Market Support Services for Street Vendors

This project worked with street traders in the thriving Warwick Junction, a market area of eThekwini/Durban, South Africa where street vendors have made their living selling food and merchandise for years. The project was led, through a sub-grantee agreement, by Asiye eTafuleni (AeT – Zulu for “Bring it to the Table") an organization of informal street traders who work in the area.

The project supported street trader activities as these workers fought to secure their place and improve the market’s image -- increasing its viability. A second goal was to disseminate to other cities the experience of Warwick Junction and the integration of informal workers into urban planning processes.

Overcoming Adversity

In 2009, during the lead-up to the 2010 Fifa World Cup, plans were made to demolish the market and build a shopping mall, displacing street vendors. At least 21,000 people – about 3,000 workers who support, on average 7-12 dependants on the incomes they derive from the Market precinct – would be affected. This set in motion a two year struggle to reverse this decision and protect the livelihoods of the informal street traders. The legal struggle galvanized the workers; the mall proposal was subsequently dropped.

Improving the Image

Aet undertook initiatives such as developing a marketing image for the market, including a logo; creating posters based on lessons learned; holding workshops to disseminate learning; and developing a website.

The website has all the attributes and influence of an effective social media tool, but all this cannot match the [Markets of Warwick] Committee’s reaction and response to the site when it was first projected onto a screen at one of their meetings! The phrase “global and local” took on new meaning – the traders saw themselves represented in a new and affirming way.

~Richard Dobson (MDG3 Fund Progress Report)

Aware that the municipality’s World Cup tourism projects lacked inner city cultural tourism, AeT set out to develop market brochures and tours. Market tours for tourists and students are being hosted by trained and accredited tour guides from the informal sector, which has increased sales in some sectors and led to positive postings on social media forums.

Lasting Impact

Implementing these activities and fighting to save the market has emboldened community members, the majority of whom are women. Street traders report that improving the market’s image has, in turn, improved their self-image as economic agents who work there. The training and accreditation of tour guides to host market tours as a commercial activity has provided a sustainable income-generating activity for informal workers and brought new customers to the market.

The establishment of the Markets of Warwick Committee may also be a sustainable result. While this committee initially had a particular function in planning the project, because its representatives were the nominated leaders from various trading communities, it has led to the emerging notion of an overall trader representative organization.

WIEGO’s contribution  included providing financial support to help AeT become a learning institution. It examines, documents and disseminates inclusive urban planning policies and processes that address the needs of working poor women, with an emphasis on street vendors. AeT is now fully set-up, with all the necessary legal requirements, systems and staffing, and high-quality programming.

Visit Asiye eTafuleni’s website.