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Title: Informal vending and the state in Kampala, Uganda
Author: Young, Graeme William
ISNI:       0000 0004 7228 5957
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis examines how the agency of informal vendors in Kampala, Uganda, is shaped by the state. It argues that efforts by the President and the NRM to monopolize political power have dramatically restricted the agency of informal street and market vendors, forcing them to adapt to changing political circumstances in ways that have limited their ability to participate in urban development and economic life. This argument is presented through two examples of how expanding political control has led to a contraction of vendors’ agency. The first of these describes how the early decentralization and democratization reforms introduced by the NRM allowed street vendors to take advantage of competition between newly elected and empowered politicians to remain on the city’s streets, and how the central government’s subsequent recentralization and de-democratization of political power in Kampala has led to the repression of street vending while closing the channels of influence that vendors previously enjoyed. The second explores how efforts by the central government to undermine the opposition-led local government allowed market vendors to successfully oppose an unpopular market privatization initiative, and how both the President and the new city government have since been able to take advantage of disputes within markets for their own purposes while vendors have been largely unable to realize their market management and development ambitions. Both examples detail the causes, forms and implications of the ruling party’s monopolization of political power and explore how vendors have responded to their changing political circumstances, highlighting how these efforts face significant obstacles due to the increasingly restrictive environment in which vendors are forced to act. This thesis shows that the agency of informal vendors—while always manifest in certain ways—is constantly and increasingly constrained as the President and the ruling party tighten their grip on power. As their political exclusion precipitates a broader exclusion from urban development and economic life, informal vendors are forced to contend with a situation of increasing marginalization and vulnerability that they are largely unable to improve.
Supervisor: Curtis, Devon Sponsor: Smuts Memorial Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: African Politics ; Democratization ; Decentralization ; Development ; Informal Economy ; Market Vending ; Street Vending ; Kampala ; Uganda