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Informal Economies and Urban Governance in Nigeria: Popular Empowerment or Political Exclusion?

Abstract:
Abstract:

This article examines how popular organizational strategies and coping mechanisms affect broader trajectories of urban governance in contemporary Africa. Does the proliferation of informal livelihood networks and associations foster economic empowerment and popular political participation, or do these informal processes breed poverty and organizational chaos? This article explores the link between popular organizational strategies and structural outcomes, focusing on how institutional process and power relations shape the access of the poor to resources and decision-making structures in decentralizing urban environments. Case studies from Nigeria trace how liberalization has fragmented informal organizational strategies into networks of accumulation and survival that tend to marginalize the interests of the poor within informal enterprise associations. Distinctive political strategies of informal enterprise associations are analyzed to show why dynamic informal organization is unable to break through the barriers of social and legal marginalization that trap the urban poor in cliental forms of political incorporation. This suggests that “social capital” within the informal economy may fail to improve popular political representation and governance outcomes even in contexts of decentralization.

Résumé:

Cet article examine la manière dont les stratégies populaires organisationelles et les mécanismes de gestion des problèmes impactent les trajectoires plus larges de la gouvernance urbaine en Afrique contemporaine. Est-ce que la prolifération de réseaux informels d'échanges et d'organisations dans les milieux urbains pauvres incitent à une prise de pouvoir économique et à une participation populaire ou bien est-ce qu'elles perturbent le dévelopement institutionnel et aménent la pauvreté, le conflit social et le chaos? Au delà des analyses circulaires reliant les stratégies populaires et la gouvernance urbaine, cet article explore le lien entre les stratégies populaires et les résultats structurels, se concentrant sur la manière dont le processus institutionnel et les relations de pouvoir façonnent l'accès des populations défavorisées aux ressources et aux structures décisionnelles dans les environnements urbains de l'Afrique. Les études de cas au Niger retracent le processus selon lequel la libéralisation a fragmenté les stratégies organisationnelles informelles en réseaux d'accumulation et de survie qui tendent à marginaliser les intérêts des pauvres à l'intérieur d'entreprises associatives informelles. Les stratégies politiques distinctes des associations parimoniales et modernistes sont analysées pour montrer comment le capital social des acteurs économiques informels est incapable de traverser les barrières de la marginalisation sociale et économique qui les enferment dans des formes clientèles politisées. Ainsi les niveaux élevés d'organisation informelle et de “capital social” pourraient etre la cause du manque de représentation politique et d'une gouvernance ineffective.

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African Studies Review
  • ISSN: 0002-0206
  • EISSN: 1555-2462
  • URL: /core/journals/african-studies-review
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