A recent paper by Dr Eghosa Igudia explores the demand side of street vending, using data from Lagos state, Nigeria. The paper was shortlisted for the Urban Studies 2020 best paper award.
Street vending has become an increasingly common feature of urban centres for several decades, with a relatively high proportion of developing countries’ populations depending on it for employment, income or survival. Taking a supply-side approach, studies have shown that the responses of urban planners to street vending have followed the modernism theory. In this paper, a demand-side (buyer-focused) approach is taken to studying street vending, which has received little attention to date from the academic community.
Employing data from Lagos state, Nigeria, the paper reports four explanations underpinning the demand side of street vending: formal economy failures, social/redistributive explanations, financial gains and a multifeature explanation. These are, in turn, explained by the marital status, level of education and perception of individuals.
The multiple factors reported in this study highlight the need for pragmatic policies to tackle street vending. A one-size-fits-all and extreme policy such as banning/criminalising vending represents a suboptimal and unstable equilibrium. Therefore, policy makers should ‘consult’ with, rather than ‘confront’, street vendors, accommodating and allowing them to co-exist with the formal sector. One way of doing this is to ensure an honest, open and continuous dialogue between policy makers, street vendors and their patrons.
Moreover, policy makers should facilitate an environment that encourages all citizens to achieve their full economic potential, and not criminalise those going about their legitimate business. This can be achieved by ensuring policy consistency, redefining or reclassifying what they recognise as ‘informal activity’, by deregulating the sector to allow informal economy/street vending to exist as an ‘incubator’ for business start-ups or by creating a vending drive-through market. However policy makers approach this challenge, individuals participating in both the demand and supply side of vending should have the resources and opportunities to achieve their full economic potential.