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The Informal Sector in Francophone Africa: Firm Size, Productivity, and Institutions

Study by Benjamin, Nancy and Mbaye, Ahmadou Ali with Diop, Ibrahima Thione, Golub, Stephen S., Haughton, Dominique, and Niang, Birahim Bouna, 2012

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The book provides detailed description and analysis of the characteristics and functioning of informal sector firms, the causes of the pervasiveness of these firms, the relations between formal and informal firms, the consequences of informality for economic development, and appropriate policy responses. This study focuses on the urban informal sector in three capital cities: Dakar (Senegal), Cotonou (Benin), and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).

AFRICA DEVELOPMENT FORUM


The Informal Sector in
Francophone Africa


Firm Size, Productivity, and Institutions


Nancy Benjamin and Ahmadou Aly Mbaye
with Ibrahima Thione Diop, Stephen S. Golub,


Dominique Haughton, and Birahim Bouna Niang


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The Informal Sector
in Francophone Africa






The Informal Sector
in Francophone Africa


Nancy Benjamin and Ahmadou Aly Mbaye


with Ibrahima Thione Diop, Stephen S. Golub,
Dominique Haughton, and Birahim Bouna Niang


A copublication of the Agence Française de Développement and the World Bank


Firm Size, Productivity,
and Institutions




© 2012 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / Th e World Bank
1818 H Street NW, Washington DC 20433
Telephone: 202-473-1000; Internet: www.worldbank.org


Some rights reserved
1 2 3 4 15 14 13 12


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Th e fi ndings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this work do not necessarily refl ect the views
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Attribution—Please cite the work as follows: Benjamin, Nancy, and Ahmadou Aly Mbaye. 2012. Th e Infor-
mal Sector in Francophone Africa: Firm Size, Productivity and Institutions. Washington, DC: Th e World
Bank. 10.1596/978-0-8213-9537-0.


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ISBN (paper): 978-0-8213-9537-0
ISBN (electronic): 978-0-8213-9542-4
DOI: 10.1596/978-0-8213-9537-0


Cover photo: Landry Divassa; Cover design: Debra Naylor of Naylor Design


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Benjamin, Nancy C., 1956-
Th e informal sector in francophone Africa : fi rm size, productivity and institutions / Nancy Benjamin
and Ahmadou Aly Mbaye ; with Ibrahima Th ione Diop ... [et al.].
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-8213-9537-0 -- ISBN 978-0-8213-9542-4 (electronic)
1. Informal sector (Economics)--Africa, French-speaking West. 2. Small business--Africa, French-
speaking West. 3. Africa, West--Economic conditions--1960- I. Mbaye, Ahmadou Aly. II. Diop,
Ibrahima Th ione. III. World Bank. IV. Title.
HD2346.A58B46 2012
338.70966--dc23
2012011914




Africa Development Forum Series


The Africa Development Forum series was created in 2009 to focus on signifi -
cant issues relevant to Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic development. Its aim is
both to document the state of the art on specific topics and to contribute to
ongoing local, regional, and global policy debates. And it is designed specifically
to provide practitioners, scholars, and students with the most up-to-date
research results while highlighting the promise, challenges, and opportunities
that exist on the continent.


The series is sponsored by the Agence Française de Développement and the
World Bank. The manuscripts chosen for publication represent the highest
quality research and project activity in each institution and have been selected
for their relevance to the development agenda. Working together with a shared
sense of mission and interdisciplinary purpose, the two institutions are com-
mitted to moving beyond traditional boundaries in a search for new insights
and new ways of analyzing the development realities of the Sub-Saharan African
Region.


Advisory Committee Members


Agence Française de Développement
Pierre Jacquet, Chief Economist
Robert Peccoud, Director of Research


World Bank
Shantayanan Devarajan, Chief Economist, Africa Region
Célestin Monga, Senior Adviser, Development Economics and Africa Region
Santiago Pombo-Bejarano, Editor-in-Chief, Offi ce of the Publisher




Sub-Saharan Africa


ZIMBABWE


ANGOLA


BURUNDI


RWANDA


CHAD


NIGER


UGANDA KENYA


SOMALIA


ETHIOPIA


ERITREASUDAN


SOUTH
SUDAN


CENTRAL
AFRICAN REPUBLIC


CONGO


NIGERIA


TOGO


SENEGAL


LIBERIA


SIERRA LEONE


GUINEA


CÔTE
D’IVOIRE


GUINEA-BISSAU


DEMOCRATIC
REPUBLIC
OF CONGO


SOUTH
AFRICA


LESOTHO


SWAZILAND


BOTSWANA


ZAMBIA


MOZAMBIQUE
MADAGASCAR


COMOROS


SEYCHELLES


MALAWI


TANZANIA


NAMIBIA


MAURITIUS


CAMEROON


GABON


EQUATORIAL GUINEA


SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE


MALI


BENIN
BURKINA FASO


MAURITANIACAPE
VERDE


THE GAMBIA


GHANA


Réunion
(Fr.)


Mayotte
(Fr.)


IBRD
39088




vii


Titles in the Africa Development Forum Series


Africa’s Infrastructure: A Time for Transformation (2010) edited by Vivien Foster
and Cecilia Briceño-Garmendia


Gender Disparities in Africa’s Labor Market (2010) edited by Jorge Saba Arbache,
Alexandre Kolev, and Ewa Filipiak


Challenges for African Agriculture (2010) edited by Jean-Claude Deveze


Contemporary Migration to South Africa: A Regional Development Issue (2011)
edited by Aurelia Segatti and Loren Landau


Light Manufacturing in Africa: Targeted Policies to Enhance Private Investment
and Create Jobs (2012) by Hinh T. Dinh, Vincent Palmade, Vandana Chandra,
and Frances Cossar


Empowering Women: Legal Rights and Economic Opportunities in Africa (2012)
by Mary Hallward-Driemeier and Tazeen Hasan


Financing Africa’s Cities: Th e Imperative of Local Investment (2012) by Th ierry
Paulais


Structural Transformation and Rural Change Revisited: Challenges for Late
Developing Countries in a Globalizing World (2012) by Bruno Losch, Sandrine
Fréguin-Gresh, and Eric Th omas White






ix


Contents


Foreword xix
Preface xxi
Abbreviations xxv


Overview 1


Our Approach to Studying the Informal Sector 2


Characteristics of Informal Businesses in West Africa 4


Institutional, Regulatory, and Sociocultural Environment 6


Costs and Benefi ts of Informality: Productivity,
Living Standards, and Tax Revenue 9


Main Conclusions and Recommendations 11


Notes 13


References 13


1 The Informal Sector in West Africa: Defi nition 15


Informality versus Illegality 15


A Critical Review of the Criteria Used to Defi ne Informality in Africa 17


A New Approach to Informality 25


Conclusions 28


Notes 29


References 29




x CONTENTS


2 Data Sources and Methods 31


Data Collection Methods on the Informal Sector in Africa 31


Our Data Collection Strategy 33


Other Data Sources 37


Conclusion 39


Notes 40


References 40


3 The Informal Sector in West Africa: Overview of Economic
Signifi cance and Welfare Effects 41


An Overview of the Three Economies 42


The Signifi cance of Informality in West Africa 48


A Sectoral Analysis of Informality Based on National Accounts Data 49


Tax Burdens on Formal and Informal Sectors 58


Informality, Employment, and Living Standards 64


Conclusion 71


Notes 71


References 71


4 Large Informal Firms in West Africa 75


The Large Informal Sector in West Africa 75


Interrelations between the Formal Sector
and the Informal Sector 81


The Stories of Some Large Informal Operators in Senegal 88


Conclusion 93


Notes 93


References 94


5 Characteristics of the Informal Sector:
Findings from Our Surveys 95


Size and Other Characteristics of Firms in the Sample 95


Informality, Market Structure, and Exports 97


Financing and Investment 100




CONTENTS xi


Infrastructure 102


Taxation 108


Other Aspects of the Institutional Environment 110


The Informal Sector Workforce 115


Conclusions 120


Note 120


References 121


6 The Institutional Environment
of the Informal Sector in West Africa 123


with Ibrahima Thione Diop and Birahim Bouna Niang


State Failures and the Informal Sector:
Hypotheses and Literature Review 123


The Institutional Framework in West Africa 128


State Failures and the Informal Sector in West Africa 136


Conclusion 141


References 142


7 Informality and Productivity 145


with Dominique Haughton


The Importance of Productivity 145


Productivity and Informality in Developing Countries 146


Methodology 148


Survey Results 149


Factors Explaining the Productivity Gap 156


Informal Sector and Productivity: Econometric Modeling
and Testing Causality 162


Conclusion 170


Notes 170


References 170




xii CONTENTS


8 Informal Trading Networks in West Africa:
The Mourides of Senegal/The Gambia
and the Yoruba of Benin/Nigeria 173


Stephen Golub and Jamie Hansen-Lewis


The Mourides in Senegal and The Gambia 174


The Yoruba in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo 182


Traditional Social Networks and the Modern
Informal Sector 189


Conclusion 190


Notes 191


References 191


9 Government Policies, Smuggling, and the Informal Sector 195


Stephen Golub


Historical Background 196


Overview of The Gambia-Senegal and Benin-Nigeria
Informal Trading 198


Operation of Smuggling Networks 200


Causes of Smuggling: Differences in Import Protection
and Other Distortions 206


Estimates of Unoffi cial Cross-Border Trade 213


Signifi cance of Informal Cross-Border Trade 215


Conclusion 216


Notes 216


References 217


Index 219


Figures


1.1 Share of Firms Satisfying Various Criteria of Informality
in Three West African Cities 25


3.1 Growth Rate of Value Added in the Formal and Informal Sectors
in Benin, 1991–2007 50


3.2 Growth Rate of Value Added in the Formal and Informal Sectors
in Burkina Faso, 1991–2007 51




CONTENTS xii i


3.3 Growth Rate of Value Added in the Formal and Informal Sectors
in Senegal, 1991–2007 51


3.4 Proportion of GDP Attributed to the Informal Sector
in the Three West African Countries, by Industrial Sector, 2007 52


3.5 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses
in the Primary Sector in Senegal, 1990–2007 52


3.6 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses
in the Primary Sector in Burkina Faso, 1990–2007 53


3.7 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses
in the Primary Sector in Benin, 1990–2007 53


3.8 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses
in the Secondary Sector in Senegal, 1990–2007 54


3.9 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses
in the Secondary Sector in Burkina Faso, 1990–2007 54


3.10 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses
in the Secondary Sector in Benin, 1990–2007 55


3.11 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses
in the Tertiary Sector in Senegal, 1990–2007 55


3.12 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses
in the Tertiary Sector in Burkina Faso, 1990–2007 56


3.13 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses
in the Tertiary Sector in Benin, 1990–2007 57


4.1 Proportion of Firms in Senegal for Which Imports Are Larger
or Smaller Than Sales, by Industry 79


4.2 Proportion of Firms in Senegal for Which Imports Exceed Sales,
by Industry 80


5.1 Share of Exports in Total Sales in the Three West African Cities,
by Formal or Informal Status 99


5.2 Proportion of Firms with Access to Public Utility Services
in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 103


5.3 Share of Firms Owning a Generator in the Three West African
Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 108


5.4 Share of Firms Expressing Dissatisfaction with the Government’s
Use of Tax Revenues, by Tax Revenues 109


5.5 Share of Firms Agreeing That Tax Compliance Entails
Subsequent Harassment in the Three West African Cities,
by Tax Revenues 109




xiv CONTENTS


5.6 Perception of Time Waiting in Line to Pay Tax Bill in the Three
West African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 110


5.7 Share of Firms Saying That Government Adequately Enforces
TheseObligations in the Three West African Cities,
by Tax Remitted 111


5.8 Proportion of Firms Using ICT in the Three West African Cities,
by Formal or Informal Status 112


5.9 Share of Firms Belonging to a Business Association
in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 113


5.10 Share of Firms Experiencing Confl icts with Government
or Unions in the Three West African Cities, by Formal
or Informal Status 114


5.11 Distribution of Educational Attainment of Workers in the Three
West African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status, as a Share
of All Workers in Respective Subgroups 116


5.12 Share of Firms Complying with Social Security Obligations
in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 119


7.1 Productivity of Firms in the Three West African Cities,
by Level of Informality 150


7.2 Labor Productivity of Firms in the Three West African Cities,
by Formal or Informal Status (Share of Firms in Each
Productivity Range) 152


