Urbani izziv Volume 25, No. supplement, July 2014
University of Cape Town, Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, South Africa
Intertwining lives and logics: Household and informal economies in Cape Town
Enabling households to make ends meet, the practices of small, informal businesses are not simple, but bound up in the struggles of households and the social and economic relationships that weave local economies together. This paper draws on stories of local businesses in an impoverished Cape Town township to situate these diverse logics and strategies, the histories and aspirations that shape small business success and struggle. Drawing on interviews and mapping every informal sector business in the neighbourhood, I reflect on the specific difficulties of running a business in the context of poverty, including unreliable and inadequate incomes, difficulties of credit, as well as the challenges of operating business on a small scale. This material demonstrates the community-based, as well as livelihood, logics that motivate local business owners as well as sustain their livelihoods. The paper concludes with an argument that the neighbourhood economy, instead of a vehicle driven primarily to maximize profit, forms an intimate part of peoples’ lives. This more multifaceted and embedded analysis stretches overly narrow notions of the informal economy, its limits and logics.
Informal economy, popular economy, livelihoods, survivalist, community, competition