CSRC Working Paper 18

The State and the informal in sub-Saharan African economies: revisiting debates on dualism
Working Paper No : 18 (series 2)
Author(s) : Deborah Potts
Date : November 2007

Conceptualizations of the informal sector in terms of economic dualism have a long history, as have effective challenges to those conceptualizations. These are discussed in this paper, which then examines the dynamics of the urban informal sector in sub-Saharan Africa over recent decades, with reference to these theoretical conceptualization and other approaches. The paper then discusses the role of the state in relation to the informal sector, exemplifying in particular with reference to Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It also considers briefly the dynamics of rural-urban migration to African cities and the role of this in urban processes, including employment. Finally the paper offers a comparative perspective, from north of the Limpopo, on current debates and policy pronouncements about the informal sector in South Africa.