City planning and urban design in many African cities are based on western and colonial standards that ignore the informal economy.
Despite this, a visit to most African cities will reveal a thriving informal economy and enterprises providing services such as hairdressing, sewing and appliance, shoe, bicycle and car repairs. A wide range of goods such as building materials, books, clothes, pottery, jewelry, woodwork, furniture, vegetables, fruit, eggs, and meat are also being sold.
Although difficult to measure, it is estimated that the value of the informal economy is 28 % of South Africa’s GDP and employs over 2.1 million people (South Africa LED Network).
There is an increasing realisation by municipalities that informal trade should be integrated into cities to support local economies. This is reflected in guidance being developed which identifies the following ways local governments can support informal trading:
1. Understand the needs of the informal economy and acknowledge its different facets
2. Work together with the informal economy
3. Create a favourable policy environment
4. Create a favourable regulatory environment
5. Flexible taxes and rates
6. Access to infrastructure and basic services
7. Access to markets
A detailed level, buildings, pavements, open spaces and pedestrian and car circulation need to be adapted and designed differently to integrate informal trade.
‘Social contracts’ which define agreements between informal traders, building owners and local government on how space and services are used and managed are also needed.