7.3 Firm Distribution according to Informality and the Level
of Productivity in Dakar, Ouagadougou, and Cotonou 153


7.4 Labor Productivity of Firms in the Three West African Cities,
by Formal or Informal Status and Various Correlates
of Informality 154


7.5 Share of Firms in which TFP is above Economy-wide Median
TFP Levels, by Formal or Informal Status 157


7.6 Classifi cation and Regression Trees 164


7.7 Analysis of Causality between Informality and Productivity
Using Directed Acyclic Graphs for Cotonou 169


Tables


1.1 Statistical Signifi cance of Correlations between Criteria
of Informality in Three West African Cities,
Using Chi-Squared Test 27




CONTENTS xv


1.2 Characteristics of Formal, Large Informal, and Small
Informal Firms 28


2.1 Breakdown of GDP in the Three West African Countries,
2003 and 2004 36


2.2 Distribution of Nonagricultural Informal Firms
in the Three West African Countries, by Sector 37


3.1 Economic Indicators in the Three West African Countries,
2006–08 42


3.2 Shares of WAEMU GDP of West African Countries, 1990–2008 43


3.3 Shares of Sub-Saharan GDP of West African Countries,
1990–2008 43


3.4 Employment in the Formal and Informal Sectors
in the Three West African Countries, Various Years, 2003–05 58


3.5 Tax Revenues as a Percentage of GDP in the Three West African
Countries, 1980–2005 59


3.6 Tax Revenues in Senegal, by Type of Tax, 1996–2005 60


3.7 Share of Informal Sector in Business Income Taxes in Senegal,
by Sector, 2004–07 60


3.8 Estimated Evasion of Informal Sector Sales Taxes in Senegal,
2004–07 61


3.9 Tax Revenues in Benin, by Type of Tax, 1990–2005 61


3.10 Tax Revenues in Burkina Faso, by Type of Tax, 1990–2005 62


3.11 Estimates of the Potential Gain from Taxing the Informal Sector’s
Business Income in the Three West African Countries, 2000–05 63


3.12 Informal Employment in the Three West African Countries,
by Sector 65


3.13 Monthly Salary per Person in the Three West African Cities, by
Formal or Informal Status 67


3.14 Average Monthly Expenditure per Person and Proportion
of People in Poverty in the Three West African Countries,
by Formal or Informal Status of the Household Head 67


3.15 Average Monthly Expenditure per Person in the Three
West African Countries, by Formal or Informal Status of the
Household Head and Sector of Activity 68


3.16 Indicators of Nonmonetary Poverty in the Three West African
Countries, by Formal or Informal Status of the Household Head 70


4.1 Survival Rates of Firms in Ouagadougou 80




xvi CONTENTS


5.1 Descriptive Statistics of Firms in the Three West African Cities,
by Formal or Informal Status 96


5.2 Distribution of Sampled Firms in the Three West African
Countries, by Sector of Activity 98


5.3 Sources of Financing for Firms in the Three West African Cities,
by Method of Financing and Formal or Informal Status 100


5.4 Interest Rates on Bank Loans in the Three West African Cities,
by Formal or Informal Status 101


5.5 Share of Firms Having Diffi culty Repaying Loans in the Three
West African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 102


5.6 Waiting Time for Water Connection in the Three West African
Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 104


5.7 Waiting Time for Electricity Connection in the Three
West African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 105


5.8 Waiting Time for a Telephone Connection in the Three
West African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 105


5.9 Annual Duration of Water Outage in the Three West African
Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 106


5.10 Annual Duration of Electricity Outage in the Three
West African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 107


5.11 Annual Duration of Telephone Outage in the Three
West African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 107


5.12 Self-Employment in Two of the Three West African Cities,
by Owner of the Enterprise and Formal or Informal Status 117


5.13 Proportion of Female Employees in the Three West African
Cities, by Formal or Informal Status 118


5.14 Gender of Firm Managers in the Three West African Cities,
by Formal or Informal Status 119


7.1 Probability of Reaching Average TFP in the Three West African
Cities, by Firm Age and Formal or Informal Status 158


7.2 Probability of Reaching Average TFP in the Three West African
Cities, by Firm Size and Formal or Informal Status 158


7.3 Probability of Reaching Average Capital Intensity in the Three
West African Cities, by Firm Age and Formal or Informal Status 159


7.4 Probability of Reaching Average Capital Intensity in the Three
West African Cities, by Firm Size and Formal or Informal Status 159




CONTENTS xvii


7.5 Probability of Achieving Average Productivity in the Three
West African Cities, by Gender of the Manager and Formal
or Informal Status 160


7.6 Probability of Achieving Average Productivity in the Three
West African Cities, by Average Salary of Employees and Formal
or Informal Status 161


7.7 Share of Firms with Above-Average Productivity in the Three
West African Cities, by Education Level of Employees
and Formal or Informal Status 161


7.8 Explanatory Variables and Their Expected Effects 163


7.9 Regression of the Log of Labor Productivity (lprod) on Formal
or Informal Status and Other Explanatory Variables 163


7.10 Regression of the Log of Labor Productivity (lprod) on Formal
or Informal Status with Interaction of Explanatory Variables 167


9.1 Offi cial Imports, Exports, Reexports, and Transit in
The Gambia and Benin, 2004–07 199


9.2 Trade Taxes in Senegal and The Gambia, 2007 208


9.3 Selected Import Barriers in Nigeria, 1995–2007 210


9.4 Imports in Benin by Selected Reexport Items, 2004–07 214






xix


As Africa grows and modernizes, it is crucial to understand how to better trans-
late these positive trends into poverty reduction through productive employ-
ment, especially for the 7–10 million young people entering the labor force
every year.


Until now, there have been few systematic studies on the informal sector,
despite the fact that most Africans work there, and it clearly plays a central role
in shaping the continent’s growth and social inclusion outlook.


Th is book is a major step towards improving the understanding of the
complex reality of informal sector fi rms in francophone West Africa. It
innovates by concentrating on informal fi rms rather than informal employment
(as other studies do), and identifying “large informal” sector fi rms whose sales
rival those of large formal-sector fi rms but operate in ways that are similar to
small informal operators. Not only is the regulatory environment facing these
two types of informal fi rms distinct, but policies aimed at improving their
productivity need to be diff erentiated.


Th e study also breaks new ground with an eclectic methodology and
primary data collection. Quantitative and qualitative fi rm-level data were
collected involving a unique and fruitful collaboration among academic
researchers, government offi cials, the West African Economic and Monetary
Union Commission, informal and formal sector business associations, and
labor unions.


Th e result is a comprehensive study of the multiple facets of the informal
sector—its economic signifi cance, the socio-demographic characteristics of
managers and employees, the sector distribution, relationship with government,
sources of fi nancing, fi rm-level productivity, social networks, and the role of
culture.


In identifying ways of improving the productivity of informal fi rms, the
book identifi es institutional and governance weaknesses, but also highlights
social and cultural hurdles to formalization.


Foreword




xx FOREWORD


Th is book is not only a window into the workings of the informal sector in
West Africa; it is a contribution to understanding how to raise the productivity
of these workers. As such, it is more than a compendium of information: it is a
useful tool for those who work for an Africa free of poverty.


Makhtar Diop
Vice President
Africa Region
Th e World Bank




xxi


Th e informal sector in Africa is poorly understood, having received less sys-
tematic attention than the informal sector in other developing countries,
particularly in Latin America. In particular, a crucial but little studied char-
acteristic of the informal sector in Africa is the coexistence of large and small
informal operators. Usually, the term informal sector connotes very small
and precarious fi rms. While such fi rms are indeed prevalent in Africa, there
are also very large informal fi rms and powerful ethnic and religious informal
networks linking large and small enterprises. One of the main objectives of
this work is to provide a detailed understanding of the phenomenon of the
informal sector in West Africa through case studies in three countries: Benin,
Burkina Faso, and Senegal.


Th is volume represents the culmination of a long collaboration between
the Centre de Recherches Economiques Appliquées (CREA) at the University
Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar and the World Bank. In early 2007, the CREA and
the World Bank’s Research Department agreed to develop and fund a research
proposal developed by Ahmadou Aly Mbaye, then director of the CREA and
now dean of the School of Economics and Management at Cheikh Anta Diop
University, and Nancy Benjamin, at that time the Senegal economist at the
World Bank. For the Bank, this study was the logical continuation of a Country
Economic Memorandum on Senegal, draft ed and coordinated by Ms. Benja-
min, that strongly recommended follow-up investigations of the informal sec-
tor as crucial to understanding the business environment in Senegal and West
Africa. Th e CREA has extensive experience with fi eldwork in Senegal and other
countries of the region.


Most previous economic studies on the informal sector in Africa have
focused on the labor market, households, and employment, premised on the
idea that informal enterprises are small and household based. Our approach
instead centers on surveys of urban enterprises. Th ere are several reasons for
this approach. First, we are interested in the role of the business climate and the


Preface




xxii PREFACE


institutional environment in fostering the informal sector, a topic that is largely
outside the purview of previous studies. Second, previous studies have used
somewhat diff erent concepts of informality, making cross-country comparisons
problematic. Th ird, previous studies have ignored the role of large informal
fi rms—what we call the “large informal” sector.


Our sampling strategy ensured coverage of the small informal, large infor-
mal, and formal sectors. We used data from a variety of sources, including sur-
veys of 300 fi rms in each of the three countries, less structured interviews with
a subset of large informal fi rms and government offi cials, as well as various
knowledgeable people, and secondary information from the national accounts
and other sources. Our results and analysis shed light on multiple facets of
the informal sector, including sociodemographic characteristics of actors, the
impact of the informal sector on tax collections, the eff ects of the business cli-
mate, the productivity of fi rms, and more.


Th e on-site fi eldwork involved a unique and fruitful collaboration among
academic researchers, government offi cials in the countries concerned, the West
African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) Commission, business
associations in the formal and informal sectors, and unions. Th ese individuals
and institutions were invaluable sources of information, and without their assis-
tance, gathering the data for this study would have been impossible. We would
like to take this opportunity to off er them our deepest gratitude for contributing
to our study by obliging our continuing requests for data and explanations. Par-
ticular thanks are due to the Department of Tax Policy, Trade, and Customs and
the Department of Economic Policy in the WAEMU Commission at that time.
Indeed, the WAEMU Commission always dispatched offi cials to accompany
and assist us during meetings with national government agencies and private
sector organizations. It also assisted us in obtaining quantitative data, offi cial
documents, and reports of all sorts and played a key role in sessions to dissemi-
nate the results of this study in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Senegal. We would
like to express our deep gratitude to the president of the WAEMU Commission
at the time, Soumaila Cissé; commissioners at that time Pape Abdou Sakho
and Joseph Marie Dabiré; and their respective chiefs of staff , notably Serigne
Mbacké Sougou; as well as the various department heads.


We would also like to thank the governments of the three countries for their
generosity in providing data as well as their willingness to speak openly with
the team leaders of the study. Offi cials from customs, tax departments, minis-
tries of commerce, and various informal sector support organizations in the
three countries were unfailingly generous and helpful. Th e national statistical
services in the three countries also assisted in sampling and data collection.
Th eir vast expertise and experience in this fi eld have been very useful, and we
sincerely thank the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Finance, and Com-
merce, to which these services are attached in the case of Benin. We would like




PREFACE xxii i


to particularly express our gratitude to Mr. Antonin Dossou, Chief of Cabinet of
the Ministry for Sustainable Development in Benin at that time, for his personal
involvement in our project throughout all stages of the process.


Th is study was implemented with the assistance of the economic research
centers of three major universities in each of the three countries: the Univer-
sity of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina
Faso, and the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar. Th ese three teams, respec-
tively, were led by professors Fulbert Gero Amoussouga, Kimsey Savadogo,
and Ahmadou Aly Mbaye. Th e researchers and investigators (more than 100)
who carried out the fi eldwork are too numerous to be thanked individually.
However, we would like to take this opportunity to single out and thank Fatou
Guèye, Adama Guèye, Léon Akpo, Allé Nar Diop, Bamba Diop, Mbacké Ba,
Lassana Cissokho, Sophie Pascaline Faye, and Alain Akanni in Dakar; Michel
Soede, Jean-Claude Kaka, Damien Agbodji, and the many other team members
in Benin; and Bamory Ouatara, Namaro Yago, Aladari Traoré, and other team
members in Burkina Faso. Ndèye Amy Diallo and Germaine Mendes Diaw
administratively managed the grant for the CREA side.


