They are virtually everywhere. On the pavements and outside Nairobi’s major shopping malls, displaying their wares which include the latest electronic goods, garments, clothing and the latest trend in ladys’ wear that could put London’s Servile Row to shame. On the streets posing at the footpaths as if eagerly waiting for something, they peep through your car window sticking out their gadgets, hoping that you will at least give them a chance. They force you into impulse buying. They do not give you time to speak. And, while some consider them a menace and others severally refer to them as an avenue for cheap and easy to get goods, they care less about what one thinks, since all they mind is how they will get their daily bread. These are the hawkers of Nairobi city where everyone is busy and minding their own businesses.
Hawking has been in existence in this city for a very long time. With the construction of the railway in 1899, Nairobi was founded and made available for settlement. It was a construction camp for the railway that was being built between Mombasa and Uganda.During this period, a number of Indians “Dukawallahs” started selling fruits to the Europeans and in the process their African employees immitated, albeit at a small scale. The rest, as they say is history, and the hawking menace has continued unabated, remaining a thorn in the flesh for the city authorities, with the numerous solutions being sought remaining a pipe dream. In 2008, for example, a seemingly solution to the hawking menace was the construction of the Muthurwa market at a cost of more than one billion Kenyan shillings. Sadly the project did not fulfill its primary goal which was to relocate hawkers from the city centre. Speaking to a few hawkers that relocated to the city centre from Muthurwa market, they cited the distance from the city centre to the market, arguing that majority of their customers were within the central business district which is some distance from the market. Muthurwa market also has limited spaces which are incapable of occupying the growing number of hawkers.