WP 201405 - The Urban Informal Sector in Francophone Africa: Large Versus Small Enterprises in Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal

Aly Mbaye, Nancy Benjamin, Stephen Golub and Jean-Jacques Ekomie

Date of Publication: 
December 2014


The informal sector is often associated with micro- and family-based firms. In West Africa, however, some informal firms are very large. Based on detailed surveys and interviews carried out in Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal, we compare the characteristics of formal, large informal and small informal firms. This paper discusses the survey methodology, the main industries in which large informal firms operate, and the characteristics and functioning of firms. It shows that large informal firms have some features of both their formal and small informal counterparts, but in terms of management structure and functioning they are more like informal firms than formal firms. Policy should adopt a differentiated approach towards large versus small informal firms, as they have different effects on poverty alleviation and economic development.

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