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Supporting Africa’s Informal Sector through Technology

Africa has the highest proportion of informal sector workers anywhere in the world. They account for more than 85% of the continent’s workers. This compares with 68.2% in Asia and the Pacific, 68.6% in the Arab States, 40.0% in the Americas and 25.1% in Europe and Central Asia. It is easier to work in the informal sector because no academic certificate or formal training is required. The most important thing is the readiness and ability to work. But these businesses face numerous challenges which hinder their growth. Africa already has a reasonable foundation for the extensive use of technology. Take the widespread use of mobile phones. A recent report showed that 91% of adults in South Africa own a mobile phone; 51% of adults have a smartphone and 40% have a basic phone. Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania also have relatively high mobile penetration with over 30% of the adult population having a smartphone. This means that an informal service provider can engage in business transactions with customers over the phone via SMS or social media.