Informal Trading Summit, 20 March 2013
Caroline Skinner (Researcher African Centre for Cities, / WIEGO Edwards
Photo by J
Urban Policies Programme Director)
Latest statistics - size and contribution of the
informal economy / sector
Approaches to street trading: Comparing SA
Highlighting Cape Town’s strengths
Common elements of ‘good practice’
Internationally: Informal Employment
…as a proportion of non-agricultural
South Asia: 82%
range: 62% in Sri Lanka to 84% in India
East and Southeast Asia: 65%
range: 42% in Thailand to 73% in Indonesia
Sub-Saharan Africa: 66%
range: 33 % in South Africa to 82% in Mali
…as a proportion of non-agricultural employment is
Middle East and North Africa: 45%
range: 31% in Turkey to 57% in West
Bank & Gaza
Latin America: 51%
range: 40% in Uruguay to 75% in Bolivia
Source: International Labour Organization / WIEGO,2013
Contribution to GDP
The contribution of informal enterprises to national
GDP’s in 16 Sub-Saharan countries varied from
58% in Ghana to 24% in Zambia. On average
the informal sector contributed 41% to GDP.
(Source: Women and Men in the Informal Economy, 2002)
What the Statistics Suggest
Rather than ‘disappearing’ with development, as was
originally predicted, the informal economy is in fact
Many people, often the majority, of those who work in
countries and cities of the South, work in the informal
Employees working in establishments that employ less
than five employees, who do not deduct income tax
from their salaries/wages; and
Employers, own-account workers and persons helping
unpaid in their household business who are not
registered for either income tax or value-added tax.
SA Informal Sector: By Industry
Source: Quarterly LFS, Oct – Dec 2012
Race, Gender and Income
Race and Gender: Black South Africans and
women are over represented in the informal
Incomes: Although individual incomes are often
low (between R500-R1500 a month),
cumulatively these activities contribute
significantly to local economies.
Informal sector contributes between 8 and
10% to South Africa’s GDP.
Country wide total expenditure in the informal
retail stood at R52 billion in 2004. This
compared well with the big retailers.
Unlike their formal counterparts, the profits
from these activities sustain large number of
dependants in households located in poorer
parts of our cities and towns.
Street and market vendors are distributors of
affordable goods and services providing
consumers with convenient retail options.
Informal fresh produce traders in Cape Town
have been shown to provide better quality
goods at lower prices than formal retailers –
thus highlighting their role in food security.
Waste collectors divert waste from municipal
dumps – and thus playing and important role
in climate change mitigation.
Street Trade verse the
Street trade is the most visible element of
informal sector, one that worries councillors,
members of the public and thus city officials
However public space traders are only one
component of the informal sector.
Street Trading: SA City Comparisons
During the re-regulation of street trading (following
the amendment of the Businesses Act) Cape Town
had declared a bigger area than any of the other 4
cities as restricted or prohibited trade zones.
Cape Town has far fewer public space traders in
general and inner city traders in particular than
other South African cities.
Cape Town had spent less on street trader
Cape Town’s Strengths
A small group of dedicated officials who a.
understand the sector and b. have institutional
memory (other cities have had very high turnover of
staff working on these issues.)
Institutional location: In economic development –
recognising these as economic activities.
Interesting experiments with urban design.
Introduction of a computerised permitting system –
much more efficient.
Bylaws – The Right to Trade but also
Knowledge of Rights
Security of tenure – the right to trade ‘If you have a
permit you can eat, you trade the way you want to trade, no
one is disturbing you.’
This allows risk taking that is key to first securing and
then expanding trading businesses.
Traders report they are unsure of their rights –
highlighting the importance of user friendly versions of
(Research shows that confiscation of goods has
devastating livelihood impacts – setting business
activities back by many months and in some cases
destroying them altogether.)
Access to Viable Trading Spaces
Informal traders like their formal counterparts need
Trading facilities that don’t take cognisance of this will
lie empty – cases of this across the global south.
This entails detailed negotiations with traders and
observation / calculating of the ‘trading carrying
capacity’ of public spaces.
(Are there some missed opportunities? - MyCiti Bus
Stops, PRASA redesigns of railway stations.
Provision of Infrastructure
Provision of essential infrastructure – water and toilets
– protects traders and their customers.
Provision of basic infrastructure – shelter and storage
– substantially reduces stock damage; storage allows
traders to increase stock levels.
Access to electricity allows for more sophisticated
Provision of infrastructure creates more functional and
aesthetically pleasing environment for all users of
Provision of Infrastructure
Are Councils willing to become property
Experience suggests that outsourcing this
often leads to the exclusion of poorer traders
– those who are most in need of trading
Street Traders as Economic Actors
Street traders are one point in a chain of
Trade in different goods, often have very
different infrastructure and support needs
(e.g. cold storage and bulk buying for fresh
produce trade verses skills upgrading for
Understanding where traders fit into this
broader set of processes is an important
entry point in terms of policy interventions.
Good practice analysis suggests this is a
matter of planning ‘with’ not planning ‘for’
the informal economy.
Reflecting on a case of good practice the
International co-ordinator of StreetNet said
‘The council afforded informal traders … the
opportunity to participate on a sustained and
continuous basis in negotiations about their needs
… in a low key way, often on an issue by issue
Collective Action among Traders
Individually informal traders are weak but
collectively they can wield influence. The role of
strong, democratically structured informal economy
worker organizations– as negotiation partners with
the city council but also suppliers – can not be
Self Employed Women’s Association in India – 1.7
million members – is perhaps the best example.
Conclusion: An Alternative Vision
How the informal economy is managed goes to the
heart of our vision for our city.
“The challenge is to convince the policy makers to promote and
encourage hybrid economies in which micro-businesses can coexist alongside small, medium, and large businesses: in which
the street vendors can co-exist alongside the kiosks, retail
shops, and large malls. …. Just as the policy makers encourage
bio diversity, they should encourage economic diversity”
~Ela Bhatt, Founder of Self Employed Women’s Association and Founding
Chair of WIEGO
thank you | email@example.com
www.inclusivecities.org; www.wiego.org /