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African Traders Struggle To Keep Up With Continent’s New Smart Cities Approach

Yes, Africa’s Informal Sector Has Problems, But The Answer Isn’t To Marginalise It By Gideon Abagna Azunre, Festival Godwin Boateng, Owusu Amponsah and Stephen Appiah Takyi African leaders are increasingly aspiring to “modernise” their cities. That is to make them “globally competitive” and “smart”. The hope is to strategically position cities in Africa to drive the continent’s much-needed socio-economic transformation. But these aspirations tend to marginalise and antagonise the informal sector. The sector encompasses the suite of economic activities by workers and economic units that are – in law or in practice – not covered (or insufficiently covered) by formal arrangements. We are a team of international scholars researching sustainable cities in Africa. In our latest paper, we explore the dual role played by the informal sector in Africa’s urban economy. On the one hand, it plays a positive role. It provides employment, securing household income and savings, provides household basic needs and boosts civic engagement. But the sector also plays a negative role. It contributes to social and gender inequality, insecurity, congestion and pollution. Overall, we found that the informal sector has a lot to offer the future of African cities.

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