Ahmadou Aly Mbaye and Nancy Benjamin were responsible for coordinat-
ing all stages of this study, with substantial contributions from other members
of the coordinating team in the draft ing and editing of certain chapters. Th ese
other members of the coordination team are Stephen Golub (Swarthmore Col-
lege), Dominique Haughton (Bentley University), and Birahim Bouna Niang
and Ibrahima Th ione Diop (CREA). Ahmadou Aly Mbaye and Nancy Ben-
jamin designed the questionnaire, carried out the sampling, and led the data
collection process in the three cities. Th ey were directly responsible for col-
lecting qualitative data through interviews, with the support of Birahim Bouna
Niang and Ibrahima Th ione Diop. Th ey are also the authors of all chapters in
this volume (unless otherwise noted below) and led the dissemination process
with government offi cials and various stakeholders in the three cities, as well
as the WAEMU Commission. Stephen Golub is the author of chapters 8 and 9
on cross-border trade and the social networks of the informal sector in West
Africa. He was also responsible for translating chapters 1–7 from French into
English, with the help of four of his students, Arielle Bernhardt, Peter Davies,
Dina Emam, and Zach Schmidt, and participated in the editing of the fi nal
document. Dominique Haughton gave advice on sampling strategy and is a
coauthor of chapter 7 on productivity and the informal sector. Birahim Bouna
Niang and Ibrahima Th ione Diop are coauthors of chapter 6, on the institutional
environment of the informal sector in West Africa. Ibrahima Th ione Diop also
codirected the second phase of the surveys carried out in the three countries.


In addition to funding from the World Bank Research Committee, this proj-
ect received funding from the World Bank Africa Region funds as well as from
the Luxemburg Poverty Reduction Partnership (LPRP) Trust Funds. Th e LPRP




xxiv PREFACE


was also instrumental in funding both extensive workshops to disseminate the
main results in all three countries and in funding the fi nal publication costs.
In addition, support for publication and dissemination was provided by the
Diagnostic Facility for Shared Growth Trust Fund. Th e Agence Française de
Développement (AFD) also granted some resources to CREA to support fi eld-
work in the three capital cities.


Finally, we are very grateful to two anonymous referees, as well as to Stephen
McGroarty, acquisition editor for this volume, for valuable comments and help-
ful assistance throughout the manuscript revision process.




xxv


BCEAO Central Bank of the West African States (Banque Centrale
des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest)


BNP Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP)


CART classifi cation and regression tree


CET common external tariff (tariff exterieur commun)


CFA African Financial Community (Communauté Financière
Africaine)


CFAF CFA franc


CREA Centre de Recherches Economiques Appliquées


DAG directed acyclic graph


DGE Division of Large Enterprises (Direction Générale des
Entreprises)


DIAL Développement, Institutions et Ajustement à Long Terme


ECOWAS Economic Community of West African States


FCI full conditional independence


GDP gross domestic product


GIE groupements d’intérêts économiques


HDI Human Development Indicator (UNDP)


HIPC Heavily Indebted Poor Countries


ICA Investment Climate Assessment (World Bank)


ICT information and communication technology


ILO International Labour Organisation


IMF International Monetary Fund


KSB Keur Serigne Bi


LPRP Luxembourg Poverty Reduction Partnership


OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development


Abbreviations




xxvi ABBREVIATIONS


OHADA Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law
(Organisation pour l’Harmonisation du Droit des Affaires
en Afrique)


OLS ordinary least squares


ONATEL Offi ce National des Télécommunications


ROES Rassemblement des Opérateurs Economiques du Sénégal


SAR Special Administrative Region


SME small and medium enterprises


SONABEL Société National d’Electricité du Burkina


SONATEL Société Nationale des Télécommunications


SOPAM Société d’Outillage de Précision et d’Accessoires Mécaniques


TFP total factor productivity


TIN tax identifi cation number


TUTR road transport tax (taxe unique sur le transport routier)


UNDP United Nations Development Program


USAID U.S. Agency for International Development


VAT value added tax


WAEMU West African Economic and Monetary Union




1


Informality usually connotes small and unorganized producers operating on the
fringes of the formal economy. In West African countries, however, the normal
situation is generally reversed: dynamic informal sectors dominate stagnant for-
mal economies. Moreover, in these countries, small operators coexist with very
large and politically well-connected informal enterprises and well-organized
networks. Th is study is the fi rst to describe and analyze large informal fi rms in
a systematic way. In addition to the novel distinction between large and small
fi rms, the originality of this study resides in its eclectic methodology and col-
lection of original data. A key conclusion is that determinants and appropriate
policy responses diff er between “large” and “small” informal operations.


Th e informal sector is a central issue for African economic development,
yet relatively little is known about it. Th is volume endeavors to improve our
understanding of the complex reality of informal sector fi rms in West Africa.
Th e book provides detailed description and analysis of the characteristics and
functioning of informal sector fi rms, the causes of the pervasiveness of these
fi rms, the relations between formal and informal fi rms, the consequences of
informality for economic development, and appropriate policy responses.


Th is study focuses on the urban informal sector in three capital cities: Dakar
(Senegal), Cotonou (Benin), and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). Th ese three
countries have important diff erences and, as a group, are quite representative of
francophone West Africa and, to a lesser extent, West Africa as a whole.


We employ a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches using data
obtained from our own surveys of 900 fi rms in the three cities, interviews with
knowledgeable stakeholders and participants, and all available secondary data.
For the surveys, we designed our sampling strategy to include three distinc-
tive categories of fi rms: formal, small informal, and large informal. In addi-
tion, we developed a comprehensive defi nition of informality to refl ect its com-
plexity and heterogeneity. Our defi nition (chapter 1) covers six components
of informality, whereas previous defi nitions are generally limited to a binary


Overview




2 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


classifi cation based on one or two indicators. Our results for West Africa cor-
roborate many fi ndings from earlier studies, particularly for small informal
fi rms. In addition, we break new ground by shedding light on the large informal
sector and the institutional and sociocultural factors shaping it.


Our Approach to Studying the Informal Sector


Understanding the causes and consequences of informality is crucial given that
the informal sector plays a dominant role in West African economies, particu-
larly with regard to employment. Chapter 3 describes the informal sector in the
three countries and presents their shares of employment and of total and sec-
toral gross domestic product (GDP) based on national accounts data. Despite
the limitations of offi cial estimates, which exclude large informal fi rms, they
reveal that the informal sector accounts for the majority of GDP and 90 percent
or more of employment. In fact, formal employment in the private sector is
truly scarce, at 1 to 5 percent of the labor force.


Th e vast majority of previous studies of the informal sector in Africa focuses
on very small enterprises, usually individually operated, such as street vendors
and craft smen. While it is certainly true that most informal activities are very
small scale, the informal sector is, in fact, far more complex and encompasses
some very large operators as well as sophisticated informal networks linking
seemingly isolated microenterprises.


Th e informal sector in Africa diff ers in particular from that in Latin Amer-
ica. Th e groundbreaking study of the informal sector in Latin America (Perry
et al. 2007) does not include any discussion of large informal fi rms, although
it does note that some large formal fi rms underreport sales or employees. Th e
evidence from Latin America also indicates that a substantial share of workers
voluntarily exit paid employment in the formal sector and form their own small
informal businesses, which is rare in West Africa.


Th e literature’s focus on small operators has entailed data collection strat-
egies that focus on household-based enterprises and the labor market. Th is
approach has, by defi nition, excluded the larger fi rms. Empirical studies of the
informal sector have largely followed the pioneering approach of the Interna-
tional Labour Organization (ILO 1993, 2002). Th e ILO defi nes informality by
fi rm size and lack of registration, eff ectively confi ning the sample to household
and small enterprises. Another strand of the literature uses World Bank Invest-
ment Climate Assessment (ICA) data and other similar databases (Gelb et al.
2009; La Porta and Schleifer 2008, 2011). ICA surveys provide much useful
information, but they would be better described as private enterprise surveys,
in principle covering both formal and informal fi rms, but in practice exclud-
ing much of the informal sector, namely the large informal fi rms as well as




OVERVIEW 3


microenterprises. Th e World Bank also conducts “informal” and “micro” sur-
veys to capture the informal sector. Th ese surveys, however, are limited to small
fi rms, thus excluding the large informal sector.


We argue that informality is a continuum, with even largely formal fi rms
oft en engaging in some informal practices. Recently, some authors have recog-
nized that informality is a matter of degree, best captured by a range of indica-
tors (Steel and Snodgrass 2008; La Porta and Schleifer 2011; Guha-Khasnobis
and Kanbur 2006), but none has proposed or implemented operational defi ni-
tions. Th e characteristics of informal fi rms are indeed rather complex and may
be captured best through the use of multiple criteria. Some fi rms are registered
and pay taxes but substantially underreport sales and profi ts (Dabla-Norris,
Gradstein, and Inchauste 2008; La Porta and Shleifer 2011). Our survey results
also show that a large number of fi rms underreport sales.


In chapter 1, we provide a defi nition of informality using six criteria: size,
registration, honesty of accounts, fi xity of workplace, access to credit, and tax
status. Although these six criteria are more comprehensive than what others
have used, they do not capture all dimensions of informality, such as manage-
ment practices and participation in social security programs. Th ese six criteria
are combined to create levels of informality depending on how many of the
six a particular fi rm meets. At the bottom of the ladder are fi rms that are com-
pletely informal—fi rms that do not fulfi ll any of the criteria defi ning formality.
Th e second level consists of fi rms that fulfi ll at least one of the criteria defi ning
formality, and so on, with the last level being fi rms that meet all criteria and
are completely formal. Th e two extremes of purely informal and purely formal
are rare.


We further distinguish two categories of informal fi rms: large and small.
Large informal fi rms are comparable in size to those of the modern sector but
behave informally in other respects. Th ese fi rms satisfy all of the six criteria
for formality used here, except for one: their accounts are not accurate. Large
informal fi rms diff er from formal fi rms in less tangible respects not covered in
our criteria, such as management structure and personal attributes, as discussed
in chapter 4.


Given the complexity of the informal sector and the diffi culties of obtaining
accurate information, we used three types of data sources. First, we made use
of standard national accounts and other public databases, for example, those
from customs, fi scal authorities, and national statistical institutes. While useful
for cross-checking and providing an overview of the signifi cance of the informal
sector, these databases do not enable in-depth analysis of informal sector fi rms.
As a second step, we conducted our own surveys. Th ird, we also conducted
interviews, which allowed us to collect qualitative information to supplement
the quantitative data from our surveys. We interviewed key stakeholders and
experts on the informal sector from both public and private sectors.




4 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Regarding our surveys, in order to have a mix of formal, large informal,
and small informal fi rms, we used a stratifi ed sampling strategy, described in
chapter 2. Th at is, we sought random samples within three-by-three categories
composed of (a) formal, small informal, and large informal enterprises and
(b) industry, commerce, and other services. A fi rst set of surveys was conducted
in 2007, with a sample of 300 enterprises in Dakar, Ouagadougou, and Cotonou,
for a total of 900 units surveyed in the three cities combined. In 2009, follow-up
surveys and interviews were conducted with a smaller number of fi rms in the
three cities, focusing on large informal and formal fi rms.


Characteristics of Informal Businesses in West Africa


We compared the characteristics and functioning of informal and formal fi rms
from a variety of perspectives: size, social and demographic attributes of fi rm
managers, access to credit, participation in global markets, capital investment,
access to public services, registration, quality of accounts, fi xity of workplace,
payment of taxes, and participation in social security systems.


Our most important fi ndings concern the distinction between large and
small informal operators. As noted, in West Africa, large informal fi rms and
trading networks coexist with small operators, but little is known about who is
involved, the sectors in which they operate, and the nature of their businesses.
Th is study presents factual information on the large and small segments of the
informal sector and the formal sector.


