Integral to the City
Street vendors sell goods and services that are essential to everyday life in cities. They generate employment for themselves and for others. Many street vendors source their goods from formal suppliers and create revenue for city governments through direct and indirect taxes and fees. Street vendors often bring home the main source of income for their households.
Competing for Space
City planners and government officials are often under pressure to find ways to balance competing demands for public space in growing cities. Street vending can be seen as a nuisance, and vendors are frequent targets of municipal crackdowns, harassment, and seizure of goods.
Evictions are time-consuming and expensive for authorities. Because vendors’ and their households rely on their earnings, vendors usually return within a few days – creating a futile cycle.
Designing Solutions Together
Projects led by Inclusive Cities partners show that cities, urban professionals, and street vendors can design urban management solutions together:
- In Accra, street vendor representatives worked with the municipal government to plan the Abokobi market and lorry park, including baths and toilet facilities.
- In Delhi, SEWA Bharat worked with city authorities to protect a market that can be traced back 500 years. When a new flyover was constructed, SEWA worked with the architect to construct a market space beneath it. The architect meticulously included SEWA’s input, and authorities approved and built the market.
- Also in Delhi, SEWA Bharat created a unique women’s market. The city earns revenue from the vendors’ weekly fees. SEWA draws much tourist traffic to the site. SEWA has also worked with an architect to beautify the site, made arrangements for drinking water and toilets, and has successfully worked with the municipality to install sewer connections in the market area.
- In Durban, AeT has facilitated the groundbreaking Markets of Warwick project, where traders trained in tour guiding, first aid, and public speaking have given over 5,300 visitors tours of the junction since 2008.
- AeT, along with WIEGO, is also working to improve safety in the market. Street traders together with municipal officials have identified and mapped fire hazards and designed a fire prevention plan. Street traders have also received first aid training. The Phephanathi (Zulu for “be safe with us”) project aims to design new ways in which workplace health and safety protections can be extended to informal workers.
Creating Systemic Change
Changes to policies and practices around street vendors and the informal economy have also occurred on a more systemic level. These WIEGO and partner publications outline how these changes have come about:
- Vending in Public Space: The Case of Bangkok (WIEGO Policy Brief No. 16) is an interactive PDF that asks how Bangkok has developed a thriving street vending environment.
- India’s National Policy on Urban Street Vendors (WIEGO Policy Brief No. 2) describes the process by which India’s National Policy on Urban Street Vendors was developed, the content of the policy, and the ongoing story of its implementation.
- Working in Warwick details how in the inner-city transport interchange in Durban – Warwick Junction – a small dedicated team of local authority officials, street traders and their leaders turned the area around. The book pays attention to sector support, urban design, and urban management solutions with a view to identifying lessons learned for other contexts.
Those needing to plan a local street trader census to estimate the size and basic characteristics of the street vending population in a given area can download How to Plan a Street Trader Census (WIEGO Technical Brief No. 2).
Learning to Work with Street Vendors
To help planners and policymakers develop a working knowledge of street vendors and the informal economy, WIEGO has been developing research and recommendations available for download on this site.