Confessions of an Informal Profession

Mwari is a 30-something year old petite woman with a three year old child. Her only means of communication is through a mulika mwizi (basic cell phone) held together by rubber bands and constant prayer. Every Wednesday and Friday, Mwari makes a two-hour trip one-way to my home to wash and iron my clothes, and clean my home. Without her, my life would turn into chaos as the time she saves me is immeasurable compared to what she asks for as her salary. Mwari also does not have a national ID, and neither does she have a formal education. 

Mwari is a member of Kenya's informal sector that makes up close to 83% of the entire employed population. Over 15 million Kenyans actively earn a wage in a number of unregistered professions, as this section of the economy is neither taxed nor formally monitored by any form of government, sporting an industry-wide increase of about 6% each year.

The Knickknack Specialist
The Everything Dealer
The Vegetable Vendor
The Bed Linen Packman
The Construction Crew

According to Kenya's 2016 Economic Survey, this sector has continually played a key role in the economy, covering unregulated activities that utilize simple technologies and do not require higher education. Many of these employment activities include mitumba (used-clothing) sellers, boda-boda or piki piki (scooter) riders, fruit and vegetable vendors, small-scale transporters and many others.

The Marginally Puzzled Mechanic
The Food Merchants
The Travel Purveyor
The Dauntless Lumberjack
The Transporter

And on any given day, one can find a multitude of these individuals displaying their wares on the road side for any discerning customer to buy. From roasted maize vendors and furniture makers to cobblers and kinyozi (road-side barbers), you can literally find solutions to your every need.

The Fruit Trader
The Greenskeepers
The Milk Agent
The Two-wheeled Taxicab
The Botanist
The Maize Peddler
The Conversation Starter

It is these men and women that you encounter as you take a walk or drive through the streets of this country who are the main drivers of the Kenyan economy. Their ubiquitous work feeds into the pulse of everyday life across the country and while no formal accolades are thrown their way, shedding light on their contributions should be a frequent exercise.

The Nanny
The Daily Encourager

The Water Supplier

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