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close this bookWomen in Informal Sector (Dar Es Salaam University Press, 1995, 46 p.)
close this folderINTRODUCTION
View the documentWhat is an Informal Sector?
View the documentThe Jua Kali Concept
View the documentSmall is Great

The Jua Kali Concept

In East Africa, especially in Kenya and Tanzania, the Kiswahili definitions show the nature of such groups of people and the economic activities they are engaged in. In Kenya the informal sector is called Jua Kali, literally meaning “intense or hot sun,” indicating that the people involved in this sector do their business in open spaces.

Writing on the need to rethink about the formal education and training as a way to get into “gainful employment” and into the formal sector, Dore (1976:74), characterized the jua kali people as:

...the roadside and empty lot mechanics who will weld on a Dourneville cocoa tin to mend the exhaust pipe of the civil servant’s Mercedes, the leather workers making hand-made bags for the tourist trade, the furniture-makers, the men who collect empty essolube cans from garages twice a day and have them processed into serviceable oil lamps by sunset.

This quotation shows the link between the classes and the interdependency that exists between the two sectors. People who have studied this sector know its importance to the macro-economy inspite of the fact that it has taken too long for many governments and development institutions to recognized and support it (Omari 1989).

The jua kali concept evokes some socially accepted images of the people who have been working in open spaces for a long time. The presumption behind such a concept is that people working in the informal sector have no sheds or shelters. Any place can become the operational site. If we take into consideration the kinds of activities undertaken in this manner, especially those which are done by women, this presumption may be misleading however. Furthermore, the term is related to the economic activities undertaken in urban areas dealing with non-agricultural products and activities only. But as we know, there are several agricultural activities which are carried out in the sun and belong to the informal sector. There are also non-agricultural activities belonging to this sector, which are carried out in the shades. So the jua kali concept has an inbuilt negative meaning and may not tell us the whole story about informal sector.