Africa's Informal Workers

Collective Agency, Alliances and Transnational Organizing in Urban Africa

Edited by Ilda Lindell


Africa's Informal Workers is a vigorous examination of the informalization and casualization of work, which is changing livelihoods in Africa and beyond.
Africa's Informal Workers is a vigorous examination of the informalization and casualization of work, which is changing livelihoods in Africa and beyond.

Gathering cases from nine countries and cities across sub-Saharan Africa, and from a range of sectors, this volume goes beyond the usual focus on household ‘coping strategies’ and individual agency, addressing the growing number of collective organizations through which informal workers make themselves visible and articulate their demands and interests. The emerging picture is that of a highly diverse landscape of organized actors, providing grounds for tension but also opportunities for alliance. The collection examines attempts at organizing across the formal-informal work spheres, and explores the novel trend of transnational organizing by informal workers.

Part of the ground-breaking Africa Now series, Africa’s Informal Workers is a timely exploration of deep, ongoing economic, political and social transformations.

Author Bio

Ilda Lindell is a researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute and an associate professor of human geography at Stockholm University. She has authored book chapters and journal articles in Urban Studies, Habitat International, Geografiska Annaler and Third World Quarterly. She is also the author of Walking the Tight Rope (2002).

Table of Contents

  • 1. The Changing Politics of Informality: Collective Organizing, Alliances and.Scales of Engagement - Ilda Lindell
  • Part I: The Political Dynamics of Collective Organizing
    • 2. Seen But Not Heard: Urban Voice and.Citizenship for Street Traders - Alison Brown and Michal Lyons
    • 3. The Politics of Vulnerability: Exit, Voice and.Capture in Three Nigerian Informal Manufacturing Clusters - Kate Meagher
    • 4. Women Leaders and.the Sense of Power: Clientelism and.Citizenship at the Dantokpa Market in Cotonou, Benin - Ebbe Prag
  • Part II: Constructing Alliances: Organizing Across the Formal - Informal 'Divide'
    • 5. Alliances Across The Formal-Informal Divide: South African Debates and.Nigerian Experiences - Gunilla Andrae and.Björn Beckman
    • 6. Self-Organized Informal Workers and.Trade Union Initiatives in Malawi: Process, Challenges and Directions of Organizing the Informal Economy - Ignasio Malizani Jimu
    • 7. Moments of Resistance: The Struggle Against Informalization in The City of Cape Town - David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier
    • 8. The Possibilities for Collective Organization of Informal Port Workers in Tema, Ghana - Owusu Boampong
  • Part III: International Dimensions of Organizing
    • 9. The 'China Challenge': The Global Dimensions of Activism and the Informal Economy in Dakar, Senegal - Suzanne Scheld
    • 10. Passport Please: The Cross-Border Traders Association in Zambia - Wilma S. Nchito and.Karen Tranberg Hansen


'This collection, with its excellent editorial introduction, makes a groundbreaking contribution to understanding the ways in which informal workers are developing new forms of collective organisation for exercising voice and agency, illustrating both the scope for and constraints on their ability to exert political influence. Always fascinating. as might be expected in the varied terrain of Sub-Saharan Africa, the accounts are by turns depressing and inspiring.'
Carole Rakodi, The University of Birmingham

'The "informal sector" keeps moving and changing. Social scientists have to be very attentive to keep up as reality escapes theory and as organizations become as global as the commodities they distribute. This collection brings together empirical studies from varied contexts, based primarily in Africa, many by African scholars, allowing a crucial opportunity for new perceptions and comparisons, and for identifying key dynamics to track into the future.'
Jane I. Guyer, Johns Hopkins University

'The majority of African urbanites display profound ingenuity and tenacity as they navigate the grinding vicissitudes of slum urbanism. Africa's Informal Workers is an impressive example of the rigour and theoretical deftness required to acknowledge and engage the politics of urban informality in all its variegated complicatedness. This cutting-edge volume is indispensable reading for urbanists, activists and policy makers.'
Edgar Pieterse, University of Cape Town


Publication Date: 8 April 2010
246 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781848134522
Hardback: 9781848134515
eBook ePub: 9781848138339
eBook PDF: 9781848134539
eBook Kindle: 9781780326535

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