, Volume 82, Issue 6, pp 1179–1194 | Cite as

Policy responses to informality in urban Africa: the example of Maputo, Mozambique

  • Christian M. RogersonEmail author


In the global South informality constitutes one of the leading issues for urban policy makers. The planning challenges around informality are particularly relevant in urban Africa as most Africans make their livelihoods in the informal economy. This paper examines issues of state policy responses to informality through the lens of street traders. Under scrutiny are policy responses towards street trading in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, a city that has experienced the advance of informalization. It is argued that the dominant approach towards informal trading across urban Africa is of a ‘sanitising’ policy response by the local state which is rooted upon traditions of modernist urban planning in search of ‘ordered development’. The research discloses that in Maputo national and municipal authorities have adopted a more tolerant approach to the informal economy, mainly because it provides a livelihood to so many of the city’s poor and because of potential social unrest likely to be triggered by a repressive approach. In Maputo the core narrative is of an urban informal economy viewed by officials as an important livelihood for the city’s poor, albeit one which is subject both to periodic harassment and encouragement to ‘formalize’. The analysis represents a contribution to the expanding corpus of writings on Africa’s informalising cities and specifically concerning policy responses towards street trading.


Informality Policy response Street trading Urban Africa Maputo Mozambique 



Research funding was provided by the Southern African Migration Project. Thanks are due to Ines Raimundo and researchers from the Centre for Policy Analysis, Eduardo Mondlane University who undertook the interviews in Maputo. Wendy Job of University of Johannesburg prepared Fig. 1, Abel Chikanda provided several useful documentary sources, and valuable comments were offered by anonymous journal referees. Usual disclaimers apply.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Tourism and HospitalityUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

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