Sunday, September 20, 2009

both sides of the mouth

Three recent news items from Africa.

1. Hawkers in Ghana are still on the street, just in a much more precarious position, after a government attempt to arrest all street vendors, The Ghanaian Chronicle (via Modern Ghana) reports.

2. The Standard reports that Kenyan street hawkers are now doing business in Botswana since the Nairobi City Council drove them out of the downtown area. At the same time, Capital News reports that the Kenyan government wants to provide health insurance for Kenya's 11 million members of the informal economy.

3. Nigeria, which has seen efforts to criminalize street selling in Lagos, is also talking of providing social protections to informal workers, according to the Business Day newspaper.

Why are these African countries so afraid of street sellers and other informal workers. The Nigerian article points out that 80 percent of the workforce is informal. So why are these governments criminalizing the work done by the majority of their population, while at the same time asserting that they want to provide incentives and social protections? That's called talking out of both sides of your mouth. What will the incentives and insurance be worth if people can no longer work?

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