The Informal Economy in African Cities: Key to Inclusive and Sustainable Urban Development

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By Martha Alter Chen, Harvard University and WIEGO Network


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
Global Forum on Development on 5 April 2017


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Market porters in Accra, Ghana
Photo Credit: Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images Reportage

The informal economy consists of economic activities and units that are not registered with the state and workers who do not receive social protection through their work, both wage-employed and self-employed. The reality of the informal economy in Africa cannot be denied. In fact, informal employment accounts for two-thirds (66%) of non-agricultural employment in Sub-Saharan Africa. But, variation within the region is significant. Informal employment accounts for a smaller share of non-agricultural employment in southern Africa (33% in South Africa and 44% in Namibia) relative to countries in other sub-regions (82% in Mali and 76% in Tanzania) (Vanek et al 2014). Informal employment is a greater source of non-agricultural employment for women (74%) than for men (61%) in the region overall. In seven cities in West Africa with data, informal employment comprises between 76% (Niamey) and 83% (Lomé) of employment. In all seven cities, proportionally more women than men are in informal employment (Herrera et al 2012).
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Unlocking the potential of SMEs for the SDGs

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By Lamia Kamal-Chaoui, Director, Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
Global Forum on Development on 5 April 2017
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SMEs-Dev-MattersA universal definition of small – and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) does not exist. What is generally undisputed, however, is the fact that the overwhelming majority of private-sector businesses in the world are SMEs and that SMEs account for a very large share of world economic activity in both developed and developing countries.

Look at the data. In the OECD countries where SME definitions are comparable, the contribution of SMEs to national employment ranges between 53% in the United Kingdom to 86% in Greece. The contribution of SMEs to national value-added 1 is between 38% in Mexico and 75% in Estonia. The SME share of economic activity is typically larger in OECD economies than in emerging-market economies, reflecting a mix of stronger SME productivity levels in the former and higher rates of economic informality in the latter. In emerging-market economies, SMEs are responsible for up to 45% of jobs and up to 33% of national GDP. These numbers are significantly higher when informal businesses, which are often more than half of the total enterprise population, are included in the count. Some estimates suggest that when the informal sector is included, SMEs in emerging-market economies account for 90% of total employment.
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Increasing impact through partnerships

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By Francesco Starace, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of ENEL SpA


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
Global Forum on Development on 5 April 2017
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A view from the community of Ollagüe

Planet Earth is changing, evolving, with such speed and disruption that humans have been forced to question many of the things that used to be taken for granted. This is due in great part to the digitalisation of a world that is ever more interconnected, and therefore increasingly complex.

Whilst this complexity and change might bring about some discomfort initially, it is important not to fight it. It is inevitable, and it must happen. It is much better that humankind embraces it. Doing so means being willing to open up to new ideas, to the potential of new technology, and to listen to what people want and need.
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Encouraging entrepreneurship in Africa is vital to achieving the Global Goals

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By Dr. Amy Jadesimi, CEO, LADOL



Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming

Global Forum on Development on 5 April 2017
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Amy-JadesimiNext week, the OECD Global Forum on Development will convene in Paris to discuss the critical role the private sector must play in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or Global Goals). Private sector funding, innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainable business models can rapidly reorient the global economy towards achieving prosperity through business models that align with the goals.

Here’s what we know: At least USD 12 trillion could be added to the global economy by 2030 if the private sector embraces sustainable business models in the1 four key development areas of energy and materials, health and well-being, food and agriculture, and cities. Embracing sustainable business models in other sectors will push this figure even higher. This level of private sector engagement could create 380 million new jobs, primarily in low income, high growth countries.
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How we all benefit when women have access to finance

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By Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO, Women’s World Banking


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
Global Forum on Development on 5 April 2017.
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shutterstock_453468400The International Finance Corporation estimates that approximately 65% of women-led small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in developing economies are either unserved or underserved financially 1. For a women entrepreneur, this means the odds are already stacked against the growth potential of her business. Giving women access to credit and other financial tools will not only help those businesses, it will also help us achieve critical Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This gap in access to capital for women-led SMEs exists despite significant contributions by these businesses to gross domestic product and employment. Women-owned businesses account for approximately 40% of the world’s 340 million informal micro, small and medium enterprises and one-third of the 40 million formal SMEs 2. A projected 112 million female business owners also employ at least one other person in their business 3.

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The Global Goals’ Business Opportunity in Africa

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By Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, Chair, Business & Sustainable Development Commission, former UNDP Administrator and Ex-UN Deputy Secretary-General, and UK Minister of State for Africa, Asia and the United Nations


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
Global Forum on Development on 5 April 2017.
Register today to attend!


Lord-Mark-Malloch-BrownA critical transition from a heavy reliance on international public development finance to locally generated private sector solutions to development problems is underway. Earlier this year, the Business & Sustainable Development Commission launched its flagship report, Better Business, Better World, which makes the case for why the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer the private sector a growth strategy that opens new market value and helps solve significant social and environmental challenges at the same time. The Commission shows how sustainable business models could unlock economic opportunities across 60 “hot spots” worth up to USD 12 trillion and increase employment by up to 380 million jobs by 2030. In Africa alone, sustainable business models could open up an economic prize of at least USD 1.1 trillion and create over 85 million new jobs by 2030.
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The Online Platform, Trade, MSMEs and Women: Lessons from eBay towards user-driven economic empowerment

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By Hanne Melin, Director and Head of eBay Public Policy Lab for Europe, Middle East and Africa


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
Global Forum on Development on 5 April 2017.
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Innovation-womenIrrespective of where in the world we look, we find micro and small businesses leveraging an online platform business strategy to engage in commerce on a global scale. That’s been the finding of the eBay Public Policy Lab and a team of economists at Sidley Austin LLP who have worked together since 2011 studying the trade patterns of enterprises using the eBay marketplace.

The economic opportunities cannot be overestimated.

Indeed, trade participation is linked to increased productivity and greater probability of firm survival. This, in turn, contributes to more prosperous communities. Nevertheless, micro and small firms remain underrepresented in world trade, despite them dominating most countries’ enterprise population. Moreover, developing countries’ role in world trade is still understated, not to mention the small firms in those countries.

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