DW AngolaRoque Santeiro Informal Market - Informal Market World Atlas 2015

Roque Santeiro Informal Market - Informal Market World Atlas 2015


The market of Roque Santeiro emerged as an important centre of the informal economy in Luanda in the 1980s as the government encouraged people who had begun to sell on street corners to move to what was, before 1985, a piece of waste ground and informal rubbish tip. Even then, though the government was not in favour of the growth of the informal economy it was unable to prevent it and felt that it could only move it to what was then a marginal location.

In the late 1980s and 1990s Roque Santeiro was the largest market in the city (and possibly the largest open-air market in Africa) serving as the main distribution point for other markets as well as selling directly to the public: goods from other areas of Angola and goods imported through the port (a short distance away) were traded in bulk at Roque Santeiro and then traded in smaller quantities in other areas of the market or in other locations. The informal trading economy in Luanda continued to grow in the decade after the achievement of peace in Angola. The main underlying factor that contributes to the continued importance of the informal trading economy is the shortage of formal employment, which leads to large numbers of people creating their own economic activities in ways that require only small amounts of capital and low levels of skill.

Roque Santeiro was closed in 2010. Many day and casual labourers have lost their livelihoods, a scenario which may have contributed to increased levels of crime and delinquency in Luanda. The market had been a huge source of employment within the city, and its transfer meant a loss of employment for stevedores and ambulant sellers who earned a daily livings there and local house owners who provided overnight temporary warehousing of merchandise. The Government however has renewed its determined effort to stamp out informal trading in early 2014 by announcing a heavy regime of fines, not only on informal traders, but on their customers as well. The image of the informal trader is seen as an affront to those who wish to promote the vision of Luanda as a world-class modern city, despite the fact that these informal markets still provide essential services and employment to much of the urban population.