Business / Economics

Juba hawkers maintain their families despite challenges and unsustainability

By Christina Nyalel and Elijah Akuei

South Sudan’s five years old civil war alongside a depleting economy, lack of job opportunities and salaries for government workers has pushed the most vulnerable population off the edge, and many have resorted to street businesses to keep their families.

Besides a long line of umbrella vendors in bus parks and the roads, hawkers around the city trail the scorching sun from dawn to dusk to sell small scale goods like fruits, sweets and other items at a relatively small interest, At the end of each day, many of them end up making more than just enough money to put food on the table for their families.

The MDI Journal recently went into the streets to listen to the fascinating stories of the hawkers.

Ramadhan Kasozi, bags salesman said they started this work after they were motivated by Late Dr. John Garang de Mabior to come to Southern Sudan by then to help them build better New Sudan in 2005. “I have been here ever since.”

“I started selling mosquito nets, by bringing my own merchandise from Uganda and selling them in South Sudan at a reasonable price. It is very important for me to support my family being the breadwinner, and paying the school fees and accommodation,” Kasozi stated.

He added that there are challenges in doing this work and these include being robbed by gangsters which means ending the day a little bit early for safety purposes.

Victoria Rofani, a fruit seller said that she is doing this kind of job to support her children since she is a single parent, adding that she earns a thousand South Sudanese Pounds per day, that’s barely enough for her and her family’s upkeep.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Kenyi, a seller of clothes said, “The reason why I am doing this work is because life is hard and nobody is paying my school fees because I am supposed to be in school but am not.”

“I decided to do business so that I can save some money and by next year I will be going to school again,” Kenyi said.

He added that the profit ranges between a thousand to 3,000 South Sudanese Pounds per day on a good day and it depends on the goods. The challenge is he said sometimes one doesn’t get customers and moving the long distances door to door in the sun is so difficult and also the language barrier. He explained further, “Sometimes I can meet with a customer who doesn’t know Arabic or English so it’s hard to communicate with him or her.”

Another hawker, Lasu Joseph, is 18 years old and deals in cosmetic said he started the work three months ago. “The issue of school fees was the reason why I started doing this work,” he said. With the income he gets from the sale he started to support his parents in their daily expenditure.

Lasu disclosed that there are people who are taxing them illegally and forcing them to pay material in case they don’t have money.

“Getting a shop to operate from alone is very hectic because of the rent and the taxes imposed by the City Council. These taxes are supposed to be for the established businesses but we are just starting out and we are not looking to make profits we just want to get our daily bread,” Lasu lamented.

Mambo Ashraf, belts seller from Uganda who came to South Sudan in July 2019. He operates in Konyo-konyo and Custom areas and said he needs money so much so that he can continue with his education back home.

He said that he can get approximately 1,500 South Sudanese Pounds as daily profit. “The challenges that we are facing are threats and attacks from street criminals who make us to close business early in the day,” he added,

“My apply to the general public on behalf of my fellow hawkers is that they have to understand our situation, It is not that we don’t want white collar jobs like the rest of the people, but we all have to start somewhere,” Mambo concluded.

However, attempts to reach the authority in charge to give clarifications on some of the issues raised by the hawkers such as levying of unnecessary taxes on them and lack of protection from the street gangsters were not successful.

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