Large informal fi rms are fundamentally diff erent from both formal and
small informal fi rms, while at the same time resembling each of them in some
respects. Th ey are discussed in detail in chapter 4, using case studies of fi rms
and sectors where they play a major role. Th ese sectors include import-export
trade, domestic wholesale-retail, transportation, and construction. For example,
in Senegal, one trader is estimated to control more than a third of the imports
of rice, the main food staple in the country. Th ese large informal entrepre-
neurs oft en began as small operators with minimal education but became very
wealthy and infl uential thanks to superior entrepreneurial ability and eff ort,
along with assistance from ethnic and religious trading groups. In volume of
sales and other measures of activity, these fi rms do not diff er from their formal
counterparts. Moreover, they are registered and well known to the authorities.
Yet they continue to underreport sales massively and to maintain fraudulent
accounts. In their family-based organization and management, they are very
much like small informal fi rms. Typically, a single person (usually a man) con-
trols all major functions (human resources, accounts, fi nance, and marketing),
in contrast to formal fi rms that have separate departments for each activity. Th e
owners’ personal and business assets and liabilities are not clearly separated.




OVERVIEW 5


In addition, these enterprises are fragile insofar as the owner may dissolve the
business because of a confl ict with tax or customs offi cials or reappear under
another name, when identifi ed by the tax authorities.


Large informal fi rms are very diffi cult to identify. We were able to identify
and understand the operation of these fi rms through interviews with some of
the entrepreneurs as well as with government offi cials and other knowledge-
able people. We also explored the operations of these large fi rms in Senegal by
comparing fi rm-level imports tabulated by customs with the same fi rm’s level of
total turnover, as reported to the fi scal authorities. In many cases, fi rms’ imports
far exceeded their reported total turnover, strongly suggesting underreporting
of sales.


For small informal fi rms, our survey results largely confi rm the standard
fi ndings in the literature (chapter 5). Firm size is tiny and dominated by self-
employment. Most fi rms are registered somewhere, usually with municipali-
ties and the Ministry of Commerce, but rarely with the fi scal authorities. Th e
level of education is generally low, with relatively high (but still low in absolute
terms) participation of women. Access to bank credit is almost nonexistent due
to insuffi cient documentation; small informal fi rms resort to unoffi cial credit
markets with onerous interest rates. Use of information and communication
technologies (ICTs) is limited. Small informal fi rms are concentrated in many
of the same sectors as larger informal fi rms: commerce, handicraft s, transport,
and new and used clothes. Small informal fi rms sell low-quality products to
other microenterprises and low-income households in a highly competitive
market. Th ey rarely export. Small informal fi rms also operate in a completely
unregulated and competitive labor market, and employees have no social secu-
rity protection.


Chapter 5 also compares the characteristics of formal, large informal, and
small informal fi rms. Formal fi rms diff er from informal fi rms in all of the above
characteristics; that is, they are considerably larger, are registered with the fi s-
cal authorities, pay regular taxes, have managers and workers who tend to be
more highly educated, have greater, although still surprisingly limited, access to
formal credit (by international standards), make use of ICT, and are somewhat
more export oriented.


Large informal fi rms’ characteristics tend to fall somewhere in the middle,
between formal and small informal fi rms. As noted, the organizational structure
of large informal fi rms diff ers little from that of smaller informal fi rms. Volume-
of-sales data suggest that large formal fi rms are generally as big as formal fi rms,
but they have far fewer permanent employees, except in Cotonou. Cotonou is,
in general, rather diff erent from the other two cities because of its role as a hub
for regional smuggling, as described in chapter 9. Many of the major smuggling
enterprises are very large-scale operations, particularly in the used car market,
also described in chapter 4.




6 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Th e literature on the informal sector oft en notes that a major drawback of
informality is lack of access to public services. We largely corroborate this result
but also fi nd that formal fi rms suff er even more than informal fi rms from the
defi ciencies of infrastructure; in some cases, formal fi rms have longer wait times
for connections to utilities than small informal fi rms. Moreover, formal and
informal fi rms share the same highly negative view of the business environment.


Relations between formal and informal fi rms are complex, with cases of both
competition and cooperation. Many formal fi rms rely on informal distributors.
Commerce and construction involve well-developed ties and subcontracting
between formal and informal operators. Customs clearance for imports illus-
trates these interactions. Many unauthorized customs clearance agents work in
this sector, in collusion with legally authorized agents. Th e informal actors clear
merchandise from the port at much lower costs, using the authorized agent’s
seal in exchange for a side payment to the latter. Similarly, in the construction
sector, government procurement and other large contracts are usually reserved
for formal fi rms, but these fi rms then subcontract out most of the work to infor-
mal fi rms.


In other areas, competition from informal fi rms, particularly importers,
undermines formal producers and distributors. A major part of the informal
sector revolves around smuggling to evade import barriers designed to protect
local manufacturers, for example, in sugar and clothing. Many other goods are
smuggled in, notably used cars, used clothes, and pharmaceuticals (including
counterfeit drugs), undercutting formal distributors of these products who pay
import duties, particularly in Senegal. Chapter 9 describes the operation of
smuggling networks, focusing on Benin and Senegal, provides estimates of the
magnitude of smuggling, and analyzes the distortionary domestic policies that
foster these practices. Th ese smuggling operations are also facilitated by kinship
networks of traders that span national borders, as described in chapter 8.


Institutional, Regulatory, and Sociocultural Environment


As detailed in chapter 4, the informal sector dominates the economies of West
Africa and is expanding, to the detriment of the formal sector. Our view is
that the institutional and social environment plays a crucial two-way role in
fostering the pervasiveness of the informal sector. On the one hand, the institu-
tional setting is a major determinant of informality. Weaknesses in the business
climate and regulatory framework induce fi rms to opt for informal sector sta-
tus. Moreover, traditional African business practices oft en confl ict with largely
imported Western rules and norms. On the other hand, the dominance of the
informal sector further undermines compliance with rules, regulations, and
codes of conduct compatible with a level playing fi eld.




OVERVIEW 7


Chapter 6 focuses on the legal and regulatory environment and how it
aff ects the decision of fi rms to operate in the informal sector. Formal busi-
nesses are subject to a proliferation of taxes, including several types of income
tax, wage taxes, taxes on equipment and buildings, and various registration and
license fees, resulting in numerous duplicative taxes that cumulate to a high
incidence and imply onerous compliance costs. Business law in francophone
Africa, including the three countries under study, is in principle governed by
OHADA,1 an intergovernmental structure modeled on the French legal sys-
tem. OHADA imposes a minimal set of recordkeeping for all fi rms that is
feasible even for small fi rms. Nevertheless, the governments do not enforce
these rather minimal regulations, allowing fi rms to pay the lower lump-sum
presumptive taxes without any record-keeping obligations. Th is refl ects weak
enforcement capabilities. Another major problem is a lack of cooperation
among government agencies, particularly between customs and tax authori-
ties. In fact, as noted earlier, in chapter 4 our own analysis of customs and tax
databases indicates massive underreporting of incomes in Senegal. Also, there
are a large number of underfunded and ineff ective government agencies with
overlapping and unclear mandates.


Due largely to these problems, indicators of the business climate are poor.
In this regard, our surveys and interview results for the most part corrobo-
rate standard rankings and indicators of the business environment, such as
the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings and the World Economic Forum’s
Global Competitiveness Report. Waiting times for connection to utilities (water,
electricity, telephone) are oft en very long, and service is expensive and unreli-
able. Frequent power outages continue to be a major disruption to formal and
informal businesses alike.


State failures also include corruption, bureaucracy, and the establishment of
state rent-seeking systems, as discussed extensively in chapter 6. Corruption in
all rungs of society contributes to the fl ourishing of large informal fi rms. Oft en,
such fi rms are politically well connected, which off ers them some impunity.
Th ey freely challenge court decisions that go against them, and the press oft en
reports corruption scandals in the courts. Large informal actors are supported
by a chain of collusion that involves customs, the administration, and the courts.


Th e weaknesses of the state are also manifest at the level of tax collection.
Fiscal authorities disproportionately target formal fi rms. Many formal sector
managers complain that, once the fi scal authorities identify them as signifi cant
taxpayers, they are subject to repeated audits and upward adjustments in pay-
ments (chapter 5). Tax offi cials themselves acknowledge their focus on formal
fi rms. In an environment rampant with corruption, informal fi rms seem to pos-
sess greater fl exibility in their relations with the government. Many fi rm manag-
ers also believe that underreporting of income is pervasive and not punished
by the government.




8 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Th e regulatory and state failure issues that emerge clearly from our surveys
and interviews are fairly well documented in the literature on African develop-
ment. Social and cultural settings are less studied by economists, yet also play
a prominent role in the spread of the informal sector in West Africa, as we
illustrate in chapter 8. In particular, ethnic and religious networks substitute
for the state provision of public goods. Ethnic and social networks are a form
of “social capital,” which can have positive as well as negative eff ects on eco-
nomic development. On the plus side, social networks create bonds of trust
that enable contract fulfi llment, access to fi nancing, and information exchange
without documentation or offi cial involvement. Kinship groups play a particu-
larly important part in international trade, helping to overcome transaction
costs created by lack of information and diff erences in business practices across
countries. Kinship networks have a major role in informal cross-border trad-
ing in West Africa, as described in chapter 9. On the negative side, however,
social capital in general and informal networks in particular can be exclusion-
ary, accepting or even promoting antisocial behavior and violation of the rules
and norms of the formal economy. Again, this is clearly manifested in West
Africa insofar as kinship networks are heavily involved in illegal activities, par-
ticularly smuggling and tax evasion. Overall, ethnic and religious networks
are particularly signifi cant in West Africa because of the combination of weak
formal institutions and the continuing importance of kinship ties dating from
the precolonial era and the resistance to colonialism. Chapter 8 notes some
common features of the Mouride and Yoruba groups and relates them to the
informal sector practices discussed in other chapters of this book.


Chapter 8 also illustrates the eff ects of kinship groups through case stud-
ies of the Mourides in Senegal and the Yoruba in Benin. In both cases, there
is a close connection between the informal sector in general and trading in
particular. To this day, trading is the foremost activity of the informal sector, as
seen in chapter 2, involving both domestic and cross-border dimensions. Th e
trading networks of the Mourides extend to Europe, Asia, and North America
in addition to Africa. Th e Yoruba’s trading sphere is confi ned largely to West
Africa. Th e interplay of historical, cultural, and economic factors is important
in understanding the central role of informal trading activities in West African
economies. While group solidarity and mutual trust enable the expansion of
commercial activities, the political and economic infl uence of these groups is
not entirely benign. Th eir main markets, such as Touba and Sandaga in Senegal
and Dantokpa in Benin, are largely off -limits to the government, enabling these
groups to engage in smuggling and tax evasion in plain view of the authorities.


Chapter 9 investigates smuggling in detail, with a focus on trade between
Senegal and Th e Gambia and between Benin and Nigeria. Th e characteristics
and operation of this informal trade are described. Th e causes of this trade are




OVERVIEW 9


varied, but the main drivers are policy distortions causing price diff erentials
across borders, combined with long-standing ethnic and religious ties tran-
scending national borders (as described in chapter 8), long porous borders,
weak enforcement, and the involvement of infl uential political actors.


Costs and Benefi ts of Informality: Productivity,
Living Standards, and Tax Revenue


Th e costs and benefi ts of informality can be viewed from the perspective of an
individual entrepreneur or from the point of view of society as a whole. Th e
former refers to the decision of a fi rm to formalize or not, whereas the latter
concerns the overall economic and social consequences of the informal sector.
Regarding the former, as discussed in the previous section, weak state enforce-
ment capabilities, inadequate provision of public goods, and lack of an eff ective
and transparent regulatory framework are critical for fi rms’ decisions. A hostile
environment can push an agent into the informal sector. Formalization means
greater access to public services but also requires compliance with regulations
and payment of taxes. Participation in the formal sector engenders both fi xed
costs (related to registration and normalization of formerly informal activities)
and variable costs (taxes and contributions for social security), as pointed out by
Levenson and Maloney (1998). Our results show that these institutional factors
are very important for explaining the expansion of the informal sector (espe-
cially chapters 4 and 6).


Th e remainder of this section examines the larger question of the social
eff ects of informality. Among the outcomes of informality, the productivity
issue is critical. As many other studies have found, the productivity gap between
formal and informal fi rms is large. Our results unambiguously corroborate this
fact in the three cities, as reported in chapter 7. In addition, when informality
is broken down into six levels, as described previously, formality and produc-
tivity are strongly and positively correlated. Th is fi nding is robust with respect
to alternative defi nitions and correlates of informality and is confi rmed using
alternative multiple regression specifi cations.


