The standoff between the Council and hawkers regarding area of trading could finally reach a mutual compromise. This newly achieved sweet spot is the result of an innovation introduced by a local advertising, branding and communications company called Blind Vision.
The hawkers and the Council’s relationship carries a long standing record of disagreements over the hawkers’s make shift operating structures from which they sold their wares which the Council on the other hand argued gave such locations an unattractive look. The Council serves as a governing body responsible for keeping a clean and appealing environment as part of its administration duty; hence it views the haphazard ‘table under umbrella’ set up by hawkers a contradiction of their responsibility. The hawkers represent a significant share of the informal sector which is generally characterized by businesses without a formal place of operation due to their inconsistent and inadequate revenue generation. This presents a challenge given that on the one hand one party has the responsibility to maintain a clean, safe and appealing environment and on the other another party has to ensure through whatever means possible a way to make a living and ensure survival.
Blind Vision introduced into the market a marketing strategy which not only gives the informal sector a professional image but also serves as an advertisement space for companies. It launched what it calls a cubishop, which is a cube shelter made up of an easily self assemble and dismantle steel frame with polyester material from which the walls and roofs serve as advertising space. Speaking to the Telegragh, Blind Vision Director Andrie Mokopakgosi said that the Council approved solution is currently at a pilot stage for a period of 12 months which depending on its uptake by those it is intended for will expand into other regions outside Gaborone. Gaborone was chosen for the trial phase given that it is the country’s biggest economic hub where the majority of companies are based. Mokopakgosi said hawkers’s areas of trade will have “an aesthetically pleasing clean appearance through the cubishop as a trade shelter.” He pointed out that such areas give companies the opportunity to achieve brand visibility in densely populated pedestrian paths, a space he said works for the benefit of the companies when they want to launch new products/services, campaigns and also those who look to derive brand exposure. “We have a limited enrollment of only 60 cubishops at the main mall for our first phase and must give Haskins and Clover Botswana for being the early birds and for the support respectively,” he said. Mokopakgosi added that the hawkers gain free access to the cubishops through the Thusanang Bagwebi Association which they are members of, whom together with Blind Vision will be custodians of the shelters.
The Association’s Public Relations Officer Kagiso Masupane told this publication that they have wholeheartedly welcomed the initiative by Blind Vision, mentioning that the approval by Council is an indication that a reciprocal working relationship with government can going forward be forged. This, he said, abates the pressure of hawkers as they can sell their wares without the fear of the Council uprooting them from their areas of trade. He also said that it will keep areas of trade in a clean and pleasing state. He anticipates that the initiative will in time grow to accommodate more members of the Association but however expressed that the initial reception is encouraging.