Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Formalising the Informal Sector through Association: The Case of Kumasi Informal Bakers' Association

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Formalising the Informal Sector through Association: The Case of Kumasi Informal Bakers' Association

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper presents the efforts of the Kumasi Informal Bakers' Association (KIBA) to formalise their activities in order to earn respect and dignity as small-scale business owners. The paper examines the differences between their activities and those of other associations of informal sector workers. The primary data (mainly qualitative) for the analyses in this paper was gathered through focus group discussions and key informant interviews. The analyses focused on the group processes, dynamics and achievements having adopted certain formal ways of running their affairs. The analyses further revealed how these steps have moved the bakers away from the less formal end of the informal sector spectrum towards the formal sector spectrum, although more still needs to be done to qualify them as formal organisations. KIBA has helped build the capacity of its individual members to introduce some degree of formality in their activities and performances. The paper concludes that self-regulation through associations can to some extent effectively formalise the informal sector for sustainable development.

Keywords: formalisation, informal sector, bakers, association, employees rights

1. Introduction and Context

The ILO (2002) defines the informal economy as "all economic activities by workers and economic units that are, in law or practice, not covered or insufficiently covered by formal arrangements". For majority of the urban poor engaged in informal activities, organising themselves into associations is a critical survival strategy aimed at gaining recognition and support for their livelihood. According to the international labour law, all workers, including those in the informal sector, have the right to associate. Globally, the informal sector has a proliferation of groups, which represent the interests of informal sector workers. Organisations of informal workers have found it necessary to protect the interest of their workers from all forms of threats to their livelihoods including threats from government officials, lack of understanding and mistrust of informal sector workers, and disregard for their rights. In order to have a voice and be adequately represented, organisations of informal sector workers become important components of their informal sector operations. Unfortunately many poor informal sector workers often encounter challenges with regard to the capacity to sustain their associations or groups.

One of the weaknesses of informal sector workers' associations/organisations is the inability of the members to meet their financial obligations to their organisations, which often cripples the association/organisations' capacity. According to Bhatt (2006), poor people's associations struggle to fight poverty and prejudice but have limited capacity to demand the rights of their members. For many of the women's groups, joining a trade association helps them meet their social obligations.

The history of organized women's groups in Ghanaian markets is well documented (Gladwin, 1980; Sheldon, 1996; Lyon, 2003 and Clark, 2010). These groups are seen as having "structured potentials for coordinating and exercising diverse strengths that the market women draw on including ethnic, gender and commodity connections as well as their commercial positions" (Clark, 1994:248). There is very little literature on other informal sector workers' associations or groups in Ghana, although several other significant ones exist such as the Kumasi Informal Bakers Association.

This paper examines the processes and dynamics of the Kumasi Informal Bakers Association (KIBA) and its achievements in formalising some of its procedures as an association of bakers in the informal sector. This has not received much attention but seems to have succeeded in making a positive impact for the members. The analysis examines the extent to which the association's attempts to formalise its activities have strengthened workers' rights, developed the capacity of members and empowered the bakers. …

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