Harnessing Africa's Informal Sector

For decades, the informal sector has been largely discredited as an inferior and an outdated practice both in Africa and in the global community. However, informality, developed out of circumstances that matched the knowledge, principles, and the contexts of African communities, has created some of the most original and innovative solutions that represent significant market forces. On the other hand, it is important to note the limitations and dangers of informal economies.

The panel seeks to assess whether and how unique African economic practices that have been birthed from the informal sector, could be incorporated into the current business environment. It will also look at the role of governments and the private sector in formalising the informal sector and will provide the opportunity to share lessons learned and experiences that have achieved this objective.



chair: dayo olopade

Dayo Olopade is the author of The Bright Continent, a book on innovation, technology and opportunity in sub-Saharan Africa. She began her career as a reporter in Washington and in Nairobi, for publications including The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The Washington Post and The New York Times. She has been a fellow with The New American Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The UN Foundation, and The German Marshall Fund. She currently works on strategic media partnerships at Facebook. A graduate of Yale College, Yale Law School, and Yale School of Management, she lives in New York.

emmanuelle auriol

Emmanuelle Auriol studied Economics at the University of Toulouse I where she received her PhD in 1992. After spending one year at the University of California at Berkeley as a post-doc she joined the Economics Department at Toulouse. Since 1998 she has been a professor at Toulouse School of Economics. Her research interests include industrial organization, regulation, labor economy, collective decision-making and development economics. She studies government conduct and performance with a special focus on developing economies. Since in practice policy implementation matters as much as policy design, Emmanuelle also studies incentive in public organizations and government structure. Throughout the years she received several grants and awards for her research, which has been published in top international journal.


Frederic lapeyre

Frédéric Lapeyre is Head of the Informal Economy Unit, International Labour Organization. He holds a Ph.D in Development Studies. He was previously Professor at the Catholic University of Louvain, Chairman of the Belgium Post-Graduate School for Development Studies and Fulbright Post-doctoral fellow at Brown University (Watson Institute for International Studies). He works on employment and development related issues, in particular, the informal economy, decent work promotion and job-rich/inclusive patterns of development. His main recent published works include: Securing Livelihoods: Informal Economy Practices and Institutions (Oxford University Press); The Contributions of the United Nations to Development Theory and Practice(Indiana University Press); Poverty and Exclusion in a Global World (Palgrave).

kate meagher

Kate Meagher is an Associate Professor in Development Studies at the Department of International Development, London School of Economics. She obtained her doctorate from the University of Oxford, and previously lectured at the Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria. Current research interests include informal institutions, hybrid governance, religion and economic informality, youth unemployment and the politics of informality.

rahul oka

Rahul Oka (B.A., Lawrence University, 2000, Ph.D., University of Illinois Chicago and Field Museum, 2008) is Ford Family Assistant Professor of Anthropology. Trained as an economic anthropologist in both archaeology and cultural anthropology, his research interests include the evolution of complex socio-economic systems, e.g., urbanism, trade networks, relief and development, specifically focusing on the impact of trade, commerce, and traders on social, political, and cultural infrastructures. These impacts are explored through two ongoing project: Archaeological and historical analysis of trade and commerce in the Indian Ocean, ca. 1000 BCE – 1800 CE, and Ethnographic and network analysis of formal and informal trade, consumption, and social interactions in unstable political environments such as conflict zones and refugee camps and displaced peoples’ settlements.  


Research paper

Adeolu Adesanya (PhD) -

Why Formalise the Informal Economy? A Study of Lagos

Dr. Adeolu Adesanya: Holds a doctorate in Innovative Economics from the University of Leicester. He currently serves as the Head of Research at the Innovation Institute UK, and works with National Grid, UK’s largest utility. As a reflection of his focus on finding solutions to the slow rate of economic and sustainable development in developing countries he has consulted for the Heinrich Böll Foundation and has been selected to speak at, The LSE Africa Summit 2015, University of Warwick’s Centre for Cultural Policy Studies: Researching Contemporary Culture in Africa 2015, CT Nigeria’s Next Chapter 2013. He also served as Co-Chair 2016 NISM Currency Debate; as well as panellist on several discussions on investment and infrastructural funding in Sub-Saharan Africa. Adeolu has conducted research on Fixed Income Markets with a Sub-Saharan Africa Markets focus for investment boutique firms in London, authorized by the PRA and regulated by the FCA that caters to institutional clients.