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Africa’s informal sector under spotlight at ILO conference

Nine out of 10 working people on the continent were employed in the informal sector.

Prime Minister of Madagascar Christian Ntsay addresses on 5 December 2019 the Transforming Africa's Informal and Rural Economy for Decent Work panel at the IOL 14th Regional Conference in Abidjan. Picture: IOL

ABIDJAN - Informal sector participants have pleaded with the continent’s leaders to include them in decision making.

Some of the participants at the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) 14th Regional Conference, which ends on Friday in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, complained of being side-lined in policymaking institutions.

Nine out of 10 working people on the continent were employed in the informal sector.

Lorraine Sibanda, who is the president of Zimbabwe’s Streetnet - an informal sector organisation, did not mince her words when explaining to the continent’s leaders that they were getting a lot wrong when dealing with the sector.

“There is a need to harness the innovation that these workers have, including their knowledge and skills. What they lack is a conducive policy environment and the conducive physical environment to really bring out their best,” Sibanda said.

Madagascar’s Prime Minister Christian Ntsay explained that the informal sector was often wrongly associated with undesirable and illegal practices. He said economic and financial policies in support of the sector should instead take centre stage in the debate.

South Africa’s informal sector provided employment and income for over 2.5 million workers and business owners, giving jobs to one in every six employed South Africans.