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Street Trading & Urban Governance

CUBES's consideration of street trading through research and advocacy derives from its Yeoville Studio project in 2010-2011. Different activities of that project focused on street trading in the neighborhood of Yeoville and attempted to develop, together with local stakeholders, a pilot project for integrated trading on its main street, Rockey Raleigh. The pilot project did not take off, but research expertise and capacity were developed, and strong relationships with street traders and traders’ organisations, specifically the South African National Traders and Retailers Alliance (SANTRA), were forged.

Since then, CUBES has been advocating for fair and participatory governmental processes through which street trading can be managed in Johannesburg, contributing research on models for effective management of street trade, and working on proposals for better spatial organization of pavement vending. CUBES has remained engaged in this conflict by helping to counter common misconceptions about street traders and the informal economy, demonstrating support for street traders and the families and communities whose livelihoods rely on their trade.

Street trading stall in the CBD.CUBES developed a research group on the informal economy with a specific focus on street trading, through staff and students research projects: on street traders’ livelihoods and spatial strategies; on street trading politics; on street trading policies; on a variety of sites and case studies. This research group occasionally supported street traders organisations in their policy engagements at municipal, provincial and national levels. A turning point for this research and advocacy came in November 2013, when the City of Johannesburg removed approximately 6 000 street traders from the sidewalks of the inner city (whether they were legally registered with the City or not) through Operation Clean Sweep.

CUBES wrote a letter protesting Operation Clean Sweep, and in February 2014 CUBES was approached by street traders organisations to assist in preparing a more informed position from which to negotiate with City authorities. Two key issues were considered: where should there be street trade in the inner city, and what management model(s) for street trading could be implemented?

From its position of research expertise and research support to traders, CUBES also contributed to a research project driven by Wits University in contract with the City of Johannesburg, called Alternative Formalities, Transnationalism/Translocalism, and Xenophobia (AFTRAX). CUBES contributed research on the importance of street trade as a specific sub-category of informal trade; international experiences of managing street trade, and innovative approaches from eThekwini and the Johannesburg inner city.

See the left hand menu for more information on research reports and publications, civic engagement on street trading, and associated staff members and students.