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Making a living on the street

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92% of Egypt’s 5 million street vendors operate without a license

By Menna Zaki

At 15, Mahmoud already has six years of work experience under his belt, selling flowers on a street corner in Zamalek. He doesn’t have a permit to sell on the street, and once spent a couple of days jail.

“I don’t know what else to do,” he said.

An occupation without an age limit, street vending is increasing in Egypt, as the unemployment level approaches 14%, according to a recent survey from The Federation of Economic Development Association in Egypt. Ninety-two percent of vendors, like Mahmoud, aren’t licensed.

Mohamed, a street fruit vendor in sixth of October in his mid thirties who has been selling fruits in the same place for more than a year, said he set up shop on the street because he doesn’t have the money to pay rent. He worries about the dangers of selling without a license, but he has tried pleading to the authorities for authorization to no avail.

Street vendors range in age from 17-years-old  to 75, according to the report, which surveyed workers in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Port Said, and Minya governorates.

The majority of street vendors are under the age of 40, with the highest concentration of child labor in Giza.

FEDA recommended the state help maintain the rights of street vendors using a regulatory framework. The establishment of a fixed place for vendors to sell their goods will provide them with more stability and help them expand their business which eventually adds to the state’s revenue, according to the report.

FEDA argued that a street vendor is also a citizen that should be allowed proper work that generates money.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb announced in June, however, that the interior ministry is planning to intensify forces to remove street vendors from the streets.


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