The Maasai Market is renowned locally and across borders for its variety of traditional wares. Those who fancy cultural handicrafts or have an eye for indigenous creations can also purchase unique curios designed with motifs inherent to Kenya’s communal diversity.
Most other typical markets stock agricultural products, foodstuffs or fresh groceries, assorted vegetables and fruits.But the Maasai market stands out for its specialty in the production and sale of traditional artefacts or curios.
These wares have over the years become popular especially among tourists besides also fashion conscious Kenyans, cutting across societal class and status.
An estimated over two hundred small-scale traders, designers, indigenous jewelers and creative artisans display their multi-faceted wares in an open air space.
The market’s venues tend to alternate during different days of the week. But on any given week, the high-turnout shopper’s preference revolves around two specific days.
On Tuesdays, the market pitches ‘tent’ in city’s Central Business District fringes. An assortment of wares is displayed along a stretch of land skirting down the Nairobi River banks, off Kijabe Street and within proximity to the Globe roundabout.
Come Saturday and the traders relocate to the heart of capital, at the expansive parking lot strategically situated next to the Supreme and High Court buildings.
But on alternate days of the week, the Maasai market is also set up in the city’s outskirts, at various upscale locations such as the Village Market, Mombasa road’s Capital Centre, and Uchumi Hyper off Lang’ata road.
Besides paying levies on to the Nairobi County government’s officials for each space on every market day, myriad pertinent questions have over the years, arisen on the inherent business potential.
If the informal market’s operations were streamlined and possibly, portable stalls put up in the varied locations – how much more revenue could this sector generate to the exchequer and jua kali [informal] creatives who ply the handicrafts trade?
Notably, the traders have had an axe to grind and a bone to pick with the twin levels of County and Central governments, alongside other relevant authorities.
The negligence to explore, and develop the untapped latent scope of value chains abound in the sector’s ventures cannot be gainsaid.
Arguably, the market boosts an enormous, untapped capacity to create employment opportunities and generate a significant percentage of revenue linked to the Creative industries.
It is an open secret that on average, foreign exchange in circulation during market days is consistent hence the annual turnover could add up to a couple of millions.
Furthermore, it is important to clarify the fact, traders who showcase and sell wares there are not necessarily hawkers but often self-made entrepreneurs.
And whereas the typical hawkers and front-shop traders across the city’s downtown stock pile finished or ready-made imports from Dubai or China for sale, items sold at Maasai Market are homegrown, hand-crafted products.
Indisputably, these creatives comprised of enterprising youths and women – deserve pro-active support and possibly seed-capital incentives.
As primary producers and designers of curio products it would be prudent to create self sustenance opportunities and expand their business into micro or medium-scale enterprises.
But the creatives remain vulnerable to unfair trade practices owing to semi-literacy levels on intellectual property rights besides lack of basic infrastructure to harness the sector’s prospective value chains.