Walking the Tight Rope

Informal Livelihoods & Social Networks in a West African City

By Ilda Lourenco-Lindell
December 2002
Almqvist & Wiksell International
ISBN: 91-22-01968-5
275 pages, 6 1/2" x 9 1/2"
$63.00 Paper Original

Trends towards 'informalization' are looming large in the world today. African cities have long been characterized by the presence of an 'informal sector' but are now experiencing new waves of 'informalization'. Policies of liberalization and structural adjustment are both changing the conditions under which urban dwellers make a living and encouraging states to abdicate from responsibilities for popular welfare. In this context, urbanites increasingly rely on informal ways of income earning and of social security provisioning. This book is about processes of 'informalization' in the West African city of Bissau in Guinea-Bissau. It begins with a historical account of the way conditions of informality have evolved through the encounter of locally specific forms of informal relations with colonialism and the socialist era. This is followed by an analysis of how disadvantaged groups who rely on informal ways of provisioning are faring in the context of contemporary changes. The study looks at both the informal income-generating activities and the social networks that urbanites engage in to sustain their income activities and their consumption. It seeks to assess whether these groups are coping with these wider changes or are becoming marginalized from networks of assistance and from activities that provide sufficient incomes. The social relations pervading access to support and livelihood resources as well as the informal rules governing such access are in focus. Forms of regulation in the informal sphere are also discussed.

African Studies; Economics
Stockholm Studies in Human Geography No. 9

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