The South African informal sector’s socio-economic exclusion from basic service provisions: A critique of Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality’s approach to the informal sector

  • B. Masuku Department of Development Studies, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa
  • O. Nzewi Department of Development Studies, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa
Keywords: Energy needs; basic urban infrastructure services; informal sector; informal food sector; street traders; exclu-sion; service provision; women; energy services; local government; livelihoods


This study explores the exclusion of informal micro-enterprises from the provision of basic urban infrastructure services in Duncan Village in East London, South Africa. It focuses on the informal food sector, which is dominated by women who are often held back from participating in economic activities that are more productive, as well as from social and political functions. Basic urban infrastructures, such as trading shelters with water and electricity connections provided by municipalities, are often expensive and most informal street traders find it difficult to access them. This study examines the energy struggles of the informal street food sector and its engagement with local government on issues of inclusivity on policies regulating the sector. In-depth, semi-structured interviews and focus groups were conducted with 40 participants in the informal street food sector in Duncan Village. The findings reveal the lack of energy transition in the informal street food sector, because of its heavy reliance on low-quality fuels. Unreliable and expensive energy services force informal street food enterprises into using a limited range of energy sources. The findings also reveal that the relationship between the municipality and the informal street traders is one of exclusion and negligence. It is therefore suggested that government needs to recognise and value the informal sector and livelihoods of those involved in this sector, to take into account their needs, and engage with them when designing and implementing policies that regulate the sector.


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