In our Saturday edition, we raised the issue of urban petty traders, noting that they are rapidly increasing with time. There indeed are several reasons for this – one of them being the lack of formal-cum-salaried employment opportunities for an ever-burgeoning youth population in the country.
It is estimated that some 800,000 able-bodied Tanzanians graduate from different education facilities each academic year, and are spewed on to a jobs market that can only absorb about 40,000 new employees.
Partly as a result of the foregoing, the relentless, seemingly-endless rural-to-urban migration of the country’s ever-growing population means that more people almost instinctively take to urban centres in (vain) search for better living conditions.
But, what the rural-to-urban migrant folk invariably find in the metropolises they move to are bright lights, open-cum-public spaces, street pavements – and untold numbers of potential customers: typical of urban centres.
These factors – open spaces and street/roadside pavements, as well as prospective customers – combine to persuade the jobless youth to take up small-scale trading to make ends meet, so to speak.
That was how – little by little – petty traders in urban roadsides and open spaces grew to the seemingly formidable force they are today, making it difficult, if not impossible, to ‘get rid of them,’ so to speak. It is an open secret that such traders are of more than a nuisance value, generally speaking. Not only do they pollute the environment as a matter of course – thus contributing to the accumulation of solid and other waste.
They are also a problem for vehicular traffic and pedestrians on roadsides where they do their trading, more often than not forcing pedestrians, including school children, from walkways onto carriageways.
It is not that Tanzania is without policies and regulatory frameworks on the use (and abuse, if you like) of carriageways, pavements and open/public spaces, as well as business trading.
Such polity and statutory controls do, indeed, exist. But, the crux of the problem is that the regulatory frameworks have not been enforced in the letter and spirit down the years, thereby leading to and resulting in a more or less laissez-faire attitude among law enforcers and law breakers alike.
What is perhaps worse is that successive political leaderships seem to have turned a blind eye to the problem as it burgeoned over time – thus compounding an already bad situation.
For example, while some politicians have condemned petty traders-cum-machingas as obstructive, the late President John Magufuli’s government directed that they should be facilitated in conducting petty trading in public places – provided they held a machinga ID card costing Sh20,000.
Although there are special places like the Machinga Complex intended for such traders, the facilities are routinely avoided as white elephants with no returns on investments.
We urge the government to revisit the situation and rectify all that’s wrong with the allocated trading places, as forcing machingas out of business could force them into crimes – and/or worse – in desperate efforts to make a living.
This is no time for naïve politicking; it’s time to come up with a working solution under the prevailing difficult socioeconomic circumstances.