Traders urged to take up stalls at deserted Diani Market
It's spanking new, has basic amenities, and boasts enough space to accommodate over 4,000 traders.
But no one wants to do anything with the newly opened Diani Market in Kwale County, with a majority of the traders allocated spaces there giving the facility a wide berth.
It’s an issue that’s worrying county officials and they are now urging allottees to take up their spaces in order for businesses to pick up at the market.
Ms Mary Mutua is among those who have heeded the call. She sits under a shade at her stall which is brimming with vegetables waiting for customers.
“I have not sold much this morning. I was hoping that we could get more customers but we are yet to. We are not getting enough customers,” she tells Nation. She moved here from her makeshift stall near the Ukunda Showground at Mvindeni on the Likoni-Lungalunga highway three weeks ago following exhortations by county officials.
Unlike her, many traders have shied away from the market that was opened on March 2. A concrete wall has been constructed around the open field. An office and washrooms are the only permanent structures.
“I wish we had proper sheds. Now it is almost 10 am and my vegetables are wilting under the scorching sun,” says Ms Mutua.
Diani Market Traders Chairperson Raphael Muli says only a quarter of the market has been occupied, making it difficult for traders who are already there to do business.
“Although we are receiving customers, many still prefer to buy the things near the road as they head home. That is where we were, but as we relocated, some of the traders chose not to move," he says. Traders, he adds, were given two weeks to prepare for a relocation in February. But most decided to stay put, gaining an unfair advantage over colleagues who decided to give up their spots along the highway for the incomplete market.
“We understand that the market is incomplete and this may be a challenge to some of the traders. But since the county government has communicated that it will continue with the construction then we shall wait,” he says. It is a sentiment Diani Municipality Manager Hamisi Mwandaro fully supports, saying, the purpose of relocating the traders before the market was complete was to pave way for the expansion of the highway.
Those who have refused to move, he warns, will be evicted and have nowhere to go.
“We are still in the first phase of construction whereby we are putting up stalls. This will take some time but we thought that as the process continues the traders can still occupy the incomplete market,” he says.
Mr Mwandaro adds that the market has basic amenities such as washrooms and offices. It also has security lights and guards to ensure that the trader’s goods are safe overnight.
Furthermore, Mr Mwandaro points out, the county government was negotiating with owners of big hotels and other businesses in Ukunda and Diani to buy fresh produce and other items from the official market rather than from those still selling along the road.