Accepted Paper:

Pure Water: Infrastructural Deficiency, State Complicity, and Entrepreneurial Citizenship in Nigeria  
Daniel Smith (Brown University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the phenomenon of "pure water," ubiquitous plastic sachets of drinking water sold throughout urban Nigeria, an example of how innovative entrepreneurs hustling to survive create vibrant "informal economies" that provide basic infrastructure where the Nigerian state does not.

Paper long abstract:

In Nigeria, people say that "every household is its own local government." What they mean is that politicians and government institutions have not delivered—and cannot be trusted to ensure—even the most basic services that people expect as citizens of Africa's richest and most populous nation. Households and communities have to fend for themselves. In this paper, I examine the phenomenon of "pure water," ubiquitous plastic sachets of drinking water sold throughout urban Nigeria. It is an example of how innovative entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens hustling to survive create vibrant "informal economies" that provide basic infrastructure where the Nigerian state does not. But the state may not be so much absent as complicit, to the extent that the circumstances of infrastructural deficiency constitute a major arena for the practice and consolidation of state power. Further, Nigerians' efforts to cobble together basic infrastructure through a multitude of entrepreneurial activities and enterprises are as much social and political endeavors as they are individual economic activities, and therefore they constitute part of the very substance of citizenship in contemporary Nigeria.

Panel Anth30
Business at work: new ethnographies of private sector dynamics in Africa