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VIDEO: Meet Egypt's 'roba bika' collectors

MEE meets Egyptians who make a living by buying and selling unwanted appliances, electronics and furniture in the streets of Cairo
A 'roba bika' collector talks to a customer next to his cart in Cairo, July 2015 (MEE)

CAIRO - With official unemployment figures in Egypt hovering around 13 percent, many people are turning to the informal economy for means of income.  

In Cairo, a group of mobile traders roam the streets to buy and sell old clothes, unwanted appliances, electronics and furniture.

They are known as collectors of "roba bika," an Arabised word deriving from the Italian Roba Vecchia, which literally translates as old clothes.

Sometimes the traders directly sell their items from their carts as they go around town. Alternatively they take the goods to a market in central Cairo known as the Friday Souk.

The collectors purchase used goods from those who no longer want them and then sell them on to new owners.

Sellers are happy with the additional income, while buyers – many of whom are low-wage earners – acquire products that would likely have been unaffordable if new. 

The trade, however, has also the additional benefit of encouraging recycling, where some factory owners look for basic materials for cheaper prices.