Th e correlation between productivity and informality may refl ect two-way
causation. Low productivity may lead to informal sector status through self-
selection of fi rms by quality of management. Th e most talented managers
choose to formalize because they reap greater benefi ts from access to pub-
lic services, provided government has the necessary enforcement capabili-
ties and the business environment is suffi ciently favorable (Gelb et al. 2009).
Reverse causation running from fi rm status to productivity could be due to
the reduced access to public services that informality entails. Informality also




10 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


prevents companies from acquiring modern management skills and worker
training, further reducing productivity, although Grimm, Knorringa, and Lay
(2012), using West African survey data, are able to distinguish some infor-
mal fi rms with better management capabilities. Lack of fi nance in particular
means that fi rms are unable to invest, resulting in lower capital intensity and
hence lower labor productivity.


Th is study examines total factor productivity (TFP) in addition to labor pro-
ductivity. TFP controls for capital intensity, yet we fi nd the same positive cor-
relation between TFP and formality as we do for labor productivity. Th is shows
that capital intensity alone cannot explain diff erences in labor productivity and,
in turn, provides further evidence that access to credit is not the ultimate source
of the productivity gap between formal and informal fi rms.


We also investigate productivity diff erentials between large and small infor-
mal fi rms. Our results indicate that large informal fi rms also have lower produc-
tivity than formal fi rms, but the diff erential is minor, whereas the productivity
gap between large and small informal fi rms is much greater. Th us, with regard
to productivity, large informal fi rms resemble formal fi rms much more than
their smaller informal counterparts.


Th e eff ects of informality on poverty are also important. Th e literature from
various African countries indicates that small informal fi rms off er returns that
can attract workers out of agriculture, but these fi rms are far more fragile and
less likely to grow than formal or large informal fi rms (Calvès and Schoumaker
2004). Th ey tend to proliferate when economic growth is poor, consistent with
the view that such fi rms are a survival activity of last resort when other employ-
ment fails. An implication of this hypothesis is that incomes tend to be much
lower in the informal sector than in the formal sector. In chapter 3, we use two
measures of poverty—monetary and nonmonetary—and the Living Standards
Measurement Survey datasets in the three countries and confi rm that poverty
is much more prevalent among employees in the informal sector. Overall, the
informal sector is a source of income for individuals with limited options, but
it cannot be a sustainable source of long-term growth and income generation.


Tax evasion is another well-recognized social cost of informality, and we exam-
ine the tax implications of informality on fi scal systems in the three countries.
Th ere is a gaping disparity in the respective shares of GDP of the formal and
informal sectors and their contributions to fi scal revenue. Indeed, the informal
sector provides almost no government revenue, despite accounting for more than
half of GDP. We estimate that the loss of fi scal revenue due to tax avoidance of the
informal sector amounts to between 3 and 10 percent of GDP. Governments have
attempted to impose taxes on small informal fi rms, mainly through the lump-sum
presumptive tax, but outcomes so far have been very disappointing. Large infor-
mal fi rms are capable of paying far more than they do but are able to evade their
responsibilities due to underreporting and political clout.




OVERVIEW 11


Main Conclusions and Recommendations


Our results confi rm the heterogeneity of the informal sector. Specifi cally, they
confi rm the importance of the large informal fi rms in West Africa and the
importance of distinguishing the large from the small informal fi rms in describ-
ing behavior and identifying obstacles in the investment climate. While the vast
majority of informal fi rms are very small, large informal fi rms play a major role
in some sectors, notably commerce, and provide important role models, good
or bad, for how diff erent governments structure and enforce their regulatory
frameworks.


Policy recommendations are likely to diff er between large and small infor-
mal enterprises. For large informal fi rms, the goal must be to bring them under
the formal regulation net and register them for formal tax regimes. For small
informal fi rms, the policy implications are already quite well known: programs
that seek to reduce poverty by improving the capacity of microenterprises, oft en
by supplying training, credit, and business development services, must be insti-
tuted or expanded.


Th e informal sector is in part a symptom of institutional defi ciencies, and
the large informal sector, in particular, is a symptom of government failure to
enforce regulations that should apply to these fi rms as well as of the burden-
some nature of regulations and taxation that inhibits compliance.


For the large informal fi rms with a genuine choice, policy should be oriented
toward a more systematically enforced and enforceable regulatory regime. Gov-
ernments should systematically test regulations for their social-benefi t content
and explicitly consider the cost of compliance for fi rms and the requirements
of systematic enforcement for government, along with the cost to credibility of
irregular enforcement.


Th e informal sector is concentrated in nontradable industries, mainly ser-
vices, commerce, distribution, construction, or locally sourced food products or
raw materials. Although the informal sector provides a large share of employ-
ment and incomes, these activities lack the growth potential of more globally
traded goods.


In order to reach national growth targets, governments cannot rely on the
growth of informal businesses, and policy will need to promote the interna-
tional competitiveness of formal fi rms, including foreign investors, which have
greater potential to boost exports and productivity growth.


Th e informal sector contributes to an inimical investment climate for formal
fi rms, particularly foreign investors. Th us the dualistic nature of West African
economies, characterized by a large unregulated and untaxed informal sector,
is an obstacle to sustained growth. Th e small formal sector—substantially con-
sisting of foreign investment—must shoulder a disproportionate tax burden,




12 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


severely hampering its competitiveness. Th ese higher taxes and fees lead to
further disadvantages for formal fi rms—and advantages for the informal sec-
tor—and reduce foreign direct investment.


It seems impossible for an economy to develop when the bulk of economic
activity operates outside of the regulatory and tax regime, so formalization of
the informal sector must be a long-term objective.


Th e informal sector relies on practices that hinder productivity growth.
Th eir lower productivity may be infl uenced by the fragility noted earlier, lack of
transparency or lack of knowledge of their own accounts, long-established tra-
ditions based on well-entrenched control of territory and rents, and suboptimal
allocation of productive factors (including reliance on family sources for credit).
Informality also prevents companies from acquiring modern management skills
and worker training, limiting growth potential and access to the world market.


Th e issue of productivity is also connected to export competitiveness. Given
Africa’s small and declining share in global trade, improving competitiveness
is a key factor for stimulating growth and raising incomes. Informality makes
exporting diffi cult. Further, survey results indicate that lack of demand is a
key constraint facing informal fi rms. In this context, remaining cut off from
world markets through low competitiveness is a devastating obstacle. Finally,
the motivation for improving competitiveness and growth may provide a use-
ful entry point for addressing the political economy and governance problems
indicated earlier, which have high economywide costs.


Improving the coordination among the diverse registration and tax authori-
ties and the enforcement of a single taxpayer identifi cation system, especially
between customs and tax offi ces, would help to improve the investment climate
and address the governance issues giving rise to the large informal sector. How-
ever, such reforms will undoubtedly encounter much resistance, given the rents
that arise from the current systems.


Th e informal sector in general—and large informal fi rms in particular—is
responsible for a substantial loss of fi scal revenues and narrowing of the tax base.
In addition to numerous diffi culties in paying taxes, these informal fi rms fre-
quently say they do not pay formal taxes because public money is poorly spent.


Business and government should collaborate on an eff ort to improve both
the business environment and tax compliance, in recognition that each side
can take actions that will improve the circumstances of the other. Govern-
ment can and should move independently to improve public expenditure
management and promote results-based management. And fi rms can gain in
productivity and access to bank credit if they maintain sincere and transpar-
ent accounts and pay formal taxes. However, fi rms prefer to pay taxes when
they know others like themselves will also pay, and the business climate espe-
cially needs a systematic enforcement of regulations, which requires public




OVERVIEW 13


intervention. Th is mutual interest in reforms should be exploited, and such
collaboration is more likely to succeed than a unilateral push for new tax
revenues from the informal sector.


Th e main positive contribution of the small informal sector is that it
provides employment and incomes and thereby alleviates poverty. But the
incomes in the informal sector are generally low, and low productivity of the
small informal sector suggests a limited scope for improvement. Government
and donor programs intended to assist small informal fi rms have had limited
eff ectiveness.


Th e goal of policies overall is to assist small informal sector fi rms while
inducing them to move toward formal sector status in the long run through a
combination of carrots and sticks. However, eff orts to promote growth should
not focus on small informal enterprises, as their potential is limited. At the same
time, enforcement should focus on larger informal fi rms rather than small fi rms
so as to avoid worsening poverty and unemployment.


In addition to state failures, sociocultural traditions, particularly ethnic and
religious trading networks, underpin the informal sector. Understanding the
latter may be helpful in fostering the transition toward a stronger formal sector.
For example, many people accord far more authority to kinship chiefs than to
government. Also, traditional education systems are in some respects far more
practical and conducive to building entrepreneurial skills than the Western-
style schools, which are oriented toward preparing future civil servants. Th ere
is much that is positive in the informal sector, and policy can build on this to
foster development.


Further research on the sociological basis of economic behavior in West
Africa could enhance policies in a wide range of areas, from education to
regulation.


Note
1. Organisation pour l’Harmonisation du Droit des Aff aires en Afrique (Organization


for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa).


References
Calvès, Anne-Emmanuele, and Bruno Schoumaker. 2004. “Deteriorating Economic


Context and Changing Patterns of Youth Employment in Urban Burkina Faso: 1980–
2000.” World Development 32 (8): 1341–54.


Dabla-Norris, Era, Mark Gradstein, and Gabriela Inchauste. 2008. “What Causes Firms
to Hide Output? Th e Determinant of Informality.” Journal of Development Economics
85 (1-2): 1–27.


Gelb, Alan, Taye Mengistae, Vijaya Ramachanran, and Manju Kedia Shah. 2009. “To For-
malize or Not to Formalize? Comparison of Microenterprise Data from Southern and
East Africa.” Working Paper 175, Center for Global Development, Washington, DC.




14 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Grimm, Michael, Peter Knorringa, and Jann Lay. 2012. “Constrained gazelles: High
potentials in West Africa’s informal economy.” World Development 40(7): 1352–68.


Guha-Khasnobis, Basudeb, and Ravi Kanbur, eds. 2006. Informal Labour Markets and
Development. Studies in Development Economics and Policy. New York: Palgrave
Macmillan.


ILO (International Labour Organization). 1993. “Development Policies and Institutional
Environment for Employment Promotion in the Informal Sector in Ghana.” Jobs and
Skills Program for Africa, ILO, Geneva.


———. 2002. Decent Work and the Informal Economy: Sixth Item on the Agenda. Report
VI, ninetieth session of the International Labour Conference, Geneva, June 20.


La Porta, Rafael, and Andrei Shleifer. 2008. “Th e Unoffi cial Economy and Economic
Development.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 2: 275–364.


———. 2011. “Th e Unoffi cial Economy in Africa.” NBER Working Paper 16821, National
Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA.


Levenson, Alec R., and William F. Maloney. 1998. “Th e Informal Sector, Firm Dynam-
ics, and Institutional Participation, Volume 1.” Policy Research Working Paper 1988,
World Bank, Washington, DC.


Perry, Guillermo E., William F. Maloney, Omar S. Arias, Pablo Fajnzylber, Andrew
Mason, and Jaime Saavedra-Chanduvi. 2007. Informality: Exit and Exclusion. Wash-
ington, DC: World Bank.


Steel, William F., and Don Snodgrass. 2008. “World Bank Region Analysis on the Infor-
mal Economy.” In Raising Productivity and Reducing Risk of Household Enterprises.
Annex 1, “Diagnostic Methodology Framework.” Washington, DC: World Bank.




Chapter 1


15


The Informal Sector in West Africa:
Defi nition


Researchers studying the informal sector must fi rst confront the lack of a widely
accepted defi nition of informality. Since the groundbreaking 1972 report of
the International Labour Organization (ILO) on informal activity in Kenya
(Hart 1972), researchers have proposed numerous defi nitions of informality.
A researcher’s chosen defi nition of informality largely determines the sampling
method used to gather data on the informal sector as well as the conclusions
obtained and the policy recommendations that follow.


Th e informal sector has become the subject of renewed interest from
researchers, as its importance for development has been increasingly recog-
nized. Most defi nitions of informality are binary and limited to just a few cri-
teria, notably fi rm size, registration, and honesty of accounts. Our approach
diff ers in two ways. First, we examine fi rms rather than employees because our
focus is on the business climate and economic growth rather than poverty alle-
viation. Second, we argue that the complexity and heterogeneity of informality
cannot be captured by a single criterion. We instead combine several criteria
to distinguish various levels of informality. In this chapter, we review the ratio-
nale for using these criteria and present our method of computing measures of
informality based on multiple criteria. Informality is more of a continuum than
a binary variable, depending on how many criteria a fi rm fulfi lls.


