Boost for Eastleigh traders as county plans construction of two modern markets

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City Hall plans to construct a multi-million market in Eastleigh North ward, located at Eastleigh kwa Ndege.

Eastleigh, a bustling hub of business activities, is well-known as a hub of commerce in the East African region.

Despite its vibrant market scene, it has never had a county-owned market.

This gap has left many small-scale traders hawking their goods along the busy streets, often leading to cat-and-mouse chases with county inspectorate officers (kanjo).

Those who hawk along the roadsides are constantly at risk of eviction.

The more fortunate ones manage to rent spaces in local buildings, but these options are limited and often expensive.

However, they now have a reason to smile after news that in the next financial year, the Nairobi County Government plans to construct two brand-new public markets in the Eastleigh area.

These markets promise organised spaces where small traders can sell their products.

Nairobi County's Chief Officer for Trade, Markets, and Cooperatives, Godfrey Akumali, revealed that the Kamukunji sub-county will have a miraa market and a major modern market.

"Eastleigh as a business hub has always had privately owned premises but under the Governor Johnson Sakaja administration, we are going to set up markets to give traders.

Miraa traders often face challenges, including threats of eviction from operating on the roadside.

The traders have had a back-and-forth altercation with City Hall where threats of eviction have been issued as they operate on the roadside.

But now there is hope of a proper structure, with Chief Officer for Markets, Akumali saying that the county will in the next Financial Year 2024-2025 construct the miraa market.

He explained that the county has allocated land just around the Pumwani Hospital where the market will be set up.

Nairobi County Chief officer for Trade, Markets and Cooperatives Godfrey Akumali during an interview with The Eastleigh Voice at Nyayo House, Nairobi on May 14, 2024. (Photo: Mauren Kinyanjui)

"Eastleigh as we know has Miraa as a thriving business and we have been engaging with the traders and one of the requests they made was a decent operating space," Akumali stated.

The chief officer disclosed that the county has already conducted public participation on the matter.

John Rapudo, a Miraa trader for 10 years welcomed the plans to have a market purely for the commodity.

"Having a proper market will be such a relief. We are always affected by weather conditions whether it's too much sun or rain, which affects our sales. A sheltered space will protect us and our miraa from harsh climatic conditions," he said.

Khaleed Hussein, a miraa trader applauded the plan for a proper market to be set up, noting that the product will be sustained for a longer period.

"Dust is a big problem for us. Miraa needs to be kept clean and fresh to attract buyers. With a market, we won't have to worry about dust settling on our goods, which will be much better for business, " he added.

A man carrying a sack of miraa after receiving it from transporters in Pumwani, Kamukunji sub-county on May 20, 2024. (Photo: Justine Ondieki)

With the new market in place, Martin Musungu said that customers will be even attracted more to purchase from them as the place will be deemed to be decent.

"People prefer shopping in organised markets rather than on the streets. This new market will help us attract more customers and grow our businesses, " he said.

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja said that the market would be the first one in Nairobi as his predecessors had failed to set up such places even despite the motion being passed by the county assembly twice.

"With Miraa being one of the main thriving businesses in Eastleigh, it was only prudent to give the traders a decent place where they can operate from," he said.

Modernised Market

Away from Nairobi's Central Business District, hawkers usually flock to Eastleigh, setting up makeshift outlets to trade mainly in clothes at lower costs than shopping malls.

The influx of hawkers has led to conflicts with local business owners and county officers.

City Hall plans to construct a multi-million market in Eastleigh North ward, located at Eastleigh kwa Ndege.

This market will provide a safe place for hawkers and traders.

Akumali emphasised the importance of this market in addressing the hawking issue and providing dignified working conditions for traders.

Hawkers and traders on Yusuf Haji Road (First Avenue) in Eastleigh. (Photo: EV)

"This market is very important because the hawking issue leads to cheap labour and one way of removing them from the streets is by giving them spaces where they can operate," he explained.

The Chief Officer highlighted that the land earmarked for the market had been encroached but the county was able to reclaim it.

Some hawkers welcomed the plans lauding the move by City Hall.

Mary Wanjiku, a 29-year-old who sells clothes, said the market would end the bad blood they have had with kanjo askaris over the years.

"I have been selling clothes on the streets of Eastleigh for the past three years and because I have to get money to feed my family, I worry about being chased away by the askaris every day," she said.

"If City Hall builds this market for us, I will have a safe and permanent place to sell my goods, and I won't have to keep looking over my shoulder for askaris."

Ali Mohammed, a shoe seller said the market will give his business stability providing a chance of increasing his customers.

"If we get a proper market, I will have a steady place to work from, and my customers will know where to find me. It will bring stability and help me expand my business without fear," he added.

Concerning the modernised market, Governor Sakaja noted that the market in Eastleigh will be part of seven markets that will be built and commissioned this year.

He explained to The Eastleigh Voice that the population in Eastleigh was high hence the demand for supply which has resulted in hawking.

"This market will give the hawkers and traders dignity. When the hawkers will have this market, you will see issues like illegal garbage dumping go down," Sakaja added.

Nairobi currently has 42 markets, which are still not enough for traders, forcing hawkers to sell on the roadsides and streets within the Central Business District.

At the moment, the county's market department is presenting the proposed plans for the market before the County Assembly for approval and allocation of funds.

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