Mauss as the basis for human relationships, what relationships are formed or transformed in this encounter? And what are the implications of this being a violent exchange where one party has a sovereign power to exert violence over the other?
Dr Mary Njeri Kinyanjui. Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Nairobi
Cultural Villages: Alternative to policing the informal economy
I propose the use of cultural villages as a planning concept for planning economic informality in Nairobi. The cultural villages will incorporate traders, artisans and peasants operating informally and who are regarded as a nuisance to the urban order. The Cultural villages will serve as agglomerations of local economic and cultural activities of traders, artisans and peasants. Residents in these villages will earn livelihoods by engaging in trade, arts, indigenous foods and crafts, sciences and think-tank endeavors. A village school system will advance social and scientific innovations for coping with everyday problems of traders, artisans and peasants. Through learning and mentoring, knowledge and information will be transferred to the young generation while a community hospital will manage the well-being of the people. Social harmony and cohesion in the cultural villages will be maintained through self and group regulation. The cultural villages will give traders, artisans and peasants a community identity and a sense of belonging to the city. The cultural village will blend the African traditional institution of trade, artisan and peasant activities with global urban practices. Cultural villages will provide a strategy beyond the current methods of controlling economic informality through policing.
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