Informality versus Illegality


Informal activities are commonly associated with illicit activities such as drug
traffi cking, the underground economy, and black markets. In most cases in West
Africa, informal activities, while oft en undeclared and thus illegal in a narrow
sense, are not otherwise criminal in nature. In fact, the informal sector produces
ordinary goods and services not much diff erent from those produced by the
modern sector. An activity is not deemed informal as a function of its illicit or




16 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


licit nature. Rather, informality is determined according to the type of organi-
zation carrying out the activity. Both criminal activities and informal activities
are hidden, but not to the same extent, and they clearly are not viewed with
the same degree of disapprobation or exposed to the same risk of prosecution.


Th e Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
distinguishes the informal economy from the hidden, household, and illegal
economies:


• Th e hidden economy includes all activities that are hidden to evade taxation
and the payment of other legal obligations.


• Th e illegal economy includes all illicit activities such as drug traffi cking and
counterfeiting.


• Th e household economy includes activities for personal use, such as paid
domestic services.


• Th e informal economy includes all activities that are not registered or are
registered poorly.


In practice, however, these distinctions are rather hazy, to say the least. Per-
haps this refl ects the OECD’s desire to encompass the realities of both devel-
oped and developing countries in a single set of defi nitions. Overall, the activi-
ties in which informal fi rms engage usually are not illegal in themselves, but the
practices of informal fi rms are oft en illegal insofar as they involve tax avoidance
and lack of compliance with regulations.


In West Africa, many formal fi rms engage in informal activities, so informal-
ity is a matter of degree. Many formal fi rms hide or underreport their revenues
and subcontract with informal fi rms. For instance, in the construction sector,
only formal fi rms can obtain offi cial contracts; as a consequence, the rate of
subcontracting to informal fi rms is especially high in this sector. Most work in
the construction sector in the region, even on projects funded by the state or
international donor agencies, is carried out by informal subcontractors. Even at
the ports and airports, informal fi rms operate under the cover of modern fi rms.


West African authorities are well aware of the activities of the informal sec-
tor. In fact, most oft en these activities are clearly identifi ed and even benefi t
from special tax and regulatory status. Th e fi scal regime has several provi-
sions specifi cally targeting the informal sector. In particular, informal fi rms,
on account of their supposed small size and limited capabilities to comply with
business income taxes, are subject to a presumptive tax in lieu of ordinary busi-
ness income taxes. Th is method of taxation is considered appropriate because
it requires a minimal amount of paperwork and information. Th e tax is based
on limited and oft en inaccurate estimates of the volume of the fi rm’s sales.
Another method of taxing informal activities is to require formal fi rms sub-
contracting out to informal fi rms to withhold estimated taxes and remit them




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA: DEFINITION 17


to the treasury. Th ese payments are refunded to the subcontractor if it can
provide evidence that it is in compliance with its tax obligations. Many other
methods of taxing informal activities exist in West Africa, clearly indicating
that the authorities are aware of the widespread existence of informal fi rms.
Rather, informal fi rms are simply categorized as a specifi c type of fi rm that is
organizationally weak and unable to supply certain accounting documents.
Such a strategy can be justifi ed as promoting small enterprises for which it is
prohibitively costly to comply with ordinary business income taxation. In West
Africa, however, this situation is sometimes abused by what we call the “large
informal sector.”


How, then, should informality be defi ned? Various criteria are used in the
literature to defi ne informal enterprises: the size of enterprise, absence of regis-
tration, nonpayment of taxes or type of taxes paid, existence of honest account-
ing statements, level of access to bank credit, and mobility of the workplace. In
the following sections, we argue that all of these criteria capture some aspects
of informality, but can be misleading when used alone. We propose instead to
use a combination of these criteria and view informality as a continuum based
on the number of criteria that a fi rm fulfi lls. Based on several of these criteria,
we defi ne three categories of fi rms: formal, large informal, and small informal,
as described in detail below.


A Critical Review of the Criteria Used to Defi ne
Informality in Africa


Th ere are a number of possible defi nitions of informality, and various studies
have adopted diff erent concepts. Th e most commonly used criteria are the size
of the business, registration with the government, and maintenance of honest
and complete accounts. Because of the diff ering defi nitions of informality, data
on the informal sector are collected in various ways, and international compa-
rability is diffi cult. Adams (2008) reviews survey methods used by studies on
the informal sector. He confi rms that one of the greatest challenges faced by
analysts of the informal sector is a lack of consensus on the defi nition of the
phenomenon. Kanbur (2009) rightly argues that any researcher studying the
informal sector should begin by defi ning informality. In this section, we review
the main criteria for informality and show that each captures a part of the phe-
nomenon. We then suggest that a composite defi nition is more appropriate.


Below we suggest and implement six criteria for informality. While more
comprehensive than previous measures that are limited to one or two of these
criteria, our six criteria do not cover all aspects of informality. Other possible
aspects include management practices and participation in social security.




18 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Size
Th e most widely used criterion for defi ning informality in the literature is small
size of the fi rm, measured by number of employees, derived from the ILO’s
approach (ILO 2002), which defi nes an informal fi rm as an unregistered fi rm
with no clear line separating business activities from household activities. A
further qualifi er is a lack of registration, a lack of honest accounting that fully
reports the fi rm’s operations, or both. Th e only fi rms that fi t these criteria are
family enterprises, classifi ed as households in the United Nations’ System of
National Accounts (UN 1993). According to this defi nition, the informal sector
encompasses small enterprises that employ fewer than 10 employees and are not
registered with a given administration. Th e Nairobi report, which fi rst used the
“informal sector” terminology in its analysis of development in the early 1970s
(Hart 1972), emphasized two criteria in its defi nition of informality: the size of
activity and the lack of registration.


Since the fi ft eenth conference for labor market statisticians in 1993, the ILO
has drawn a distinction between the informal sector and informal employment.
While the informal sector refers to all enterprises meeting the size and registra-
tion criteria, informal employment includes not only informal sector employ-
ees, but also uncompensated family workers, workers with a precarious status
in formal fi rms, and uncompensated household workers.


Th e ILO’s approach is problematic in two respects (see AFRISTAT 1997):


• Th e recommended upper limit for number of employees is set at 10, but indi-
vidual countries have leeway to set a diff erent upper limit in their statistical
defi nition of informal fi rms. Certain countries choose an upper limit of fi ve
employees, whereas others choose either lower or higher limits.


• Countries are able to choose whether to include agriculture in informal
activities, along with unpaid domestic help, individuals with a second job in
the informal sector, rural zones, minimum age, and so forth.


Th e reasoning behind the size criterion is that small-scale activities tend to
be informal because they lack the institutional and organizational capacity
needed to obtain the accounting and fi nancial documents required by the tax
authorities, the statistical agency, and other public services. Most proponents
of this approach consider informal activities to be survival strategies, providing
income to poor households with little marketable skills. Th e informal sector is
understood here as a social safety net in countries where formal employment
is rare and poverty is widespread. In their study of informal activity in Burkina
Faso, Calvès and Schoumaker (2004) consider the informal sector to be small-
scale survival activities. In the countries of the West African subregion, this
view is substantiated by the proliferation of small-scale trading activities that
are largely a form of hidden unemployment. Vehicle repairmen, street hawkers,
as well as many other small tradesmen crowd the streets of big urban centers,




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA: DEFINITION 19


barely making incomes necessary for survival. A large part of the labor for this
segment of the informal sector derives from an exodus from villages to the cit-
ies, where lack of skills and opportunities confi ne workers to informal activities.


Th is point of view is similar to the conclusions of Fields (1990) and Hart
(1972) in their studies of Kenya. Galli and Kucera (2004) seem to have a simi-
lar perspective: according to them, informality is essentially characterized by
the size of endeavor, defi ned by a maximum of fi ve to 10 people. In contrast,
fi rms in the formal sector are defi ned as having more than 10 employees. Th e
OECD (1997) opts for a similar defi nition, characterizing the informal sector as
enterprises that (a) do not have a legal worksite, instead usually working out of
private residencies, (b) have a low level of capital investment, or (c) are managed
by family members either in total or in part.


While retaining the focus on micro and small businesses, Maloney’s (2004)
study of Latin America provides a more optimistic perspective on the informal
sector, with individuals freely choosing to leave the formal sector to reap the
benefi ts of informality. In an earlier study, Maloney (1998) defi nes informal
actors in Mexico as individual businesses with a maximum of six employees
who are not covered by a program of social protection and who have at most a
secondary level of education.


Even analysts who do not consider size a defi ning feature of informal fi rms
note a strong correlation between size and informality. Such is the case with Steel
and Snodgrass (2008), who do not diff erentiate between individual household
enterprises and informal or small enterprises. According to them, the criteria
that defi ne household enterprises would defi ne informal enterprises as well. Th ey
include in their defi nition of individual enterprises those with self-employed
workers and those with unpaid household workers, an inclusion that corre-
sponds to the ILO’s defi nition of the informal sector. In the same vein, using a
general equilibrium model, Dabla-Norris, Gradstein, and Inchauste (2008) fi nd
a strong positive association between the size of a fi rm and its formal or informal
status in a sample of 41 developed and developing countries. Similarly, Charmes
(1993) uses three criteria when defi ning informal activities. Size of the activity
is listed as the most important criterion, along with the keeping of accounts and
registration and legal status.


An important implication arising from the understanding of informality
as a small-scale family activity is that survey data on the informal sector are
retrieved mostly from household data. For the most part, these studies mea-
sure the well-being of households, with a focus on the household’s economic
activities and whether these activities are part of the formal or informal sec-
tor. Based on these data, researchers can infer output and employment in the
informal sector. Th is approach is very useful for understanding the dynamics
of poverty and the labor market and for understanding the dynamics of the
informal labor market in particular. However, studies on informal sector fi rms




20 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


rather than employment may lead to overrepresentation of employees relative to
entrepreneurs. To avoid this problem, when constructing a sample of informal
fi rms (and not households), we use a hybrid sample, which consolidates data on
households and data on fi rms.


More important, equating informality with small size is not always valid in
West Africa. Large informal fi rms are quite common and constitute what we call
the “large informal sector.” Th is is not to deny that a large majority of informal
fi rms are small-scale, even miniscule, enterprises. However, a minority of larger
informal fi rms also exists, accounting for a sizable share of the informal sec-
tor’s output. Conversely, some formal fi rms are small. Gelb et al. (2009) analyze
fi rms in seven South and East African countries where formal microenterprises
coexist with informal microenterprises. Th ey distinguish between three types
of enterprises: formal microenterprises (fi ve or fewer employees), formal small
enterprises (fi ve to ten employees), and informal microenterprises (fi ve or fewer
employees). Among the seven countries studied, the number of formal small
and micro fi rms as a proportion of all fi rms surveyed varies between a low of
28 percent in Namibia and Kenya and a high of 54 percent in Uganda. Th is
study ignores the existence of larger informal fi rms, however.


In summary, the size and formal or informal status of the enterprise are
indeed correlated in West Africa, but the idea that the size criterion can in and
of itself be used to defi ne informality is not entirely valid. In this region, many
large fi rms are informal. Consequently, while size should be considered in cat-
egorizing informal activity, it should be used in conjunction with other criteria
to form a complete understanding of the phenomenon.


Registration
Another commonly used criterion for defi ning informality is registration with
a government agency. In our view, this criterion is superior to the one based on
small fi rm size. Nevertheless, multiple government agencies oversee the private
sector (central or local administration, tax authorities, or others), and fi rms may
register with some but not others.


La Porta and Shleifer (2008) use the registration criterion. According to
them, a distinction should be made between two categories of informal fi rms:
(a) those that fail to register with tax authorities and other regulators and
(b) those that are registered but understate revenues. Th ey therefore observe
that the registration criterion alone is not suffi cient to qualify a fi rm as formal.
Th e authors propose additional criteria as necessary for defi ning informality
and determining its weight in the economy: the proportion of small and micro-
enterprises in the economy, the total participation of men in the workforce,
the proportion of self-employed workers in the nonagriculture sector, the pro-
portion of workers who benefi t from social security, the amount of electricity
consumed, and, fi nally, the total amount of money in circulation. Th e problem




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA: DEFINITION 21


is that, while these criteria are useful for comparing national economies, they
are much less applicable when studying survey data. Sinha and Adams (2006)
apply India’s offi cial defi nition of informality and defi ne the informal sector as
the unorganized sector of the economy. Th e authors also opt for the complete-
ness of accounts and registration criteria when categorizing a fi rm as informal.
In the same vein, OECD (1997) states, “Th e informal economy could be defi ned
as the output of production units not registered with fi scal or social security
authorities.” Th e registration criterion is given priority in this defi nition as well.


