Informal Economy in Africa

The informal economy has grown in importance within sub-Saharan Africa, yet there are debates about its role within national economies that appear not to take cognizance of the interests and the weak power base of those working within the informal economy. The current research argues that a cross-cultural perspective should be taken in understanding the geopolitical context of informal organizations, the power relationships involved and how the contributions and future of skills development, employment and organization within the informal and wider economies can be better understood and researched. It initially alludes to the informal sector being closer to local communities, and more appropriate to developments in Africa, but draws on Postcolonial Theory to better understand the nature and role of such organization within an interface of structural and phenomenological influences that question the nature of the ‘indigenous’ as an artefact. Some of the parameters of research in this area are drawn within this work while recognizing that further development is needed in both theory and methods. The research thus attempts to lay the foundations for a cross-cultural conceptual framework leading to a methodology that can inform both practice and policy in this neglected but important area.


Please take a look at these three short videos on YouTube for an overview of why the study of the informal economy is important to cross-cultural management scholarship, why government and supra-governmental agency policy has tended to marginalize the informal economy along with the perceptions of management scholars, and the implications for cross-cultural management research.

The Informal Economy in Africa 1 – Why is it important to cross-cultural management scholarship.

The Informal Economy in Africa 2 – Policy, marginalization and “authentic” Africa culture

The Informal Economy in Africa 3 – Implications for cross-cultural management research

You will also find these slides helpful in following the different parts of this presentation [OHPs]

You can also read more in an article in The International Journal of Human Resource Management

One of the main reasons I conceived this project was the lack of ‘African’ organizations in Africa. It was very difficult to discover organizations that were, or professed to follow ‘African’ values in their management and work in my earlier study of Management and Change in Africa. One exception that I have often cited was Afriland First Bank in Cameroon. Although the case study of this is now getting older (2002), you may find it of interest.