Responding to Informality in Urban Africa: Street Trading in Harare, Zimbabwe


Informality is one of the major challenges facing urban policy makers across sub-Saharan Africa. Responses to informality can be viewed along a continuum from violent repression and sustained evictions to inclusive and supportive policies. Using the example of street trading, the task in this paper is to analyse planning and policy issues around the state and the informal economy in Harare, Zimbabwe. In the experience of Harare, the pursuit of targeted actions for inclusive planning designed to support communities of growing informal entrepreneurs is not on the agenda of policy makers. The historical and contemporary directions of policy responses occurring in Harare suggest an unpromising future for their city’s informal entrepreneurs. It is shown that state responses to informality vacillate between actions of frontal aggression and of unleashing bouts of forced evictions to repressive tolerance within which formalisation is increasingly promoted as a means of extracting revenue flows from already economically hard-pressed informal entrepreneurs.

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Financial support for this study was provided by the Southern African Migration Programme. Thanks are given to all participant interviewees, Jonathan Crush for commissioning the research, to Percy Toriro who was responsible for collection of the interviews in Harare, and to Abel Chikanda for additional documentary inputs. Usual disclaimers apply.

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Correspondence to Christian M. Rogerson.

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Rogerson, C.M. Responding to Informality in Urban Africa: Street Trading in Harare, Zimbabwe. Urban Forum 27, 229–251 (2016).

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  • Informality
  • African cities
  • Street trading
  • Harare