In Senegal, Benin, and Burkina Faso, the second phase of the 123 study devel-
oped by DIAL (Développement, Institution et Ajustement à Long Term) and
conducted by national statistics institutes (INSAE 2002; INSD 2003; DPS 2004)
applies the lack of registration or the absence of written accounting criteria to
defi ne informality. Th e fi rm’s tax identifi cation number (TIN) is used as the sole
criterion for registration. Furthermore, the informal sector is defi ned as “the units
of production lacking identifi cation numbers and/or formal written accounting.”


It is unusual for fi rms not to be registered with at least one government
agency, however, casting doubt on the registration criterion. Most of the fi rms
studied by Gelb et al. (2009) were registered with at least one of the govern-
ment agencies whose responsibility is (a) approval of fi rm names, (b) granting
of operating licenses, (c) registration at the municipal level, or (d) registration
with tax authorities. Only the last criterion is considered when defi ning infor-
mality, which allows the authors to distinguish between informal and formal
microenterprises.


Likewise, Steel and Snodgrass (2008) refute the notion that the informal sec-
tor is unknown to fi scal authorities. According to them, informal activities are
well identifi ed and taxed by public authorities; these authorities oft en go so
far as to distribute the market stalls that informal businesses use for their own
commerce in urban markets. As discussed in more detail below, in francophone
West Africa, fi rms can be separated by whether they pay the regular business
income tax or a presumptive tax that applies to fi rms deemed informal. Indeed,
virtually all fi rms considered informal are recognized explicitly by at least one
government agency. Most likely, it is this diffi culty of applying the registration
criterion that led Steel and Snodgrass (2008) to conclude that only street hawk-
ers and household-based fi rms could be classifi ed as unregistered and hence
informal. Th ey observe that, while informal fi rms may not be registered with
central authorities, they are oft en registered and pay taxes at the local level.


In fact, in West Africa, there are generally as many identifi cation numbers as
there are agencies dealing with enterprises:


• Th e fi scal authorities use a TIN as the identifi cation number of fi rms. Firms
identifi ed by this number are taxed according to a specifi c fi scal regime. Th e
fi scal service is under the control of the Finance Ministry.




22 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


• Enterprises engaged in commerce have to be registered with the commerce
registry and have a commerce registration number, issued by the minister
of commerce.


• Enterprises that participate in importing and exporting require an import-
export card, also issued by the minister of commerce.


• All enterprises are required by law to submit a copy of their books to the
national statistical agency. Many fi rms do not abide by this law, and among
fi rms that do, many do not submit their fi nances on a regular basis. Th is
irregularity and lack of submissions greatly lessen the reliability of the col-
lected data.


• Municipal authorities tax merchants, including street vendors, on site.
Because of the many departments that register fi rms, multiple databases


exist, and one fi rm can be registered with one administration and not with oth-
ers. Even within government agencies, inconsistent recording systems coexist.
Within the tax authorities, internal services are either specialized according
to the geographic locality of specifi c enterprises or according to the type of
operations of specifi c fi rms. Each internal department manages a particular
database, and these databases are not always appropriately consolidated. In all
three countries, a division of tax authorities oversees large fi rms: the Division
des Grandes Entreprises (DGE) within the tax authority.1 In general, this divi-
sion collects the bulk of taxes, while departments collect taxes in the capital
cities. Each department oversees a given set of taxpayers, yet the consolidated
records of the tax authorities diverge from summing the records of the indi-
vidual departments!


Tax Status
Th ere are two types of fi scal regimes in West African Economic and Monetary
Union (WAEMU) countries: regular business income tax and presumptive
lump-sum tax. Th e presumptive tax is intended for small informal fi rms that
are viewed as unable to provide detailed documentation and precise estimates
of revenues. In Senegal and Burkina Faso, enterprises with annual sales of less
than or equal to CFAF 50 million (US$100,000) are, in principle, subject to the
presumptive tax.2 In other countries of the subregion, the threshold is fi xed at
similar, but not always identical, levels. Firms with revenues above the thresh-
old are supposed to be taxed under the regular regime, with the presumption
that such fi rms maintain documents that allow fi scal authorities to determine
objectively the amount of the fi rm’s tax and the tax bracket under which the fi rm
belongs. In practice, however, many small fi rms do not pay any tax, and most
are not registered with the tax authority at all. Conversely, some large informal
fi rms with sales far above the threshold massively understate their incomes and
pay the presumptive tax.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA: DEFINITION 23


Th us in WAEMU countries, the important distinction is not so much
whether fi rms are registered with the fi scal authorities but rather the type of
tax they are subject to and whether or not they pay any taxes. Businesses can be
split into two main categories: (a) the vast majority of fi rms that are subject to
the presumptive tax or pay no tax at all and (b) the small number of fi rms that
pay regular business income taxes.


Honest Accounting
Th e lack of accurate and complete books is also a fundamental distinguishing
feature of informality. Indeed, a characteristic of the informal sector is a lack of
visibility about the operations of the fi rm. Th e majority of informal fi rms in West
Africa lack regular and up-to-date books, which makes monitoring and taxa-
tion of these fi rms very diffi cult. In practice, however, this defi nition is diffi cult
to implement. How does one decide which types of fi nancial statements to use
and whether or not they are accurate? Normally, the statements required by tax
authorities and the statistical agency would be considered relevant. However, in
WAEMU countries, this defi nition is inadequate. In fact, the fi nancial statements
required of formal fi rms diff er, with large enterprises reporting to the DGE hav-
ing to provide much more detailed fi nancial statements than smaller enterprises.


Th e honest-fi nancial-statements criterion follows the same underlying logic
as the criterion of regular business income tax. Only enterprises that are capable
of providing satisfactory fi nancial statements are taxed under the regular busi-
ness income tax; others are taxed a presumptive tax or escape taxation.


Th e problem is that it is diffi cult to ascertain the honesty of a fi rm’s books.
Many enterprises, especially the large informal operators, are highly skilled at
producing false fi nancial statements. Th ese fi rms are aided by accounting fi rms
that specialize in producing misleading accounting certifi cates. Many informal
actors admitted anonymously to us that they retain several versions of their
accounts: one for themselves, one for loan requests from a bank, one for tax
authorities, and so forth. Each version is created with a specifi c use in mind,
and these fi rms have no trouble getting them all certifi ed by accounting fi rms
complicit in this elaborate hoax.


Th is criterion is related to the government’s capacity to establish rules gov-
erning business and society in general. Kanbur (2009) calls attention to the
crucial role of state failures and argues that the quality of the state is the greatest
determinant of the size of the informal sector. However, because of the wide
range of regulations that apply to enterprises in each country, there are as many
criteria defi ning informality as there are regulations considered. Kanbur identi-
fi es four possible options for economic actors in response to regulations:


• Stay within the ambit of the regulation and comply.
• Stay within the ambit of the regulation but do not comply.




24 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


• Adjust activity to move out of the ambit of the regulation.
• Stay outside the ambit of the regulation in the fi rst place and avoid the need


to adjust.


According to Kanbur, only fi rms that choose the fi rst option are part of the
formal sector, while those that choose one of the other three options represent
the informal sector. He argues that the government’s capacity to enforce its laws
determines in large part the decision of economic actors to remain in the infor-
mal sector.


Mobility of Workplace
In West Africa, many informal actors are highly mobile and without a fi xed work-
place. Th is applies not only to traveling salesmen and street hawkers but also to
mechanics, carpenters, and small business owners. In general, these actors do not
own or rent their workplace. Instead, they occupy an unused space and vacate
when the space is needed by its owner. Given this situation, some researchers
identify the informal sector with a lack of fi xed workplace. While it is true that
many informal fi rms are highly mobile, many more informal fi rms do have a fi xed
workplace, so this criterion identifi es only a limited part of the informal sector.


Access to Bank Credit
Limited access to credit is also a characteristic of informality. Bank credit is
largely an option only for the formal sector, while most small enterprises are
confi ned to informal loans from friends, family, or tontines, which generally
demand high interest rates (Johnson 2004; Akoten, Sawada, and Otsuka 2006).
La Porta and Shleifer (2008) argue that informal actors’ limited access to credit
can be explained by their relatively low level of education.


Th e criterion of access to bank credit is very relevant to African countries.
Banks demand several fi nancial and administrative documents before even
examining a loan application. It is practically impossible for informal actors to
assemble the required documents. Nevertheless, this criterion too has its limita-
tions because many formal fi rms are also credit constrained in Africa. Th is is
because lack of documentation is not the only constraint to obtaining credit.
Collateral requirements are also a major impediment, and even some large
fi rms are discouraged from obtaining bank credit due to the onerous collateral
requirements as well as the general reticence of banks to lend to all but the
largest and best-known businesses. Many formal enterprises, notably small and
medium enterprises, fi nance their investments with internal funds or through
informal fi nancing at high, even exorbitant, interest rates. Indeed, governments,
in collaboration with donor agencies, have repeatedly extended lines of credit
to the private sector because of the dysfunctional banking system (Mbaye, Dia-
risso, and Diop 2011). As a consequence, the access-to-bank-credit criterion




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA: DEFINITION 25


does not necessarily help to discriminate between the informal and formal
sectors. What is more, certain informal fi rms, with the complicity of account-
ing fi rms, create fake administrative and fi nancial documents with which they
fraudulently access bank credit. Th e access-to-bank-credit criterion, just like all
preceding criteria, captures some aspects of informality, but with limitations.


Figure 1.1 shows the proportions of fi rms in the sample that fulfi ll the various
criteria of informality. Most of the criteria suggest that most fi rms are informal.
For example, more than 75 percent of fi rms in all three cities do not pay regular
income taxes and do not have access to credit. Similarly, but to a lesser extent,
most fi rms fulfi ll the criteria of small number of employees and lack of a fi xed
workplace. Maintaining honest accounts and especially registration are excep-
tions: most fi rms are registered and maintain reasonably honest accounting.


A New Approach to Informality


In this study, we defi ne informality as a continuum rather than in a dichoto-
mous way.


Informality as a Continuum
As suggested in the previous discussion, no single criterion fully captures infor-
mality. Each one refl ects some dimensions of the informal sector but ignores
others. Th e registration criterion is diffi cult to apply because almost all fi rms


Figure 1.1 Share of Firms Satisfying Various Criteria of Informality in Three West African
Cities


100


80


60


40


20


0


%
o


f f
ir


m
s


Without
fixed


workplace


59
67


73


12 12


43
36 36


28


87


76
81 81


77
69 70


56


77


Not
registered


Lack of
honest


accounts


Presumptive
tax regime


No access
to credit


1–5
employees


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




26 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


are registered with at least one of the many government agencies overseeing the
private sector. Even if one limits the focus to registration with particular agen-
cies, the issue then becomes choosing which one(s) to select. Th e small-size cri-
terion applies to most informal fi rms, but it does not cover large informal sector
fi rms, or what we call “the large informal sector.” Moreover, it does not take into
account the fact that some small fi rms may be formal. Th e honesty-of-accounts
criterion is diffi cult to operationalize because many accounting statements are
of dubious accuracy and many fi rms produce diff erent books with diff erent
fi gures for diff erent audiences. Both formal and informal fi rms have diffi culty
gaining access to bank credit, and so this criterion does not fully distinguish
between the two sectors. Finally, the mobility-of-workplace criterion is defi cient
because it applies to only a limited part of the informal sector.


Each of these criteria covers only one aspect of the informal sector, ignor-
ing the larger picture of the phenomenon, suggesting that informality is better
described as a continuum defi ned by a combination of criteria. As Steel and
Snodgrass (2008) note, “Th ere is a continuum of diff erent degrees of formality
(in terms of diff erent characteristics such as nature of registration, payment
of taxes, management structure, contractual arrangements with employees,
market orientation, etc.)” Th e multiple-criteria approach is also used by Guha-
Khasnobis and Kanbur (2006), who, when defi ning informal employment, give
prominence to the absence of social security coverage, rights to vacation, writ-
ten contracts, low levels of revenue, lack of affi liation to a workers organization,
unstable work conditions, and the illegal or quasi-illegal nature of the fi rm’s
activity. Although our focus is on informal businesses and not informal employ-
ment, we retain some of the same criteria. Informality in the subregion is a
complex reality that varies enormously among diff erent economic actors. Very
few fi rms fi t all of the criteria of formality.


