Street vendors, hawkers make quick sales amid traders’ strike

Street vendors, hawkers make quick sales amid traders’ strike
Street vendors, hawkers make quick sales amid traders’ strike

Africa-Press – Uganda. Vendors and hawkers have jam-packed Kampala City streets, taking advantage of the traders’ strike, to do quick sales.

A strike by Kampala City traders and counterparts across the country against unfair taxation policies entered its third day yesterday.

The traders are protesting the enforcement of Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing Solution (Efris) by the national tax collector, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).

The small and medium-sized business owners closed their doors, objecting to the newly imposed tax regulations and heavy penalties under Efris, which demands the traders pay taxes based on the weight of goods.

The traders are also challenging the influx of Chinese investors who they accuse of immersion in retail trade and unfairly squeezing out local traders and wiping out their retail profit margins.

As the strike entered its third day yesterday, with more than 300 arcade outlets and 3,000 general merchandise shops in the city padlocked, the vendors and hawkers swarmed the streets, making brisk sales.

Mr Eriah Kayanga, a street retailer, who arrayed his assortment of bags in front of Ham Shopping Centre in downtown Kampala, said he had quickly exhausted his stock. He said he was frantically searching for where to grab more stock since the arcades and shops were shut.

“When the strike started on Tuesday, I strategically positioned myself in front of this building. Every day, I pocket between Shs120,000 to Shs150,000,” he said.

“But we’re also going to suffer when the arcades and shops reopen as they will double their prices,” Mr Kayanga said.

“But most of our money goes to Kampala Capital City Authority askaris. When the law enforcers arrest you, you give them some [bribe], and we all survive. Ever since the traders closed shops, they are everywhere; looking for what to eat,” he added.

Nevertheless, Mr Kayanga vowed that by Monday next week, should the traders not reopen, the street dealers would mobilise to join the big traders in the strike.

Since the start of the nationwide strike on Tuesday, the open-street retailers have flocked the walkways of Old Taxi Park, New Taxi Park, Majestic Plaza, Mini-Plaza, cramming the verandahs and deterring free movement of people.

In 2019, KCCA drafted a Bill to introduce a Street Trade Ordinance, which would allow orderly hawking and vending on the streets but the order has never been passed.

It was brought to the KCCA Council for the first reading and forwarded to the divisions for consultations with stakeholders.

The Bill provides for the licensing of street vendors and hawkers in the five divisions of Kampala.

The ordinance would require street vendors and hawkers in the central business district to pay an annual licence fee of Shs210,000 while those from the outskirts, mainly in Kawempe Division, would pay Shs112,500.

Mr Maureen Nakijoba, another vendor on Namirembe Road, said: “When people see us, they think we don’t make money, but on a good day like today, I make up to Shs300,000. Sometimes, I earn more than those at arcades. When you rent a shop in the city, be ready to go back to the village.”

“The government only wants us in an election period, but after elections, they don’t care. Now, wait till next year; they are going to be sweet to everyone because they know they need our votes,” she added.

Mr Musoke Nagenda, the chairman of the Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita), however, asked the vendors and hawkers to also stop selling and stay home in solidarity with the traders.

“The vendors, with time, are going to run out of stock and will end up going back to the village. They should stand with us until our concerns are addressed,” Mr Nagenda said.

“What affects us as the city traders directly affects them too. If they are not careful in the future, they will also be asked to pay Efris, and they will see the pain of that double tax,” he added.

Mr Musoke Nagenda, however, said they would only reopen the shops after meeting with the President and he agrees to stop some of the taxes.

Finance minister Matia Kasaija in a statement on Tuesday said his ministry would, within the next two weeks, study and consult on the proposal to increase the current VAT threshold and the VAT rates, and communicate the ministry’s position on the matter.

Source: Monitor

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