SID #Mjadala9: Securing the Right to Work for the Urban Poor
Fri, Jul 1. 2:00PM - 4:30PM
Kenya National Theatre Harry Thuku Road Nairobi, Kenya
1. Anna Othoro | Nairobi CEC Commerce, Tourism and Cooperatives
2. David Waweru | Chairman of the Hawkers Association (Confirmed)
3. Dr. Mary Kinyanjui | Senior Research Fellow University of Nairobi and author of Women and the Informal
Economy in urban Africa (Confirmed)
Moderator: Renee Ngamau, Co-host - Capital in the Morning, Capital FM
EVENT BRIEFING NOTE: The urban poor and their engagement in informal economic activities are a fundamental part of urban socio-economic and political development. Inhabitants of urban informal settlements provide cheap labour for the tedious, dangerous and at times difficult work such as construction and provision of cheap domestic labour. Informal work constitutes over three-quarters (75 percent) of Kenya’s workforce according to statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) (2013), thereby playing a key role in providing goods and services to Kenyans. KNBS (2013) further estimates that the informal sector engages 44 percent of the employed labour force and within the employed labour force, the informal sector employs twice as many people as the formal sector which employs 3.3 Million people (23 percent). Yet despite the contribution of the urban poor to the urban economy, they are often excluded and denied basic rights on the basis of their ‘illegitimacy’. Therefore, whereas goods, resources and wealth are collectively pooled, they are unequally distributed, privately appropriated and accumulated, creating segregated cities.
The 2010 Constitution of Kenya promises to reverse such inequalities. However, despite robust provisions for equality and socio-economic rights enshrined in the Constitution, five years since its promulgation, economic, regional and gender disparities exist in both rural and urban areas. In urban areas, the poor often experience inequalities manifested in access to housing, sources of income, non-recognition and denial of basic human rights. The urban world is thus divided by a class line that determines access to opportunities on one hand and exclusion and discrimination on the other. The rights of the urban poor are heavily eroded and in some cases non-existent.
While Kenya’s urban areas continue to witness increased number of informal workers, space limitations in urban markets pose a challenge in accommodating the ever growing number of new vendors. The limitation of space in markets for small-scale traders to operate is compounded by increased grabbing of public land allocated to markets. In addition to the lack of space in designated market spaces, many traders lack the capital required to operate in markets. Moreover, traders operating in markets are subjected to arbitrary changes in business fees which usually happens without warning or consultation, the fees are also considered unfair and unaffordable to many of the urban poor, especially given the services they receive are not commensurate to the fees paid. Those who cannot afford these fees therefore, operate illegally by occupying spaces within the city without being licensed and are perpetually engaged in running battles with city county officers.
Despite the amounts of money collected by the City County in the form of licenses and market fees, given that a market like City Market with approximately 5000 traders could collect up to 1.5 million Kshs per day, most markets are in deplorable condition, often congested, insecure, and lack basic sanitation amenities. Hawkers are thus forced to operating in the CBD sidewalks due to the expensive market rates, poorly maintained markets and lack of transparency in allocation of market spaces. Their presence in the CBD is often considered a nuisance thus often finding themselves in running battles with city county officers which often end up in arrest of hawkers, confiscation of wares, injuries and even death. The intention of the Constitution to create an equal Kenya thus remains a far cry from reality, particularly in urban areas.
Structured around a moderator and discussants, this 9th dialogue of the SID Mjadala Series brings together key civic actors, government officials and experts to reflect on strategies to address the question of harassment and challenges experienced by the urban poor engaged in informal work. Some of the key questions we will explore are:
Are we doing enough to create a conducive work environment for the urban poor?
What prevents the effective realisation of the right to work for the urban poor?
How can we transform the informal sector into stable, safe and productive spaces?