Photography by:
  • GCRO

Street trader organisations in policy processes

Street trading is a highly contested economic activity in cities of the global south. This is mainly due to different interests and discourses by officials and other stakeholders such as formal businesses. These interests are in most cases contradictory resulting in disjuncture between initiatives of job creation and poverty alleviation encouraged mainly by national government and the management and maintenance of streets by local governments, where approaches tend to be restrictive. The restrictive nature of policies and implementation practices has led to collective action and mobilisation of street traders in an effort to influence these processes.

The project investigates the role and influence of street trader organisations on policy processes and practice through a comparative study between the Gauteng City-Region metropolitan municipalities (Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni) as well as Ahmedabad in India. The project investigates a number of dynamics including: the history of mobilisation of street traders; street trader leadership and representation, encounters between street trader leadership and the state and the systems of trading space allocation.

This project also forms the basis for the project lead’s PhD project. A number of academic articles are being drafted as part of the project including “Losing battles and winning the war? Street traders’ influence on policy making in India” (submitted to Journal of Asian and African Studies); “Acting like the state: Participation of leaders in street trade management in the GCR” (Practices of the State in Urban Governance book project) and “From the margins of the state to quasi state bureaucrats: the shifting nature of street trader leaders’ agency in Tshwane, South Africa” (The question of Agency in African Studies book project with University of Naples “L’Orientale”). These papers have been presented at various local and international platforms. The project lead also made considerable progress drafting the PhD thesis for examination during the course of 2020 under the supervision of Dr Richard Ballard and Prof. Claire Benit-Gbaffou. A photo essay based on the idea of ‘street economies’ is currently being put together based on some of the material from fieldwork.



Mamokete Matjomane (September 2020) ‘Acting like the state: Leaders’ participation in street trade management in Gauteng municipalities’, Southern African Cities Studies Conference, Online, 4 September 2020.

Mamokete Matjomane (August 2020) ‘Interrogating the “township economies” concept in the Gauteng context’, Southern African Cities Studies Conference, Online, 31 August 2020.

Mamokete Matjomane (November 2019) 'The impact of international migrants on the Gauteng informal economy', GPGDED Policy Dialogue, The Reef Hotel, 20 November 2019.

Mamokete Matjomane (October 2019) ‘Manifestations of street trader leaders’ agency in the Gauteng city region. International Doctoral Workshop, Procida Italy. 4 October 2019.

Mamokete Matjomane (September 2019) 'Acting like the state? Trader leaders' participation in street trade management in Gauteng municipalities', SoAP PhD Symposium, Wits University, 13 September 2019.

Mamokete Matjomane (August 2019) ‘Acting like the state? Street trader leaders’ participation in street trade management’. Royal Geographical Society International Conference, London. 28 August 2019.

Mamokete Matjomane (May 2019) 'Regulation and Mainstreaming of the Informal Economy'. Good Governance Africa Informal Economy Convening Panel. 16 May 2019.

Mamokete Matjomane (November 2018) ‘The politics of informal trader representation’. Practices of the State in Urban Governance Seminar. 2 November 2018.

Mamokete Matjomane (September 2018) ‘The role and influence of informal trader organisations in policy and practice’, School of Architecture and Planning PhD Symposium, Wits University. 27 September 2018.

Mamokete Matjomane (June 2018) ‘Losing battles and winning the war? Street traders’ influence on policy-making in India, Practices of the State in Urban Governance International Workshop, Wits University, 6 June 2018

Mamokete Matjomane (May 2017) Panel titled 'What would "just" governance of street trading look like in Johannesburg?'. Spatial Justice Round table. Wits University. 15 May 2017.

Mamokete Matjomane (April 2017) 'The Politics of 'The Piles': contestations of street trading on De Villiers Street'. Taking Streets Seriously Symposium. Wits University, Sturrock Park. 5 April 2017.

Last updated: 7 October 2020.


The GCRO sends out regular news to update subscribers on our research and events.