The Informal Economy in Africa

Sofie V. Hedegaard

Studenteropgave: Semesterprojekt


This project offers a literature review of trends and perspectives of the African informal economy in recent years. A review of a wide variety of literature from academias, development practitioners, non government organizations and international organizations all with one thing in common – they do not neglect the informal phenomenon, but have more or less a pro-position to the informal economy. Beginning with a historical perspective of the concept of informality I review how the concept has been defined since its ‘discovery’ four decades ago. The unregistered nature of informality has made it a challenging field of study and I examine how measurement methods have been closely linked to the definitions of the concept. In light of the increased informalization of economies in developing countries a main focus is on the reasons behind this tendency. The majority underline how structural adjustment policies and globalization in the 1990s have hand in hand complicated the integration of Sub-Saharan Africa into the global economy and forced workers into the informal sector. Increased poverty and failure of the state are other explanations. A recent emphasis on the complexities of the informal economy underlines the multiple reasons behind workers choosing informal employment. Motives have diversified from being primarily an ‘alternative’ to include a ‘deliberate choice’. Gender and informality, is another dominant topic in recent literature and the review will include an examination of female’s conditions in the informal and global market. Recent literature together with initiatives and policies by trade unions, non government organizations and the International Labour Organization reflect an increased acknowledgement of the informal economy’s influence and contribution to the global economy. The tendencies indicate an attitudinal shift whereas actors are increasingly bridging the gap between the formal and informal sector making the ‘informal sector normal’.

UddannelserInternationale Udviklingsstudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Bachelor el. kandidat
Udgivelsesdato18 dec. 2012
VejledereEric Komlavi Hahonou


  • Informal Economy, Sub-Saharan Affrica
  • New Trends and Perspectives