Breaking down the binary : meanings of informal settlement in southern African cities

Groenewald, Liela ; Huchzermeyer, Marie ; Kornienko, Kristen ; Tredoux, Marius J. ; Rubin, Margot ; Raposo, Isabel (2013)

Please cite as follows:

Groenewald, L. et al. 2013. Breaking down the binary: Meanings of informal settlement in southern African cities. In Bekker, S. & Fourchard, L. (eds.) 2013. Governing Cities in Africa: Politics and Policies, Cape Town, HSRC Press.

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Informality is a ubiquitous characteristic of urban life in Africa and elsewhere. Although the phenomenon of informality is loosely understood as the strategies and institutions that develop beyond the regulatory framework of the state (Abdoul 2005), a rigid distinction between formal and informal sectors precludes the possibility that informal sectors could be complementary to, rather than incompatible with, the institutions and regulations of the state and the formal market (Roy 2005) takes issue with the way in which the dominant frames through which informality is studied equate informality with poverty. Reflections on the tendency to think in terms of a formal-informal binary emerged in the late 1970s, half a decade after the concept of the informal economy was coined (Dick & Rimmer 1980; McGee 1978). In today's urban climate, it may be more useful to think of different interests that shape strategies to compete for resources in cities (Roy 2004).

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