This panel considers how African informal economies are being incorporated into new models of inclusive capitalism. It focuses on how informal economic arrangements combine with ICTs and development intermediaries to promote low-cost market development, unleashing novel regulatory consequences.
This panel explores the role of African informal workers in new models of inclusive capitalism. Challenging claims that high unemployment and informality signal the structural irrelevance of Africa's expanding populations, it focuses on how labour informalization, inclusive business models, social entrepreneurship, and ICT innovations are reshaping the relevance of informal economies to contemporary capitalism. Tracing economic restructuring beyond the horizon of the formal economy, it will examine how social enterprises, mobile money or last-mile distribution systems extend corporate development models deep into informal settlements and rural areas. The central question is whether inclusive employment and service provision foster better terms of inclusion or promote adverse incorporation, shifting vulnerable African workers straight from the informal economy into the precariat. We welcome papers based on original fieldwork that examine how informal workers and institutional practices are being incorporated into wider systems of production, distribution or public goods provision in particular national contexts. What role do intermediaries including NGOs, labour brokers, gangs or graduate SMEs play in facilitating cost-effective linkages with informal workers and consumers, and how do they reshape citizenship and labour rights? Do ICTs and mobile apps empower or harness African informal workers for formal sector profit? Analyses of the politics of inclusive capitalism are also welcome. Are calls for basic social protection for informal actors an attempt to redress or to stabilize precarious employment, and what new forms of political expression are emerging among the precariously included?