The move by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko to allow hawkers into the city centre has elicited mixed reactions.
Governor Sonko announced last week that hawkers would officially be allowed access to the central business district as early as 2pm to sell their wares.
The move was informed by a report that was unveiled by the county on how to deal with the hawking problem in the city centre.
In a city centre already grappling with the pressure of street families and traffic congestion, the development has come as a surprise to residents, shop and stall owners, who termed the move populist and retrogressive.
Stall owners pay between Sh9,500 and Sh13,700 in licence fees annually on top of other charges.
Mr Charles Muchemi, a shop owner on Kirinyaga Road, criticised the governor for allowing the hawkers into the city centre.
He said the hawkers are disruptive and have made traders who pay licence fees incur losses.
He added that the hawkers were blocking shops and their presence had resulted in crime incidents such as pick pocketing due to congestion.
Mr Ashok Kuldal, who owns a shop in CBD, said the decision did not make sense and that the only solution was to have permanent spaces for them away from CBD.
Another trader, Ms Beatrice Ngige, said the county should instead build permanent stalls for the hawkers and relocate them instead of putting time limits for them because they will not adhere to the directive.
She added that some hawkers were selling their wares at cheap prices.
“They have made us suffer losses as they sell the same things we sell but at a lower price as theirs are of low quality,” she said.
Mr Dan Momanyi, who works at the city centre, said: “Sonko promised a lot of things yet nothing has been accomplished. Allowing hawkers in the CBD will make things worse. Right now moving around the city is very hard.”
However, hawkers welcomed the decision, saying it would allow them to operate without harassment from city askaris.
“This is our source of livelihood. We do not have anywhere to go,” a hawker who identified herself as mama Mwende said.
Another hawker, Mr Jayson Nzeva, lauded the move but averred that it would even have been better if they were allowed access to the CBD as early as 11am.
Interestingly, the hawkers had already spread their wares in various alleys and streets as early as 10am, four hours before the allowed time of operation.