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DW Angola — Informal Economy
The breadth of Angola’s “informal sector”—and its role in the lives of most Angolans— cannot be overstated. Throughout the vast urban musseques of peri-urban Luanda in which approximately 1 in 3 Angolans currently reside, essential services — such as water, food, fuel and transport — are provided largely through private initiative in the informal sector. Moreover, Developmet Workshop research has shown, for most Angolans land has been obtained through informal mechanisms. Notably this is not only the case in rural communities where customary legal practices prevail, but is also the case for the overwhelming majority of Angola’s rapidly growing urban population.
The informal sector grew during the conflict years and in the capital city of Luanda alone was estimated to employ 37% of the entire country’s labour force in 1998, justifying the assessment at the end of the war, in a 2002 UNDP report that “Luanda has become the largest laboratory for survival strategies in the world.” In Luanda strategically-sited urban marketplaces are linked to dozens of smaller satellite markets and eventually street sellers—and dominate the wholesale and retail trade, serving as both a distribution outlet for rural produce and the major source of imported and national products for urban consumers and rural traders alike.
Government policies have often excluded the poor by legislating against the informal sector. Colonial era city bye-laws have been resurrected to prohibit street trading and close down the large informal urban markets. Such policies run counter to the aims of the Government’s own Poverty Reduction Strategies. Policies have been enacted based on prejudice, no contextual investigation and little debate.
DW's research has provided basic baseline information about the informal market’s structural profile, as well as in-depth knowledge about the dynamics of informal peri-urban markets. DW aims to provide a comprehensive documentation and analysis of the Angolan informal economy and advocate for how it can be transformed in light of the new challenges and opportunities, potentially affecting the livelihoods of the millions of Angolans whose livelihoods depend upon it.
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