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‘Mzungu’ hawker in Kisumu, selling Mandazi in the streets

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‘Mzungu’ hawker in Kisumu, selling Mandazi in the streets

She makes a profit of between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000 a day from the streets

Sylvia hawks near Tumaini Supermarket off Kenyatta Avenue Street.
AMERICAN STREET FOODS: Sylvia hawks near Tumaini Supermarket off Kenyatta Avenue Street.

When Silvia Bichanga married a Kenyan, hawking food on the streets did not cross her mind.

However, with hard economic times seven months into her marriage and miles from the United States of America, Bichanga, 28, started selling mandazis on the streets of Kisumu.

The business she started together with her friend Eve Ochieng’ has become sensational on social media.

“Life became so hard after we got married that we were forced to close down a computer shop where my husband used to work,” Bichanga said.

The husband, she says, currently fixes laptops at his friend’s shop in downtown Kisumu. 

Bichanga and Ochieng’ started a business of selling American street foods, which residents call “mandazis”, by the roadside in September, an idea that wasn’t perceived well by their spouses until they secured a decent business site.

After working by the roadside for two nights, they contributed and acquired a stall on Car Wash estate which they named Muzungu’s Pretzels. 

Some of the food items they sell include pizza pockets that go for Sh80; apple pie that goes for Sh70, as well as mango pie, pretzels Sh20 and Sh40 for tea.

Sylvia Bichanga displays a sample of her food called pretzels.
AMERICAN STREET FOODS: Sylvia Bichanga displays a sample of her food called pretzels.

When sales were down at the stall, she could be seen hawking on the streets of Kisumu to build her customer base. She could make a profit of between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000 a day.

Bichanga disclosed that it is harder to get along with most women than it is with men, who, she says, are understanding and promote the business.

“Some make discouraging statements like ‘why are you hawking, yet you people have money and you could even pay my rent!’ Little do they know what’s actually on the ground,” she said.

Others see it as an American experience because they are American street foods, the equivalence of Kenya’s samosas and smokies.

“Most people say, ‘this is how I can experience America right in Car Wash’,” Bichanga said. 

She says only five per cent of people they meet question their motive. The few are the group that thinks all ‘wazungus’ are well off. The business is just for survival as her husband has no stable income, she adds. 

Bichanga said she came to Kenya through Conservative Christian Mission when her father was requested to minister to a church in Kisumu.

She then met her husband in 2019 and dated for about two years. They wed in April this year. Her friend Ochieng’ got married in July 2020.

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