Re-theorising the role of the informal economy in Sub-Saharan Africa: some lessons from Gambia

Abdoulie Sallah, Collin Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


This paper aims to evaluate critically the rival representations of the role of the informal economy which is variously portrayed as a leftover from an earlier mode of production, a direct by-product of late capitalism, an alternative to the formal economy or a complement to formal work. Reporting evidence from a survey of 500 participants in Gambia, the finding is that although each and every representation of its role is valid in relation to particular populations and/or specific types of informal work, no one representation fully captures the diverse and multiple roles played by the informal economy in contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa. The consequent argument is that only by using all of them can a finer-grained and more comprehensive understanding of the multifarious roles of the informal economy be achieved. The outcome is a more multilayered and nuanced understanding of the role played by the informal economy in contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195 - 215
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business
Issue number2-3
Early online date18 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016



  • nformal sector; economic development; livelihoods; Gambia; Sub-Saharan Africa; shadow economy; SSA.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

Cite this