The informal sector in urban Nigeria: Reflections from almost four decades of research

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 17
  • SDG 16
  • SDG 8
  • SDG 5
  • Abstract:

    English: The rapid expansion of the informal sector or economy in both developed and developing countries has not only captured the attention of researchers, development analysts, government officials and international agencies but is also prompting a massive profusion of literature on the topic. In the face of the huge plethora of informal sector literature, some scholars advocate ‘country distinction’ as a scale-bound and context-specific template for gauging both the ‘national’ and ‘global’ accounts of the informality story. The Nigerian informal sector is metaphoric of old wine in a new wineskin since ‘informality’ research in the country predates the introduction of the concept there. It was the ILO city-study mission to Lagos in 1975 that pioneered the concept but the terminology tottered until the mid-1980s before it diffused the mainstream of academic and policy circles. Ever since the structural adjustment programme (SAP) of 1986, the ascribed informal workforce has grown in leaps and bounds both in real numbers and in activity diversification. The article explores the nearly two decades’ trajectory and substance of informal sector research in Nigeria. It is significant for two reasons: no previous elaborate attempt has been made to systematically document or review the motleys of informal sector literature in Nigeria, and this evaluation promises, among other things, to provide the feedbacks necessary to avert a slide of informality research into “ritual academic blind alleys” (Flyvbjerg, 2004a: 422). Based on the foregoing, the article synthesises the knowledge gains (as well as gaps) and concludes with recommendations for future research.