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What African cities could learn from Thailand's street food culture

Street food vendors are ubiquitous in Thailand's cities but outlawed in many African cities. (Thomas Wanhoff/flickr/cc)

The mouth-watering street food choices abundant in Thai cities are a traveler’s delight. Samantha Spooner reports for the Mail & Guardian Africa that these affordable noshes also are an economic driver that should be emulated by African cities.

Informal commerce in the form of roadside carts and stalls were once thought to be a stepping stone on the path toward economic progress. But many Asian cities are proving that food kiosks can endure as they develop, and coexist with established businesses while providing a critical outlet for economic opportunity, the article says.

“Many African cities are well-poised to take lessons from the East’s experiences,” Spooner writes. That means encouraging food stalls rather than outlawing them. It also means regulating and licensing them — as Bangkok does — to ensure basic levels of cleanliness and freshness.

Yet in cities in Zambia and Zimbabwe, informal food vendors are officially banned. Many African cities lack food safety guidelines, resulting in unsanitary conditions the threaten health. In Nairobi and throughout Kenya, vendors often prepare food in filthy conditions. In Lagos and other Nigerian cities, the problem is an acute lack of water in most food stalls. 

Mail & Guardian Africa

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