Women and the Informal Economy in Urban Africa

From the Margins to the Centre

Mary Njeri Kinyanjui


Demonstrates that women have become a critical factor in the making of a postcolonial city.
In this highly original work, Mary Njeri Kinyanjui explores the trajectory of women's movement from the margins of urbanization into the centres of business activities in Nairobi and its accompanying implications for urban planning.

While women in much of Africa have struggled to gain urban citizenship and continue to be weighed down by poor education, low income and confinement to domestic responsibilities due to patriarchic norms, a new form of urban dynamism - partly informed by the informal economy - is now enabling them to manage poverty, create jobs and link to the circuits of capital and labour. Relying on social ties, reciprocity, sharing and collaboration, women's informal 'solidarity entrepreneurialism' is taking them away from the margins of business activity and catapulting them into the centre.

Bringing together key issues of gender, economic informality and urban planning in Africa, Kinyanjui demonstrates that women have become a critical factor in the making of a postcolonial city.

Author Bio

Mary Njeri Kinyanjui is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi. She holds a PhD in geography from the University of Cambridge.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Theorizing planning and economic informality in an African city
  • 3. Economic informality in Nairobi between 1980 and 2010
  • 4. Women in Nairobi
  • 5. Women, mobility and economic informality
  • 6. Women in economic informality in Nairobi
  • 7. The quest for spatial justice: from the margins to the centre
  • 8. Women's collective organizations and economic informality
  • 9. Conclusion


'This is a powerful case study, with important implications for urban planning and development in sub-Saharan Africa.'
Garth Myers, Trinity College, Hartford

'A paradigm shift in the way we talk and write about poverty alleviation in marginalized communities!'
Faith Maina, State University of New York

'A well-researched critical analysis, providing new perspectives on urbanization in Kenya. The book is essential reading for geographers, planners, policy makers and students of African urbanization and gender studies.'
Agnes Musyoki, University of Venda

'I applaud Kinyanjui for this timely volume.'
Kefa M. Otiso, Bowling Green State University


Publication Date: 12 June 2014
152 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781780326306
Hardback: 9781780326313
eBook ePub: 9781780326337
eBook PDF: 9781780326320
eBook Kindle: 9781780326344

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