11:15 - 11:45
Work Work Work
Informal 4.0: How Tech Savvy Africans Are Transforming the Informal Economy


Decentralized digital ecosystems are transforming the informal economy. Young Africans have adopted and adapted gig economy tools to meet their needs for a flexible digital marketplace. What makes these new business models work so well for them? What can we learn from them to design new systems for our own employment landscape?


According to the Financial Times, gig economy apps may have helped global unemployment hit the lowest point in 40 years, although they face negative publicity for precarious and uncertain incomes. Overlooked is their impact on the informal economies of the developing world, particularly Africa.

Here, apps that can affordably drive demand and scale reach, are currently transforming local markets. They're opening up new opportunity spaces for the social, mobile, youthful generation. Easy to set up and deploy, these apps offer a flexible and negotiable solution to the age old problem of demand and supply.

The session will present and discuss 5 years of field research by Niti Bhan for both private and public sector, undertaken in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, in particular:  

  1. The evolution of the East African mobile economy over the past 20 years, including the emergence of hybrid solutions due to the unevenly distributed nature of device adoption.
  2. The current scenario "Informal 3.0": where the gig economy meets the informal, in areas such as trade, retail, micro-manufacturing, and marketing.
  3. The early signals of "Informal 4.0": the next generation of makers and doers. What does the emergence of a tech savvy educated generation implicate, combined with affordable smartphones in an environment where formal jobs are in short supply?

The panelists will highlight common patterns between gig economy and informal economy, and share design drivers for revenue models that meet the needs of flexibility, negotiability, and discoverability that work for both Europe and Africa.