LAM welcomes Nathan KARIUKI as an associate member
Further to his successfull defence in December 2022, Nathan KARIUKI was rewarded the title of Doctor of Bordeaux Montaigne University.
He also integrates LAM as an associate member for two years.
What topics do your research generally focus on ?
My research topic for my thesis was Metropolisation from Below: Street vending flows in Kenya. I narrowed this down to expound on What street vending is all about; The Metropolisation of secondary town which in this case was Thika town found about 40km North East of Nairobi the capital of Kenya.
It explores the rivalries of power for access to streets, private appropriation of public spaces, and streets as economic and political resources. The rivalries are not only between the hawkers and the local authorities but also between market traders who claim the right to the City of Thika. The movement of street vendors from other towns to Thika has increased the tension with the local traders.
During their mobility and livelihood diversification, street vendors interact with various actors and face the policies, practices and discourses that affect their activities.
What main research questions/issues could you solve during this PHD ?
i) To determine the extent to which street vending flow contributes to Metropolisation and the linkage between Thika town and its hinterland.
ii) To find out how regulation of street trading affects Metropolisation and the linkage between Thika town and its hinterland.
iii) To find out the actors in this street vendors’ flow, their contributions to Metropolisation, and the linkage between Thika town and its hinterland.
I was able to bring into focus some of the major actors involved in street vending flows and their contribution to these activities. The regulatory framework was also analyzed and how it affects street vending together with different flows of goods, people and information from rural areas and the city to the secondary town
What difficulties did you encounter ?
One of the major challenges occurred during the acquisition of the research permits. The researcher had to obtain three permits which took a lot of time during their acquisition.
– The first permit was obtained from the NACOSTI-National commission for science technology and innovation.
– The second one was to be received from the national government under the Ministry of Interior and coordination of the National government, which the county commissioner in Kiambu County represents.
– The third permit was to be obtained from the office of the Kiambu governor.
Thus, the three permits were received at different intervals between January and the end of February 2020, having applied for them in December 2019. The data collection was delayed because he had to wait for them before embarking on data collection, especially in the Sub-county offices of Thika.
The second major challenge came in March of 2020 when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in Kenya. Therefore most of the Key informants who were to be interviewed, especially in the Government offices, were forced to work from home according to the orders from the Ministry of Health. The researcher had to mitigate this by use of telephone interviews which were quite expensive. The other challenge was experienced when the Nairobi metropolitan was put under lockdown.
Traders and street vendors from Murang’a and other neighboring towns could not access Thika town, so it was a challenge to interview them.
Then the worst part was when a 7 pm curfew was imposed, affecting most street vendors who normally trade in the evening. Therefore with the curtailed movement to Thika town and the imposition of curfew, the researcher had to reorganize his schedule.
The third challenge came when some interviews had to be abandoned halfway, especially with the County Askaris. Some demanded that for the interview to continue, the researcher had to give them some money so that the Askaris could continue providing more information.
The fourth challenge of interviewing street vendors in their working places when they were busy serving their customers. Some street vendors were willing to be interviewed; however, this was at the same time customers were being done, and therefore, there was a lot of interference.
Lastly, some street vendors were a bit suspicious of the researcher, who they thought was a County Askaris or was from the Criminal Investigation Department, and therefore unwilling to cooperate. It took the researcher some time to create rapport with the traders, especially with the assistance of the leaders of the street vendor’s Association. The interview with the bank officials was also a bit challenging because the banks were not willing to give all the information about their customers or operations.
How helpful this PHD will be for you ?
I really want to share this information with the various actors that I interviewed especially the Government, leaders of street vendors and Non-Governmental organisations so that the voice of the informal workers can be heard loud and clear. In summary i want to undertake consultancy on matters Urban space and small business
Secondly i want to teach at the University in Kenya or outside Kenya. This has been one of the motivation behind pursuing a PhD
Where does this interest in your research / doing a PHD come from ?
The issue of street vending has become an interesting area of research in Kenya. Manufacturing has been going down in most parts of Kenya and therefore street vending becomes an alternative. It is this motivation by many Kenyans to survive and go into street vending that made me interested in studying the activity at higher level.
Therefore I had an interest to know where they get their goods and how they survive the onslaught from County government and other formal traders. I also wanted to broaden my scope as far as teaching is concerned (teaching at tertiary level) and also undertake consultancy. This forced me to take a Phd which could allow me to widen my scope.
As said earlier teaching is a calling, and i have been teaching in High school for the last 20 years. After earning my Doctorate I now want to teach at the University or any other institution of higher learning in Kenya or any other part of the world
What advice would you give other LAM PHD students?
My advice is for them to remain consistent and resilient in their studies because Phd is a journey. There will be a lot of distractions along the way but they should remain resilient and persistent. They should also develop self-discipline in their studies.