Traders threaten to exit market as business dips

Kambi Somali market in Kakamega town where small scale traders were relocated into by the county government. [Mumo Munive, Standard]

Vegetables and fruit vendors at Kambi Somali market in Kakamega town are crying foul over loss of business.

This comes a few weeks after they were evicted from their roadside stalls on the western side of town. Unhappy with their leadership and that of the county government, they have threatened to abandon the market altogether. 

The traders believe they were unfairly targeted and are now pleading with Governor Wycliffe Oparanya to either ensure that all those moved from Kambi Somali operate from the market, or allow them to go back to their former stalls until after the elections.

Due to lack of modern markets, the traders popularly known as ‘mama mbogas’ have for years occupied strategic places along the streets in Kakamega town.

Kambi Somali market is squeezed between a bakery, an abandoned timber yard, a mosque and a line of shops that completely obscure it from the view of passers-by. A short dirt road that connects the market to the nearby main road is often obstructed by lorries that use it as a parking bay.

“It is now three weeks since we obeyed the county government’s order and moved into Kambi Somali market. The sad reality is that since doing so, we hardly sell. Buyers get what they need from roadside sellers in other parts of town, leaving our vegetables and fruits to get spoiled. Worse, we are required to pay a monthly fee of Sh500 for each stall. Where do we get the money without making sales?” asked a trader, Lilian Inyambula.

After incurring huge losses due to lack of customers, most of the sellers gave up and left the market. The Standard team witnessed some of the vendors throwing away mangoes, tomatoes and vegetables that had started to decay.

“Those who sell on wheelbarrows move freely in town and they are the reason we cannot sell anything here. Besides, an ideal market should be next to a road, visible and accessible. Customers get attracted by what they see on display,” said Sarah Wangui.

Market chairman Eric Masafu said, "I acknowledge that there are many challenges and wheelbarrow sellers are a big threat, but I will have them solved."