Street Vendors Initiative

Partners: EIPR, Cairo Governorate, Street Vendor Union/Association

Location: Downtown, Cairo, Egypt

Date: September 2012 – ongoing

View Street Vendors Initiative time lapse video

The question of street vending has been at the center of controversy and heated debate, raising fundamental questions with respect to who has the right to the city and public space, and who gets to make decisions regarding their control and use. Street Vendors Initiative critically engages the issue of street vendors downtown, and aims at developing strategies and proposals for pilot areas that would address the needs and aspirations of the multiple users and stakeholders in downtown streets and public spaces.

Working in collaboration with other organizations to help street vendors to unionize, the research team aims at developing approaches to engage multiple constituencies, including: shop owners, residents, developers, drivers, women’s right groups as well as traffic and municipal authorities, heritage protection agencies, and street vendors themselves. These meetings are expected to mediate the often-conflicting interests and priorities of such diverse groups, and help negotiate the contested public space.

Since October 2011, CLUSTER have been documenting the condition and process of street vendors’ use of streets and sidewalks in downtown Cairo, including their typology, uses, range of merchandise, boundaries and tools of demarcation. In addition we have been documenting the relationship between the vendors and shop fronts, on the one hand, and street and parking lanes, on the other. In this context, we have also been monitoring the multiple attempts by the local municipality to remove and relocate street vendors, documenting recurring confrontations, followed by a return to business as usual.

To date, CLUSTER has hosted a number of meetings with street vendors and related stakeholders, experimenting with physical models and other tools to spatially engage alternative scenarios that would mediate the competing interests of the multiple stakeholders within the downtown area.