Friday, December 21, 2018

Is Machinga Identification equal to Recognition?

Is Machinga Identification equal to Machinga Recognition? 

Mwanahamisi 'Mishy' Singano

In a surprising move, the president of Tanzania produced and handed over ‘Machinga Identification Cards’ to Local Government Authorities (LGAs) to be distributed to street vendors. Commonly known as ‘Machinga’ apparently derived from 'Marching Guys', these vendors are mainly based in urban areas. The cost of the new ID is TZSh 20,000 per card and the payment is to be sent to the central government via the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA).

 These ID cards are said to have a security features which cannot be replicated – this means, they will only be accessible to those who have been ‘given’ them. When presenting the 2017/2018 budget speech to the parliament, the Minister of Finance reintroduced the formalization of Machinga. It entails registering all the Machinga and providing them with identification cards so they can be to be able to pay taxes. 

Machinga registration pilots were held in few areas, including Ilala. One of the key concerns of the Machinga during the pilot phase was the overemphasis of ‘registering them for paying taxes.’ Most of them felt that TRA running the registration process meant that the end goal is for Machinga to pay their taxes and not identifying them and their needs. In other words, it is not really about ‘recognizing them’ and their contribution to the economy, which should result into a strategic investment in the 'informal' sector. 
The new move from the President's 
office to issue these identification cards clearly addresses Machinga’s concerns of TRA being the face of ‘identification.’ But it raises more questions. It also fails to answer other key fundamental questions.
1. The Value of the ID – When the President unveiled Machinga IDs, he said that those with the IDs should not be ‘disturbed.’ Although this presidential order need to be commended and supported, there is more to be done than ‘leaving them alone.’ Most Machinga wants their identification to go hand in hand with capacity building, which should include improving trading environment – access to selling spots, toilets facilities, portage services, clean and secure environment, harassment-free markets and so forth. Just ‘living them’ to trade in a non-conducive environment is putting Machinga and their customers at risk and stagnating their growth. This does not mean Machinga want to be sent to the formal structured market, but rather, it is a quest for recognizing the 'informality' of their sector and investing in the services they need in the most convenient ways. 
2. ID without Individual Machinga Recognition – Most of the actors working on the 'informal' sector have called for the identification of Machinga in the sense that the government need to have an inventory of Machingas individually to know who they are and what they do. This inventory would not only result in the issuing of IDs, but it will also give the government information, facts and trends they need to make policy decisions. The IDs issued by the President Office are like ‘stickers’ that you buy and stick for identification. It carries no further information in terms of which ID belongs to which Machinga. Security features and serial numbers will only help to know if the ID is legit or fake, but it won’t detect if this ID belongs to a shoeshiner or mama lishe. The danger is that these IDs might be sold to others when they become scarce and precious. By using this model, the government is denying itself the right to have robust information/data on the Machinga as the only information they will have now is the number of Machinga based on the number of IDs sold out.
3. Lack of a Clear Definition of the Machinga – The Machinga sector has evolved tremendously within the last five years. Machinga have creatively and innovatively ventured into a range of new products and services, using cutting edge selling strategies, making the Machinga sector wide and fluid. A lack of clear criteria for defining Machinga will make it harder for the ID provision. Chances are different regions will provide ID cards to different groups based on their ‘perceived idea of who is a Machinga,’ which might deny others the right to be identified. 
4. LGA Revenues – Most LGAs used to collect trading fees from ‘Machinga’ that were used for servicing trading areas – i.e. cleaning, security, infrastructure development – among other things. Now, all of these funds will be going to the central government, a phenomena which will not only handicap LGAs to perform their functions better due to lack of resources, but also likely fuel conflict between Machinga and LGAs. Machinga will have higher expectation on service delivery now that they are identified through the President's Office IDs (which to them means they are recognized) but LGA’s will have low capabilities to deliver those services – given resources are now channeled to the central government contrary to fiscal decentralization. 
Identifying Machinga is an important stage in recognizing and supporting them to unleash their potential. However, to make the most out of the President's will and order the Government should not only ‘sell’ these IDs, but they should properly identify and capture key information and profiles of Machinga. Technology should allow LGAs to do this exercise effectively and efficiently.

All the resources from the selling of IDs should be retained at the local government level and channeled to the vending sector to improve the trading environment, especially in beefing up security. Women, people with disabilities and the elderly people should be prioritized in the identification process, even if that would mean subsidizing the cost of IDs. Last but not least, these IDS should not be tools of control and surveillance, but of access and mobility.

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