The focus of this paper is on the low-value urban informal economy in sub-Saharan Africa. The paper presents a case study from Uganda, with the focus on secondary cities where much of the urban population growth is expected in the next decade. There is also good evidence that informality will persist within both dynamic and in slow urban economies in sub-Saharan Africa. Analysis of the results from fieldwork is presented in support of the basic argument that, as the informal economy is likely to persist there is need for a more conducive policy approach to ensure its positive contribution to the urban economic development; seen as a mainstay of Africa’s future economic development. Currently, the informal economy is considered ephemeral, with little institutional engagement, with the focus on restrictive
The paper explores the range of theoretical perspectives on the urban informal economy leading to its re-conceptualizing as part of a continuum of activities in which both formal and informal elements are interlinked. Given the need to improve productivity of activities of different constituent groups along the continuum, the aim of this paper is to develop a conceptual framework that would enable the systematic analyses and identification of the internal diversities within the informal economy. It could be used in future policy research to identify diagnostic groups for entry points. The findings from the fieldwork carried out in the cities of Mbale and Mbarara, show that there are several viable options for sustainable livelihoods, particularly in a dynamic urban center. However, while women dominate in numbers, men remain the main actors. This calls for an inclusive, gender-mainstreamed, pro-poor development policy to complement an enterprise-based approach.