Often, traders in markets and at street-side vendor stalls may have worked out of the same stall in the same place for years without any formal permission or right to use the space. Without knowledge of the technical mechanisms of planning, zoning, and design, these informal workers come at a serious disadvantage in any debate about how public space is used and frequently face eviction. AeT founders believed that support for informal economic spaces like these markets should be integrated into the city’s planning and budgeting priorities. Support for these spaces allows culturally important spaces to be developed, benefitting the entire city while also maintaining the livelihoods of informal workers.
Since its founding in 2008, AeT has worked to develop strong relationships with local and international stakeholders and create new opportunities for research, design, advocacy, and education around informal work and urban environments. The organization uses a participatory approach to empower the working poor to become co-developers in their own environments. Through its work, AeT has been recognized for its local and global achievements and provides an example of an integrated program for the inclusion of informal workers into urban settlements.
Asiye eTafuleni boasts a diverse team of architects, social scientists, lawyers, and informal traders. This diversity and decades of experience give it both the knowledge and the street credibility to work with the trading community in developing higher levels of organization and capacity to advocate for rights and appropriate space and infrastructure in urban public spaces.
AeT’s most visible project work has been at Warwick Junction, Durban’s primary transportation node. The hub accommodates approximately 460,000 commuters and 5,000 traders per day. Within Warwick Junction, Asiye eTafuleni has taken on a variety of projects, principally around creating a stable and viable environment for traders. It has also extended to participatory research, co-design, and legal, as well as other forms of advocacy that work to uphold and defend the vendors’ rights to the city. The organization has recently contributed to the preparation of a set of national guidelines for Public Space Trading.