If you have noticed that your man has been coming home with items that he has never purchased before, then know he is a victim of young, hot, and beautiful hawkers taking over the city. And that your impulse buying might leave you hungry the next day, or you might have a deputy, a hawker, on your tail because her good looks will not let him pass if he appreciates the finer things in life.
A spot check by The Nairobian revealed that they are not just ordinary hawkers who have been stereotyped as dirty, old, and cruel by society, but a new team of traders whose smiles bring down both men and women in the city. A good number are also well-educated.
Men can't resist beautiful thingsIn fact, they sell anything — from utensils to women’s clothing — to men who are unable to say no to beautiful things.The “gang of young, hot, and gorgeous ladies” is slowly taking over the hawking business in Nairobi from traditional hawkers, whom Kenyans have viewed as an ugly, ragtag team crowding and making noise in the city.The young ladies are too good, and their smiles will trade your money for the items they are selling in a career that is rarely respected by those in power and customers.The ladies, who know men can’t avoid adoring them, are stationed in strategic areas across the Nairobi Central Business District. Others are scattered in other areas where there is a high volume of people, such as flyovers, roundabouts, and bus stops.Amina, a 26-year-old hawker, said that customers notice them from far away, even on poorly lit streets at night, empowering their charming smile to manipulate their pride and stinginess for another impulse buy.“I hawk across the city depending on people’s traffic flow. I sell my items on behalf of a powerful businessman who imports them from Turkey or China, depending on the season,” Amina says.
She says the businessman is so powerful that even city askaris and police officers provide her with security to ensure she maximises profits.“Boss! Ni kujipanga. I am paid 10 per cent or more depending on how hard I push the customer when we are bargaining,” she said.She said that she can heavily compete with her male counterparts, whose only weapon is shouting, whistling, or screaming, armed only with her charming smile.“We are many on the streets, and our main interest is quick profits,” she said.And just like their male counterparts, they are selling items such as fast food, clothing, bedding, furniture, house decorations, sports items, and utensils.Emma Atieno told a local newspaper that every time the police and city askaris arrested those who did not have protection, they whisked them into a van together with their goods and took them to City Hall.
She said those who are fast can run, but the rest are arrested and taken to court.“The prison is dehumanising and traumatising, but no one cares about your fears, offence, or innocence. It doesn’t matter whether you were a hawker or a murderer. You are all treated the same,” Emma, who quit hawking after being jailed, said.A tall, chocolate-looking Jane, who is based on Tom Mboya near Quickmatt at the Commercial bus stop, said that she has a degree in mass communication but has never found a job opportunity.
“I am a mother of one kid, a beautiful girl, and I can’t sit home to wait for a job opportunity or the father of my child to provide for us,” Jane told The Nairobian, holding her curly hair.“Don’t mention my name; the city council askaris will come for me the following day in the morning, and I will be prosecuted.”Jane is one of the hundreds of hawkers who flock to the streets in search of work to pay their bills and provide for their families.The Nairobian discovered that some of the ladies were selling on behalf of powerful businessmen and women who protect them from city thugs; others were running stalls and would walk into the streets to sell when it was raining or at ungodly hours, and still, others were purchasing their items from the market and hoping to sell them to pay their bills.“My boss supplies eggs across town with a pick-up to a number of us so that we sell them on his behalf. We work in shifts, and we are strategically located on busy bus stops such as Commercial, outside Imenti House, Koja, and Odeon, where the traffic is high, allowing him to sell a pick or more of eggs a day,” one of the ladies hawking eggs on behalf of the man said.“If a crate has 30 eggs, and in a shift, we are doing more than 20 crates, you can guess how much he is making,” she said.She said that their boss is so powerful that no one can position their egg business close to them since he or she would be arrested by city askaris who protect him.“Remember, he gets his eggs from the farmers for ten bob and sells them for 25 bob,” she said.Her sentiments were shared by Njeri, who said that she was also selling items imported on behalf of her boss.“I get a 10 per cent commission for items I sell. “Some I sell at higher prices than told, and I’m safe because my boss is powerful,” she explained.
Wanjiru, who asked us to identify her by only one name, said that their main obstacle has been the authorities, who have harassed and abused them on the streets. She said she gets up, travels to Gikomba, and purchases a “camera” to sell in the city from Monday to Saturday midnight.“A bale of mitumba costs between Sh19, 000 and Sh30,000. I can’t afford it since I lost my job, and I am being economical with my savings, so I buy on sale and then go back for more just to pay bills,” she said.Annette, who runs a stall on Moi Avenue opposite Bazaar Plaza, said that she was forced to hawk to make an extra income.“The business went down, and my stall has not been doing well. When the askaris have gone to sleep, I hawk late at night, since I rely on this business,” she said.“They want us out here, but we don’t have another income. So we are forced to play hide and seek with them to survive on the streets,” she said.Last month, the Nairobi County Government invited members of the public to give their views on hawking within the city’s Central Business District.The County Secretary, Jairus Musumba, through a notice dated October 14, asked interested parties to give their views in scheduled meetings.The invited groups include hawkers, consumer associations, special interest groups, and business owners.