Job Creation: Sakaja’s directive to allow street photography benefits thousands of youths


The Nairobi City County Government in 2022 moved to waive permit requirements for freelance photographers and videographers opening the space for digital content creators and creating thousands of jobs for unemployed youths in Nairobi.

According to a survey conducted by our team in the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD), thousands of people everyday have the opportunity to film and take photographs in the CBD, content which is then used to create digital content for social media monetization, even as the freelance photographers enjoy their time at work serving their customers on the streets without the fear of harassment from county government enforcement officers.

In a memo dated September 23rd 2022, the Nairobi County Government under the leadership of Governor Johnson Sakaja allowed photographers and content creators the permission to film on the streets of Nairobi. The Sakaja led administration waived permit requirements for freelance photographers and videographers easing the pain for artists, photographers and content creators who had  long complained over harassment by county officials and the requirement to pay hefty permit fees of over Ksh5,000 to shoot in the city.

“In exercise of the power given under the PFM Act 2012, Section 159 and the Nairobi City Council Tax Waivers Administration Act, 2013 Section 5 (2)(C), approval is hereby given that Freelance photographers and Freelance filmmakers are given waiver/exemption from payment of Single Business Permit as charged under the Nairobi City County Trade Licensing Act, 2019,” the memo read in part.

The decision was in line with campaign commitments by Sakaja who promised to boost the creative industry in the city by ending the harassment of photographers and videographers as well as the expensive permit fees.

“When we say we want to be pro-business it is not just passive to stop harassment of traders but we want to be proactive to facilitate and promote. There are many archaic laws including those that hamper creativity and innovation and we are going to weed those out.  Businesspeople should spend more time doing business and not chasing compliance issues,” Sakaja said.

Creatives, especially photographers and videographers, have for long been engaged in a tussle with county officials over requirements to be allowed to shoot in the capital.

Usually, they have had to obtain a permit from the Department of Filming Services, through a filming agent, a letter from the police, and fork out amounts of up to around Ksh. 5,000 for a single day but now the digital content creators have a field day recording their content. This is in stark contrast with the norm in the past.

At different streets in the Nairobi CBD, groups of young people are armed with a whole set of photography, with reflectors standing by to make sure the sunlight hits the subjects perfectly. Day by day the youths are completely engulfed in the business of the day – street photography. Others shoot dance videos and much more as other Kenyans go on with their business.

Although it may have started as fun and games, street photography has grown rapidly and quickly became a form of self-employment for many youths with a passion for the arts.  Social media is a driving force for this kind of photography. It acts as the photographer’s portfolio, showcasing their best shoots and attracting new clients. Not only that, but young Kenyan men and women will go to great lengths to get flawless pictures for their Instagram feeds.

There has also been a change in the CBD since Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja waived the permit fees for photographers. Most of the photographers today praise the Governor for straightening things up for them. Prior to that, police would interrupt important shoots, dispersing photographers and their clients, ruining a shoot.

On Monday, Governor Sakaja said that those filming county government enforcement officers for clout would face arrest for obstruction of law enforcement in what a few critics have now misconstrued as attacking street photographers. However, Sakaja has come out clear noting that his administration was not intending to interfere with the street photographers but was also intentional on allowing its officers to operate without fear as no legal binding trader would be harassed by the county officers.  

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