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The informal sector is an asset that authorities can take advantage of to enhance urban sustainability as they build cities By Martin Magidi In most African cities, the informal sector is the main economy. This is because of rapid urban population growth, slow economic and industrial growth and high employment. Unregulated economic activities provide work and livelihoods for most households. The informal sector is growing and becoming more important for urban survival. At the same time, governments, regional blocs and international development organisations are becoming more interested in the idea of sustainable urban development. This refers to processes that boost economic development, improve the quality of urban life for everyone, and protect the physical environment. Informality is often thought to create challenges for sustainability. Vendors, for example, are accused of littering. Activities like artisanal mining and informal carpentry are believed to be destroying the environment. There are concerns about the way informal industries dispose of waste. There’s a view that the sector’s jobs are precarious and that it’s geared for short-term survival, with very low socioeconomic returns. My research, however, suggests the sector can be an asset to the sustainable urbanisation agenda.