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The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  • Contesting the Streets
  • Volume 18, Number 1
  • Managing Editor: Mark D. Shroder
  • Associate Editor: Michelle P. Matuga

Informal Trade Meets Informal Governance: Street Vendors and Legal Reform in India, South Africa, and Peru

Sally Roever
Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing


Street vendors conventionally are understood as operating outside of state regulatory frameworks. Recent research, however, has emphasized the role of the state in constructing vendors’ informal status and has documented local government practices that take advantage of an ambiguous legal environment for vendors. These practices include low-level harassment, merchandise confiscations, and arbitrary evictions. This article examines the regulatory spaces through which local government officials have developed these informal practices and documents the extent to which street vendors and market traders experience them in five cities: Accra, Ghana; Ahmedabad, India; Durban, South Africa; Lima, Peru; and Nakuru, Kenya. The article then identifies three components of legal reform used in Ahmedabad, Durban, and Lima to counter those practices: (1) establishing limits on municipal power, (2) linking street vending to poverty alleviation, and (3) establishing channels for street vendors’ representation. The findings suggest ways in which cities can more effectively balance the right to livelihood with the need to govern public space.

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