Hundreds of thousands of Ugandans who have been eking a living as vendors and kiosk operators on Kampala streets selling various goods or offering mobile money services are facing a bleak future after the city authority clamped down on their activities.
Over the past month, the city authority has used maximum force including using cranes and military force to uproot vendors some of whom had cemented their places with semi-permanent structures.
While the eviction by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) was initially lauded by many who say that the operation was necessary to restore trade order by giving incentives to those who pay licenses in shops as well as reclaim walkways to ease movement by pedestrians.
It has lately become a witch-hunt for almost all informal trade across the city.
The anger and ferocity with which the city authorities have removed roadside businesses is extremely worrisome and not called for.
Uganda is not the only country that has a large informal sector. In fact even in developed cities, some level of informality is tolerated if not promoted.
On many streets of London, New York, people operate mobile food kiosks. These facilities not only help to create jobs, they also help poor people access affordable food.
So were Kampala’s small traders. They enabled people to access stuff more cheaply.
In some instances, the KCCA officials have gone to the extent of removing businesses that were paying trading license and rent to some land lords.
Clean streets are good but cities have to be inclusive of all classes of people.
It was disheartening to see young women – mostly young graduates – who after failing to get jobs in the formal sector – had created own jobs, lose their kiosks to KCCA’s ruthless law enforcement officials.
The way the government has accommodated Boda Boda riders – even when they don’t pay taxes – is the same way they should accommodate kiosks.
Kiosks that sell Mobile money posed no threat to KACITA traders and should therefore have been allowed to operate.