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5 commercialised begging techniques in Nairobi’s CBD

The dynamics of street begging in the Central Business District (CBD), Nairobi, have evolved, with individuals now employing strategic approaches to elicit contributions, be they in the form of loose change or a small token of support.

These people now employ various strategic approaches to solicit money from pedestrians, leveraging sympathy or creating a sense of urgency.

This phenomenon has raised concerns about the ethical implications and potential exploitation within the context of urban poverty.

Below are some of the techniques beggars use in Nairobi CBD:

Crafting Heartfelt Stories

One evening, as I was making my way home from work, I encountered a man navigating the streets with the aid of crutches.

Moved by empathy, I paused to listen to his story. He shared a heartfelt narrative, expressing a sincere desire to quit begging if provided with a simple packet of tropical sweets.

Compelled by a genuine wish to assist, I fulfilled his request, hoping it would mark a positive turning point in his life. However, to my dismay, just a few days later, I encountered him once again, still engaged in begging.

Spotting me, he swiftly diverted to the opposite side of the road, avoiding eye contact.
Such stories are aimed at triggering emotional responses from those passing by.

Exploiting Children

In various streets in Nairobi, it is common to see young children with small containers following people and calling them ‘uncle or aunty’ saidia (help).

This is common along Moi Avenue, where mothers sit secretly as they watch their children beg.

These children are used as pawns in this practice, while their mothers often remain hidden nearby, discreetly monitoring whether these children meet predetermined targets.

Some believe that using children to beg can evoke heightened sympathy and increase the likelihood of receiving financial assistance.

Utilizing Disability or Illness

Beggars may leverage physical disabilities or the sick just to evoke emotion from people passing by.
This act is aimed at eliciting compassion and generosity from passersby.

Carrying a Loaf of Bread Appeal

I am very sure that you have met someone within the CBD carrying a loaf of bread and begging for money to buy tea.

The individual uses such a technique just to draw your attention to the fact that at least he has managed to buy a loaf and that now you can buy him tea.

Pretending to Sell Sweets

Beggars may feign selling sweets or small items, using this guise to engage with potential donors.
The act of selling goods adds a commercial layer to their begging technique, making it seem less direct.