Monday, November 2, 2009

"I'm shocked, shocked..."

The Lagos State government has banned street selling, but vendors are still out there, The Daily Champion (via reports.

"Items on display include vehicle parts, shoes, soft drinks, sachet and bottled water, confectioneries and household items like cutleries and beddings," the paper reports.

"I and my children must eat," one street trader told the paper. "I have to pay their school fees and also pay house rent."

It is truly outrageous that, with all the issues facing Lagos, Governor Babatunde Fashola has chosen to wage war against hawkers and street vendors. These street sellers are not criminals. They are hard working citizens. Just what does the governor think this misguided policy will achieve? How about working with street traders to achieve rational objectives, like lessening traffic jams, while allowing people who need to make a living to keep working.

I will be in Lagos later this week (this will be my 4th trip to Nigeria's commercial is the place I've been in most over the past two years, aside from my home town of New York) and will blog more about this once I am on the ground.


Anonymous said...

What is wrong with that? When is Lagos ever going to really develop and be remotely decent if there are no edicts to keep the place civilised. The only question that should be asked is what are the provisions for the displaced traders. An solution maybe to designate some streets to be closed to vehicular traffic which the traders can occupy for a fee, that should contribute to management,sanitation etc and muncipal revenue.Yakking on about you are shocked is not useful at all. offer a solution, Lagos should not remain third world forever.

rn said...

Anon: Who said development can't happen in partnership with hawkers and traders? To simply criminalize street trading seems extremely shortsighted. Why not work with street vendors to find the things that work for them while not impeding traffic flow. Pedestrian arcades are an idea, but they may not draw enough trade (after all, vendors are hawking things in traffic because that's where business is....If it wasn't, they wouldn't be there.) Can vending be permitted at the roadside, but not in traffic? Should there be a system of pull-offs where traders can locate? Should traders be asked to form cooperatives that could work with the government to improve sanitation? These are all ideas that should be tried. But they can't be tried if the government is simply arresting people who are not committing violent crimes.

Many of the hawkers are there because big businesses want them to be. For instance, MTN and Glo and all the other mobile phone companies that have found it profitable to sell sell airtime and recharge cards through roadside hawkers and umbrella stands. Or UAC Foods which markets Gala Sausage Rolls almost exclusively through street sellers.

Lagos can blaze a path of development that is participatory, that creatively involves all its citizens. 80 percent of the working population of the city is employed informally. Arresting four out of five city residents is not a development strategy. Working with them to improve their businesses and the city is.