Written by DFP Liberia staff
Is it common in your country, or does it even happen where you live? Well, my country, Liberia is in a state of recovery after experiencing 14 years of civil unrest; a conflict which greatly devastated the land and caused serious economic hardship for its citizens. However, life must go on no matter what happens. Citizens are striving to rebuild their lives using every means possible to do so. Street selling is one of the means through which many common Liberians are sustaining themselves and their families.
For the average Liberians, finding daily bread is a major priority. Both the government and the private sectors cannot afford to provide jobs for everyone, so the majority of the citizens are resolved to carry on petty businesses just to survive. Some return to the bush to make farms, while others end up in professional fields where they create jobs for themselves. In whatever way, everyone is just busy trying to find a means of living.
Why street selling?
There are several reasons why people engage in street selling. Let us consider a few common reasons.
1. Generally, the idea is to sell and make some money for livelihood sustainability.
2. There are too many sellers in market places and competition seems very high there.
3. Many working persons and other commuters traveling in cars on their way home or to work which causes them to not have enough time to stop at shops and markets to buy needed items, so they buy these items from street sellers.
4. Liberia, as a Third World nation, doesn’t have the capacity to set up market places and keep all business persons in particular zones to sell their commodities.
Street sellers analyze very well the kinds of goods to sell before they hit the streets, knowing well what customers buy most. Traffic jammed situations are the greatest opportunity for street sellers. When cars slow down or a red light lingers on, they take their chances and move swiftly between cars to advertise their commodities. Most passengers become interesting in buying their products when faced with nothing to do but wait for the green light or traffic to thin down. Some of the many items they sell are as follow: sweets, some energy food stuff, cold water, bread, food carrier and many other basic household items that passengers can easily carry.
The danger associated
Competition amongst many sellers creates situations where they are forced to rush between cars trying to get ahead of their competitors. Sometimes they fail to notice oncoming cars, thus endangering their lives. Because commuters don’t park alongside the road or disembark their vehicles to buy, the sellers are most times seen standing in the middle of the street. When they stand in the middle of road, they create a condition that gives them easy and quick access to their customers, but puts their lives at risk every day. They also risk the loss of their goods. If any of the items fall to the ground in front of an oncoming car, there would be a high possibility of it being damaged by the car, and it could lead to profit loss.
Under age children involved
Amazingly, children as young as 10 years of age are even involved in street selling, a situation which endangers their lives and deprives them their chance to attend school. This is a child labor issue. Government and world organizations concerned with children protection need to do something about this. What do we think about their parents? Is it that these children don’t have parents? This is not the case, they have parents, but their parents cannot afford to provide for them, so they become bread winners to buttress their parent’s efforts. The underlined factor that greatly contributes to children involvement in street selling is “Poverty”.
While street selling remains a source of income generation for many, it on the other hand creates an embarrassing situation for many as well. Over crowdedness of market places has resulted in too many sellers taking up spaces on the road in an effort to attract many buyers and thus denying many people and cars free passage. In some places like Red light and Duala in Liberia, streets are blocked by street sellers. If you were to pass though these areas during the very busy market hours, you would hardly find your way through the busy crowd.
The police have the constitutional power to ensure that the streets are cleared for free passage, but they are finding it very difficult to do so. They chase sellers out of the street on a daily basis, but all their efforts seem fruitless as the situation remains unchanged. Every time they try to run sellers off the street, the sellers resurface soon after the police turn their backs. Police have applied measures by taking custody of the seller’s goods many times; this still doesn’t help the situation. The police and these sellers are like playing a run around game; it, many times, is very dramatic.
The government and its partners need to strategize by building market places where all business persons can have the opportunity to buy and sell their products. This will help to reduce the work load on the police and create conditions under which citizens can have free movement in congested market places.
Front Photo: Market on the Street, taken by DFP Liberia