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Informality, Religious Conflict, and Governance in Northern Nigeria: Economic Inclusion in Divided Societies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2013

Kate Meagher*
Kate Meagher is an associate professor in the Department of International Development at the London School of Economics. She has published widely on African informal economies, including Identity Economics: Social Networks and the Informal Economy in Nigeria (James Currey, 2010) and “The Strength of Weak States? Non-State Security Forces and Hybrid Governance in Africa” (Development and Change 43 [5], 2012). E-mail:


This article examines processes of economic inclusion in divided societies, with a focus on both religious and formal–informal divides. Drawing on recent fieldwork in the northern Nigerian cities of Kano and Kaduna, the article challenges the assumption that identity-based informal organization intensifies violent social divisions, and that taxation and linkages with the state foster more stable and inclusive governance. A range of informal sector activities provides insights into escalating religious conflict and uneven patterns of formal inclusion in interreligious relations. Attention is focused on the relative role of informal institutions and formal interventions such as taxation in diffusing or exacerbating conflict at the grassroots level.


Cet essai examine le domaine de l’écomomie informelle au nord du Nigéria en vue de déterminer si ce phéomène mitige ou aggrave le conflit religieux présent dans cette région. En se basant sur une étude de terrain réccmment menée dans les villes de kano et Kaduna, cet essai met au défi l’hypothèse que la diversité religieuse est un facteur dans l’apparition de conflits, et que les réseaux d’appartenance religieuse au sein de l’économie informelle intensifient les divisions de nature violente dans la société. Le regard porté sur un évental d’activités informelles, telles que les moto-taxis, les marchands de pneus, les tailleurs, les marchands de soupe au poivre, offre des informations sur différents modèles de relations identifiables à travers les divisions religieuses comme la complémentarité, la compétition, et les conflits de valeurs. Notre attention se concentre sur le rôle relatif des institutions informelles et des interventions formelles, telles que la taxation, dans l’intensification des conflits ressortant du domaine populaire.

Copyright © African Studies Association 2013 

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