Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Fez and the Street Vendor Invasion

Fez is experiencing an increase in the number of street vendors. The problem has grown to the point where locals and shopkeepers are calling for action from the authorities

The problem is particularly severe in the narrow streets of the Medina, where all kinds of goods and food are on sale by vendors: clothes, appliances, fruits and vegetables and sometimes fish.

As one shop owner complained "In short, the city is being transformed into a giant open-air hypermarket".

"We need local authorities, and elected councils, in collaboration with civil society, find a solution to this phenomenon in order to ensure the safety and cleanliness of the city," said a city official.

The issue is not new and, as The View From Fez reported back in 2011, the government has long recognised the urgent need for a solution.
"We must accept that we now need a new approach to integrate these people better into the formal sector," Trade Minister Ahmed Reda Chami told legislators in May 2011."We need to create and set up new markets and spaces, but we also need to involve other departments, such as the interior ministry, and local authorities," Chami said. 
Economic Affairs Minister Nizar Baraka said that the Moroccan government is paying particular attention to the issue and that help is on the horizon: "The main thing is to bring about a transition from the informal to the formal sector, that's what needs to happen." A study commissioned by the Ministry of Trade revealed that Morocco now has 238,000 street vendors, 90% of whom are men. And since some 70% of them never went beyond the primary level in school, their employment options are limited. The government report's recommendations will be implemented soon, Trade Minister Chami said in June 2011. The aim, he said, is to integrate street vendors into the formal sector in order to improve their standard of living.

Sadly, little seems to have changed in the subsequent years.

Thorny, complex, and difficult ... the street vendor issue could even be described as "unmanageable".

Elected officials and authorities are reported to have rejected responsibility for the management of urban space. The daily Le Economiste reports that the control of urban space has become "politicised" since the recent municipal elections. Yet, according to Councillor Said El Janati, the new mayor of the city, Driss Azami El Idrissi "has devoted a billion francs (10 million dirhams) to improve the lot of street vendors."

In the Medina ,the main access to the new R'cif square, built at a cost of some 30 million dirhams, has been invaded by what locals describe as "hawkers, beggars and vagabonds".

Last Thursday Essaid Zniber, the Wali of the  Fez-Meknes region, visited the R'cif area and saw for himself the the inconvenience caused by the hawkers. In the Sbitriyyine neighbourhood, close to Dar Lazrek, a vendor was selling oil-grilled sardines, producing a smell so strong that it pervaded much of the Chemmaîine tourist circuit and the main access to the Quaraouiyine Mosque. Of even more concern was that the vendor was using a gas cylinder in the street, next to an electricity substation and amid shops that contained flammable glues and paint thinners.

The situation is not much different in Bab El Sid Awwad where an entire family sells sandwiches and snails to visitors to the Medina. When asked by an enforcement officer to move away, a female member of the family threatened to set herself on fire in protest. Faced with such threats, the authorities say they are hamstrung.

In Fez, the small itinerant traders have spread through all districts and challenge the formal traders, setting up their stalls in front of shops. Businessmen say many areas of the city of Fez (as everywhere in other cities) have been taken over by informal trade. Essaada, Narjisse, Talâa, Imam Ali,
Florence Avenues Hassan II and Mohammed V are all places "infested" by this social phenomenon. Currently, improvised souks are being created on the main streets, in front of houses, shops, schools, and mosques.

In the neighbourhoods of Monte Fleuri, Al Atlass, or in Bab Ftouh,  the vendors on public roads are causing dangerous conditions for pedestrians, vehicles and motorists.  For many observers, the organisation of street vendors is a critical need.

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richard lawson said...

Sandy welcome home! Is there EVER going to be any public accountability for the stratospheric figures you quote? I accept that 'envelopes' are ingrained in the culture, but 10 million Dirhams 'devoted' to improving the lot of street vendors is simply a LIE and cannot be justified. It's pure robbery.

Eva said...

It is the same in Tetouan. Street vendors are more and more every day.