Street Sellers of Nairobi

Nairobi 01
Jimmy Kariuki sells hats on from his own bicycle in Mathare slums, Nairobi, Kenya Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Selling on the street, going from door to door, is one of the most common trades in the African world, in both the rural areas and the slums of the big cities. The slums are not only places of extreme survival: a more careful look at them reveals that they are hubs of self-generated, continuously expanding economies. The seller and his wares are an “indicator” of the consumption, the needs and even the whims of a community.

Those who sell on the streets of Mathare, a collection slums in Nairobi, Kenya, testify to the strength of collective desires that are not always as primitive as might be expected, revealing a consumerist need not unlike that in the rest of the world.

As a way to participate with the subject, each vendor answered the same list of questions regarding items sold, hours worked, money made per day, marital status and number of children, written below their portrait in a journal.

From their testimonies, we learn the many faces of the ground zero of the evolving African economy. 

Nairobi 02 Johnston Mutunga, 21, sells pesticides on the street of the Mathare and Kariobangi slums in Nairobi, making 2000 Kenyan shillings (approx. $23) per day. He wears a mouse hat to catch the attention of potential buyers Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 03 Peter Abok, 22, is a student and sells hot pots in the slums of Nairobi. He earns between 250 to 400 Kenyan shillings (KS) per day and half of the money goes to the Indian wholesaler Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 04 Ben sells sim cards for 100 KS each for a KenyanEnglish phone company. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 05 Daniel Ndunju, 24, sells stuffed animals using his bike along Juja road in Mathare slum. He makes 500 KS per day. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 06 Erastus Kamau, 27, he is a singer who sells his own music on CD in the streets. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 07 Peter Bonyface, sitting on his cart called a "kokoteni," sells water tanks for 20 shillings a tank, in Mathare slum, Eastleight area, Kariobangi in east Nairobi. He makes 360 KS per kokoteni. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 08 Lesiamon, 26 years old, from the Masai tribe sells herbal medicaments from the masai tradition in the slum of Nairobi, the plastic tank on his left hand contains a red syrup used to cure malaria. He sells it 20 Kenyan shillings a glass. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 09 William Thega, 24, sells ten minute camel rides for ten shillings per ride. He is not the owner of the animal and every day must give 300 shillings to the camel’s owner. His daily income is around 500 KS Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 10 George Nyonge sells lamp shades making about 1000 KS a day. He sells the shade at 500 but more than half of the money goes to the Indian dealer. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 11 Muraje Thionga sells homemade wooden spoons, brooms and straw baskets. He has 13 children. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 12 George Odongo, 19, sells second hand children’s clothing in Mathareslum north section in Nairobi. He earns 150 KS per day. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 13 Jack is a shoe shiner working in Huruma, a section of Mathare slum. For every pair of shoes he makes 150 KS. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 14 Josh Nyaga, 29, sells brooms in the Mathare slum. He makes 400 KS a day and has three children. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 15 David Otieno, 18, makes 400 KS a day by collecting plastic bottles in Korogocho, Dandora, Mathare slum. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 16 David, 18, and Mike, 19, sell used sneakers in the slums making nearly 3000 KS a day. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 17 Dan Ocko, 41, weighs customers on an old scale for 10 KS. He also sells used hangers and headphones that he likely found in the Dandora dumpsite. Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

Nairobi 18 John Wambuyo, 26, sells slices of watermelon and makes 10 KS per slice Filippo Romano/LUZ/Redux

View more work by Filippo Romano on his website.

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