Cameroon – Street Markets: Hindrance or gain?

By Cameroon Shout-Africa Correspondent – Inadequate flow of traffic and secondary roads in Douala are in some places caused by street markets, but consumers talk of the proximity advantage.

Street markets are patronised for their proximity

Street markets are patronised for their proximity

Recurrent controversies on collecting taxes and certain council dues from business men and women selling in unauthorized marketplaces such as along the streets in Douala, termed by city council officials as “spontaneous markets” is in itself an issue that should be trashed out completely. Hawkers at Congo Market recently complained against Douala City Council (DCC) consideration of a stretch of the market as “unauthorized”, wants them to quit, but yet collecting dues from them. Earlier in January before the 2011 Fiscal Law went into effect, it caused Dr. Fritz Ntone Ntone a seminar organized by the traders’ trade union to sponsor calm among the business community following disconcerting voices from the traders.

However, the debacle that took place between the street market vendors and city council authorities in the past became of such importance that the opening up of new markets and a satisfactory resettlement of traders and hawkers never ceased to call on the council to create new markets. Douala is a city in which issues seem volatile, according to past experiences. Therefore tackling verging on traders whose businesses may be the only source of contribution to their family pantry is one that needs a cool-headed approach. Furthermore, Johnson, a trader in the street market at Congo, said recent DCC warnings on the closure of street markets seem to be provoking a wave of disquieting voices which until a few years ago, many were happy to ignore. Julia Ngam, hawker in Sandaga, likened the situation in her street market to a landlord who ironically continues to collect rents from a tenant he considers illegally settling in his house.

Street market is among the oldest open-air public markets in the cities ofCameroon, particularlyDouala,Yaounde, Bamenda and Bafoussam. Each time the markets were closed in the past alternative markets were opened in choice places by municipal councils, even before government delegates were appointed in Cameroon. But some important monetary losses always resulted from the closure of a street market followed by a serious downward turn on the informal economy. First, some vendors of closed markets were forced out of their ventures, the key frustration being that they found nowhere to sell their goods. “Street markets are good because they are nearer to our homes,” Said Cecile, a consumer. Nonetheless, a city council official, who refused to be named, marvelled at how quick the sellers have forgotten DCC’s necessity of keeping streets wide and large and the overcrowding along the streets and pollution street markets have brought to their neighbourhoods.