Everyone has seen them pop up in various neighborhoods around Cairo: whether it’s sushi, shawerma, burgers or sweet potatoes, food carts have been making their way into the metropolis, serving customers different cuisines with a street-food experience.
In recent years, food carts have become a viable income option not only to street vendors, but also to university graduates. Hence, a large segment of people now have their own food carts that serve people in different neighborhoods in order to ensure a little more cash on the side.
So what’s new? Egypt’s Parliament approved a new law that regulates the work of food carts in the streets in order to include them in the formal economy.
New law, same food
Submitted by more than 60 members of parliaments (MPs), the new law was tailored to regulate the work of food carts that are taking the streets of Cairo by storm to be overseen by respective administrative authorities, instead of remaining in the unregulated sector.
Deputy of the parliament’s Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) Committee Hala Aboul Saad tells Business Forward that the law has been irrevocably approved and food cart owners will soon be able to obtain licenses to operate them.
Aboul Saad says that the owners will be granted a three-year license before they start to be taxed on their income. The new law imposes a fine of LE20,000 and a one-month prison sentence in case of any violations of the licensing provisions or operating without a license.
However, it is not only about the legal rights of food cart owners. The new law also sets standards for food quality to protect consumers. Fines will be issued in case of violations and suspensions will be applied on food cart owners who jeopardize the safety of consumers through expired food.
The presence of street vendors and food carts in the streets have always been controversial for the government
Inclusiveness, geographic distribution and fees
“We were hoping that this law is inclusive of all street vendors who sell all types of products, but it would have required a long timespan and we needed to move forward with legalizing the food carts,” Aboul Saad says.
“Carts owners mistakenly believe that they will pay LE10,000 to obtain the license. This is not true; they will pay according to many factors including the neighborhood they operate in and the fees will start from LE200.”
Member of the committee Nancy Nosseir seconds Aboul Saad, adding that the license fees depend on the type of food and products being sold, since the profit margins of various products differ.
“We started with issuing the law, and we will provide food cart owners with specific spots to operate in,” Nosseir says. “Once the internal and executive regulations are set, mechanisms will be announced and neighborhoods will publicize the new law to the owners.”
What do the vendors think?
Owner of Heliopolis-bound By Bike, a food cart selling sweet potatoes with oriental toppings, Majo El-Sherbiny tells Business Forward that once the law is effective, the neighborhood will specify the exact location of the bike.
“Hopefully, the spots will be vital and not hidden,” El-Sherbiny says, adding that he has been harassed multiple times due to his illegal situation in the street.
El-Sherbiny is one of the leaders in the business of food carts with a mobile bike. “Since the beginning of Ramadan, municipals have come and confiscated equipment and products. Citizens are rather welcoming of the idea of food carts, but most of the pressure comes from the authorities because of my illegal situation,” El-Sherbiny concludes.
Generally, El-Sherbiny believes that the new law is in favor of the food cart owners, but he hopes that the implementing process would also be sensible.
The presence of street vendors and food carts in the streets have always been controversial for the government. Recently, multiple governmental campaigns removed vendors from Attaba Square, located in Giza. Head of the Moski District told media outlets in April that Cairo’s governor instructed not to allow vendors to go back to the square.
The new law is not the first attempt to help food cart owners regulate and legalize their presence. In 2017, “Share3 Masr”, located in Masaken Sheraton neighborhood, became the first authorized venue for food carts in exchange for a monthly rental fee of about LE1,250.