Innovation behind wheelbarrows of Kawangware

A trip from the Junction Mall in Nairobi to Uthiru, which is in the outskirts of the city, takes you through Kawangware. This is one of Nairobi’s high-density suburbs, and it neighbours the affluent Lavington.

I went through Kawangware last Tuesday as it was the ‘shortest’ route to Westlands after the terror incident at 14 Riverside.

At the junction to Riruta, the road is clogged – not with cars or pedestrians, but with wheelbarrows.

The wheelbarrows were full of merchandise, mostly fresh produce, from dhania to tomatoes. The wheelbarrows were parked on the side of the road, with an attendant busy selling to passers-by coming from work. Cars full of such produce were also by the road, turning it into a giant market.

It seems what city authorities couldn’t achieve in CBD has been achieved naturally in Kawangware. There has been repeated talks of turning some town streets into markets over the weekends. 

In Kawangware, they’ve not only turned the street or road into a market, but also learnt how to improvise and innovate.

The wheelbarrows are mobile stalls that can easily be deployed when the market is good in the evening, and kept away during off-peak periods. More creatively, they may not attract the authorities over licensing.  

The use of wheelbarrows goes further than those stalls that turned big buildings in urban areas into business centres. It’s like moving from desktop computers to laptops. 

The use of wheelbarrows as mobile stalls clearly indicates the level of creativity found in the most unusual of places. While we think of slums being full of hopelessness, Kawangware seems to contradict that. It’s a place full of innovation, with citizens solving their problems instead of waiting for the Government.

Abundant talents

What if the Government supported these entrepreneurs with the space to do their business instead of them having to rely on wheelbarrows? What if we saw these hustlers as future entrepreneurs and not a nuisance? 

Is it not in such crowded places where talents are in abundance, with competition bringing out innovation? How are counties harnessing the creativity and innovation present in crowded places? 

Left to themselves, hustlers will solve lots of their problems out of necessity; they have no other supporter. But they would do more if they got support.

And we all benefit from their solutions – you may be paying less for your greens because of that wheelbarrow.

Seen another use of wheelbarrows? Share it with us. And why did we used to reward retiring Government officials with wheelbarrows in the past?