Accepted Paper:

Street trade and friendship in Moshi, Tanzania  


Katrijn Asselberg (IARA / KU Leuven)

Paper short abstract:

Based on fieldwork carried out on the bus stand of Moshi, Tanzania, I examine the role of friendships in young street traders’ lives. More in particular, this paper focuses on friendship as an alternative resource of support in dealing with the challenges and enabling the opportunities of urban life.

Paper long abstract:

For many young people who migrate from rural to urban areas in search for a better or a different life, the street trade is one of the few possible avenues. Being a street trader is not only a means to provide in their daily needs, but becomes as much, if not more, a way to gain access to the opportunities of urban life they aspire to. In their striving for economic success and the social mobility that ensues, however, young street vendors are confronted with a number of obstacles, as municipal authorities enforce strict prohibitions on street trade. Whereas young street traders move and act with goals and hopes, after much struggle and effort they often have to face the fact that they are back at square one. Large, collective organizations have proven relatively unsuccessful in changing this. In this paper, then, I examine how friendship comes into play in this as a way to deal with these difficulties. Based on fieldwork among young street traders on the bus stand of Moshi, Tanzania, I study the varied ways in which friendship is invoked, used and understood in this context, illustrating the complexity of the notion in an uncertain environment. Through the help and support it generates, as well as through the sense of belonging young people find among their friends, friendship becomes an alternative resource that helps them to get a grip on their lives and future.

Panel P165
Novel spaces for African youth: creativity, entrepreneurship and political action