Black-Market Electronics Keep a City’s Unemployed Youth Flush With Cash

Nairobi’s stolen-electronics dealers work in the back alleys of slums, but some of their merchandise makes its way into the city’s shopping districts. Photo credit: Stefan Magdalinski via Flickr

James makes his living selling electronics in Nairobi. He works eight hours a day, plus weekends if he has customers, to support his wife and their young child. He has suppliers from the across the city who specialize in laptops, mobiles, or smart phones, and a list of clients he can call on a moment’s notice when he gets a new shipment in.

But James, 26, who’s been working here for two years, doesn’t run a typical electronics shop. His office is a wooden stool underneath an umbrella in a back alley in the slum of Mathare. He shares the narrow lane with drug addicts huddled on dirty mattresses. He won’t do business in the open, and only spoke to me behind a wooden wall by a nearby restaurant.

That’s because everything James sells is stolen.  Read more…

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