Who Owns the City? Political Leverage for Informal Workers in Urban Africa 
André Leliveld (African Studies Centre Leiden)
Mayke Kaag (African Studies Centre Leiden)
Marleen Dekker (African Studies Centre Leiden and INCLUDE)
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Start time:
30 June, 2017 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

This panel welcomes papers on collective actions by workers in African urban informal economies that contribute to a better understanding of their emergence, their organization, and their strategies and coalitions to attain political leverage on livelihood issues in the urban political arena.

Long Abstract

In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 80 per cent of the workforce is found in the informal economy. The lack of economic transformation and the rise of new forms of employment through outsourcing and casualization have caused a further rise in informal jobs, often characterised by precarious working conditions. Because of this precariousness and the fact that informal workers are not officially represented in social dialogue platforms, they are often considered as a marginal and powerless category. Their sheer numbers, however, make them a group to reckon with - as is recognized by the many African trade unions starting to reach out to the informal economy, and by the politicians who know where to find informal workers, particularly in election time. This raises the question as to how and when informal workers are able to capitalize on their power.

In urban settings, working conditions are influenced by local authorities as well as municipal, sector and national policies and trends. In this context, informal workers' collective action may range from sector specific initiatives to improve working conditions at a specific locality (e.g, motor-taxi parking lot) to broader coalitions of informal workers' associations to protest against rising prices or corruption. This panel welcomes papers, in particular those based on empirical research, which contribute to a better understanding of 1) why and under which conditions urban based collective actions by informal workers arise; 2) how these are organized (strategies and coalitions); and 3) what these collective actions yield in terms of political leverage, and for whom.

Accepted papers: