Knowledge in informal African markets - a case study of three informal markets in Zimbabwe

Dhewa, Charles (2016-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: If knowledge is power, this thesis tries to show how informal African markets share that power. In many African countries such as Zimbabwe, policy makers and development partners are yet to fully understand the knowledge system of the informal markets and how it functions. The informal economy is an informal person to person information system. It becomes a knowledge system when farmers and traders take action based on information signals shared in the market. The information system is informal because the flow of information is not organized formally. Farmers and traders do not rely on any database or computer for decision-making. The information system that they use connects with the special nature of trust and memory. Given that the informal information system is not regulated or written down, trust becomes the essence of information exchange and of the knowledge system. All relationships in the informal economy are based on trust. This trusted informal information system, on one hand, gives smallholder traditional farmers power around production, use of land as well as livestock ownership and post-harvest handling. On the other hand, by informing farmers about market expectations as well as sorting and aggregating commodities, traders have power to determine the value of farmers’ agricultural commodities. Although the information system overlaps with the formal system, person to person information-sharing remains the basic thing reinforcing vertical and horizontal power integration within the market. Without these assets, the informal agricultural market will stop functioning. In this thesis, Chapter 1 lays out the Structure of the Research, teasing out the main objective of the research which is to understand knowledge dynamics in informal agriculture markets. It also explains the context and essence of the problem under investigation. This chapter also articulates the research questions and provides a contextual description of Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector including the role of the informal markets. Chapter 2 captures the scope of work and methodology while Chapter 3 focuses on Knowledge and Learning as theoretical underpinnings of the research. Chapters 4 and 5 focus on the data collection process where interviews and focus group discussions were the main methods. Chapter 4 captures the voice of the farmers while Chapter 5 dwells on the voice of the traders. As a conclusion, Chapter 6 ties together the key issues around knowledge and learning emerging from this research.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Die tesis prober toon hoe informele markte in Afrika met kennis omgaan. Die tesis fokus op drie markte in Zimbabwe en ondersoek die kennissisteem wat daarin voorkom. Uiteraards word geen van die elektroniese hulpmiddels gebruik nie. Wderesydse vertroue en die vermoë om te memoriseer is die basis van die informele kennisstelsel. Die grootste deel van die tesis is ‘n weergawe van persoonlike onderhoude met deelnamers aan die markte.

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