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  • Beyond associations

    2020. Lennert Jongh. Journal of Eastern African Studies 14 (3), 455-472


    Collective organizing represents one way in which street and market vendors in urban sub-Saharan Africa advocate their interests and strive towards more inclusive urban policies. Several studies have shown both the opportunities vendors associations may have for vendors as well as their pitfalls. This paper contributes to this discussion by addressing how vendors have used the platforms of a national organization of vendors associations to develop support networks across space of importance for their daily work. Through conducting semi-structured interviews with vendors and vendor representatives in Zambia, this paper examines these connections that have emerged between individual vendors located in different urban areas in Zambia. The paper adopts an assemblage approach to show the work that is needed, and how different social and material aspects are involved in the production of these connections. The results indicate that vendors rely on these connections in their everyday lives to discuss challenges and solutions related to their working environments and to explore business opportunities, and that mobile phones contribute to these new emerging spaces for self-organization. Results are discussed through relating these assemblages of vendors to the spaces organized and managed by vendors associations.

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  • The “Gray Spacing” of Market Vendors and Their Associations and Vendors’ Collective Agency in the Zambian City of Kitwe

    2020. Lennert Jongh. Urban Forum


    Market vendors are often marginalized in urban spaces—they may be harassed, face threats to their workplace security, or lack opportunities to influence urban policy-making. Associations of market vendors have been identified as a potential means to represent vendors’ interests, offering vendors possibilities to improve their working conditions. Fieldwork has been conducted in 2013, 2016, and 2018 to understand the struggles of market vendors and those of their associations in the Zambian city of Kitwe. The paper explores how both market vendors and their associations are positioned in a “gray space” between legality and illegality, unaware if their existence will be approved or sanctioned by the (local) government. The paper argues that the “gray space” in which many market vendors are positioned is a consequence of a lack of suitable alternative and more secure marketspaces. Associations are considered in relation to the political environment in which they operate and their future existence is particularly threatened by a regulation criminalizing them. Not only has this led to the abolishment of a well-known association, but it has also protected some associations whereas others are sidelined. Findings indicate that “gray spacing” and the accompanied changes in the associations jeopardize market vendors’ efforts to organize more autonomously and have isolated their struggles from attempts to organize all informal economy workers under a Zambian umbrella association.

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