Table 1.1 presents correlation tests among the six indicators. Th e correlation
coeffi cients are always positive, with nine out of 15 being statistically signifi cant.
Th e correlation between maintaining honest accounts and each of the other fi ve
indicators are all statistically signifi cant. Th e informality variables, however, are
discrete variables, making it diffi cult to calculate the correlation matrix between
them. Instead, we have used Cramer’s V, which is a measure of correlation based
on the Chi-squared test.


Th erefore, we can distinguish between several levels of informality:


• At the bottom of the ladder are fi rms that are completely informal—fi rms that
do not fulfi ll any of the criteria defi ning formality. Th ese fi rms are unknown
to fi scal authorities and all other administrations. Th ey are small, do not have
access to bank credit, are not subject to the regular business income tax, and
are itinerant. Th ese fi rms are at level zero of informality. Very few businesses
are completely informal in this sense, other than the large number of street
traders and individuals engaged in other petty activities.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA: DEFINITION 27


• Level one of informality consists of fi rms that fulfi ll at least one of the cri-
teria defi ning formality. Th is level includes fi rms that are registered with an
administration dealing with enterprises, have more than fi ve employees (or
sales of more than CFAF 50 million, or US$100,000), or have received a bank
loan within the previous fi ve years.


• Level two of informality consists of fi rms that fulfi ll at least two of the six
criteria defi ning formality.


• Level three consists of fi rms that fulfi ll three of the six criteria, and so on.
• Th e last level (six) consists of formal fi rms that fulfi ll all six criteria of for-


mality. Th ese fi rms are registered with at least one administration, employ
more than fi ve people or have sales of more than CFAF 50 million, are taxed
through the regular business income tax, have had access to bank credit
within the past fi ve years, and have a fi xed workplace.


Th ese categories provide six levels of informality. However, in most of the
subsequent analysis, we compress these into three main categories of fi rms: for-
mal, large informal, small informal.


Large and Small Informal Firms
We further distinguish two categories of informal fi rms: large and small. Large
informal fi rms are comparable in size to fi rms in the modern sector, but they
behave informally in other respects. Th ese fi rms satisfy all of the criteria for
formality except one: their accounts are inaccurate and deliberately mislead-
ing. Th e large informal sector is discussed throughout this book, particularly
in chapter 4.


Table 1.1 Statistical Significance of Correlations between Criteria of Informality in Three
West African Cities, Using Chi-Squared Test


Maintaining
accounts Registration


Fixed
workplace


Access to
credit


Number of
employees


Mode of
taxation


Maintaining
accounts


1.000


Registration 0.131* 1.000


Fixed
workplace


0.120* 0.213* 1.000


Access to
credit


0.202* 0.020 0.018 1.000


Number of
employees


0.192* 0.092 0.133* 0.037 1.000


Mode of
taxation


0.357* 0.258* 0.292* 0.148 0.225 1.000


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.
* = statistically significant at the 5% level.




28 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Th us we separate fi rms into three categories: formal, large informal, and small
informal, as shown in table 1.2. Formal fi rms, in principle, satisfy all six criteria of
formality.3 Large informal fi rms satisfy most of the criteria, but generally do not
maintain honest accounts and thus very oft en understate income so much that
they qualify for the presumptive tax. Small informal fi rms may have a fi xed work-
place and be registered, but they rarely satisfy any of the other criteria of formality.


Large informal fi rms are diffi cult to identify with offi cial data because such
fi rms massively underreport their sales to the authorities. We have adopted sev-
eral strategies for identifying these fi rms:


• For the 900 fi rms surveyed in the fi rst phase of this study in 2007, we com-
pared sales reported to us in confi dential surveys to sales reported by the tax
authorities.


• For a smaller subset of formal and large informal fi rms surveyed again in
2009, we repeated this procedure.


• We interviewed stakeholders, including managers of fi rms, government offi -
cials, and others.


• We cross-checked fi rm-level data collected at customs against data reported
to the tax authorities.


Conclusions


In this chapter, we proposed a defi nition of informality using six criteria: size,
registration, honesty of accounts, fi xity of workplace, access to credit, and tax
status. Th ese six criteria were combined to create levels of informality, depend-
ing on how many of the six a particular fi rm meets. Among these criteria, three
were particularly signifi cant: fi rm size, the tax regime to which a fi rm is subject,
and honesty of accounting. We further distinguished between large and small


Table 1.2 Characteristics of Formal, Large Informal, and Small Informal Firms


Characteristic  Formal Large informal Small informal


Pay regular business income tax Yes Sometimes Rarely


Maintain honest accounts Yes No Rarely


Are registered Yes Yes Sometimes


Have sales in excess of CFAF 50 million Yes Yes Rarely


Have a fi xed workplace Yes Yes Sometimes


Are eligible for bank loans Yes Yes Rarely


Level of informality (number of criteria of
formality fulfi lled)


6 4–5 0–3


Source: Authors.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA: DEFINITION 29


informal fi rms, an important feature of West African economies that has not
been widely studied. Large informal fi rms are comparable in size to fi rms in the
modern sector, but they behave informally in other respects. Th ese fi rms satisfy
all of the criteria for formality except one: their accounts are falsifi ed.


Notes
1. Th is is the tax division to which big fi rms, with a turnover exceeding a threshold of


about CFAF 1 billion, have to fi le.
2. Important variations in thresholds are evident across countries and over time.
3. In practice, almost all fi rms engage in some fraudulent behavior, so purely formal


fi rms are rare in West Africa.


References
Adams, Arvil V. 2008. “Skills Development in the Informal Sector of Sub-Saharan


Africa.” World Bank, Washington, DC.
AFRISTAT (Economic and Statistical Observatory of Sub-Saharan Africa). 1997. Pro-


ceedings of the Seminar on the Informal Sector and Economic Policy in Sub-Saharan
Africa. Bamako: AFRISTAT.


Akoten, John E., Yasuyuki Sawada, and Keijiro Otsuka. 2006. “Th e Determinant of
Credit Access and Its Impacts on Micro and Small Enterprises: Th e Cases of Garment
Producers in Kenya.” Economic Development and Cultural Change 54 (4): 927–44.


Calvès, Anne-Emmanuele, and Bruno Schoumaker. 2004. “Deteriorating Economic
Context and Changing Patterns of Youth Employment in Urban Burkina Faso: 1980–
2000.” World Development 32 (8): 1341–54.


Charmes, Jacques. 1993. “Estimation and Survey Methods for the Informal Sector.”
Centre of Economics and Ethics for Environment and Development, University of
Versailles-St. Quentin en Yvelines. Paper prepared for an ILO international seminar.


Dabla-Norris, Era, Mark Gradstein, and Gabriela Inchauste. 2008. “What Causes Firms
to Hide Output? Th e Determinant of Informality.” Journal of Development Economics
85 (1–2): 1–27.


DPS (Direction de la Prévision et de la Statistique). 2004. “Le secteur informel dans
l’agglomération de Dakar: Performances, insertion, perspectives; Résultats de la phase
II de l’enquête 1-2-3 de 2003.” DPS, Senegal, June.


Fields, Gary S. 1990. “Labour Market Modelling and the Urban Informal Sector: Th eory
and Evidence.” In Th e Informal Sector Revisited, ed. David Turnham, Bernard Salomé,
and Antoine Schwarz. Paris: OECD.


Galli, Rossana, and David Kucera. 2004. “Labor Standards and Informal Employment in
Latin America.” World Development 32 (5): 809–28.


Gelb, Alan, Taye Mengistae, Vijaya Ramachandran, and Manju Kedia Shah. 2009. “To For-
malize or Not to Formalize? Comparisons of Microenterprise Data from Southern and
East Africa.” Working Paper 175, Center for Global Development, Washington, DC.


Guha-Khasnobis, Basudeb, and Ravi Kanbur, eds. 2006. Informal Labour Markets and
Development. Studies in Development Economics and Policy. New York: Palgrave
Macmillan.




30 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Hart, Keith. 1972. “Employment, Income, and Inequality: A Strategy for Increasing Pro-
ductivity and Employment in Kenya.” ILO, Geneva.


ILO (International Labour Organization). 2002. Decent Work and the Informal Economy:
Sixth Item on the Agenda. Report VI, 90th session of the International Labour Confer-
ence. Geneva: ILO.


INSAE (Institut National de la Statistique et de l’Analyse Economique). 2002. “Le secteur
informel dans l’agglomération de Cotonou: Performances, insertion, perspectives;
Enquête 1-2-3, premiers résultats de la phase 2, 2001.” INSAE, Bénin, September.


INSD (Institut National de la Statistique et de la Démographie). 2003. “Le secteur
informel dans l’agglomération de Ouagadougou: Performances, insertion, perspec-
tives; Enquête 1-2-3, premiers résultats de la phase II, 2001.” INSD, Burkina Faso,
September.


Johnson, Susan. 2004. “Gender Norms in Financial Markets: Evidence from Kenya.”
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Kanbur, Ravi. 2009. “Conceptualizing Informality: Regulation and Enforcement.” Work-
ing Paper 09-11, Department of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell Uni-
versity, Ithaca, NY.


La Porta, Rafael, and Andrei Shleifer. 2008. “Th e Unoffi cial Economy and Economic
Development.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 2: 275–364.


Maloney, William. 1998. “Are LDCs Markets Dualistic?” Policy Research Working Paper
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———. 2004. “Informality Revisited.” World Development 32 (7): 1159–78.
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bancaire pour le fi nancement des économies de l’UEMOA? Paris: Harmattan France.
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for the Measurement of Unrecorded Economic Activities in Transition Economies.”
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Sinha, Anushree, and Christopher Adams. 2006. “Reforms and Informalization: What
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Chapter


31


2


Data Sources and Methods


Th is chapter presents the methodology and sources of the data used in this
book. We used three main sources:


• Survey data collected from the three cities (Cotonou, Dakar, and
Ouagadougou)


• Secondary data from the national accounts and other relevant survey data
• Qualitative information collected from semistructured interviews with


stakeholders in the informal and formal sectors, government agencies
that are responsible for overseeing the informal sector, and others who are
involved with the informal sector in one way or another.


Data collection is a major challenge facing researchers on the informal econ-
omy. Th is diffi culty arises for two reasons. First, informality must be defi ned, as
discussed in detail in chapter 1. Th e defi nition obviously determines the approach
to data collection. Second, the question needs to be settled of whether to approach
informality using household-level or fi rm-level data. Th e sampling methods used
in previous studies are strongly infl uenced by the national income accounting
system of the United Nations (UN 1993), which identifi es the informal sector
with the production of goods and services in the household sector. Th is makes
some sense because informal producers oft en operate from within households
and is appropriate when the goal is to study informal employment. Our study
focuses on the structure of informal enterprises rather than informal workers, so
the question is whether to develop a survey focused on households, fi rms, or both.


Later in this chapter, we review previous approaches to gathering data on
the informal sector, noting their strengths and weaknesses. We then outline the
sources and methods used in our investigations.


Data Collection Methods on the Informal Sector in Africa


Th e Implications of Alternative Defi nitions of the Informal Sector
Various international organizations and conferences have been held to discuss
the collection of data on the informal sector based on diff erent defi nitions of




32 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


informality. Consequently, diff erent methods have been adopted in diff erent
countries.


Th e approach that has incontestably had the greatest impact on data collec-
tion in the informal sector in Africa is that of the fi ft eenth International Confer-
ence of Labor Statisticians (ILO 1993). Th is approach is centered on the criteria
of small size and lack of registration, largely corresponding to household enter-
prises. An implicit assumption in this defi nition is that the production units in
question operate on a relatively small scale and at a low level of organization.


An important feature of individual companies is that they have assets and
operations that overlap with those of their owners, unlike companies with for-
mal legal status and fi nancial autonomy. Individual fi rms within the informal
sector rarely have reliable accounting mechanisms for isolating the fi nancial
activities of fi rms from those of their owners. Th is lack of consistent and accu-
rate accounts on the part of individual enterprises is an integral part of the two
criteria mentioned above.


As seen in chapter 1, various criteria are used to defi ne informal sector enter-
prises and employment and to develop corresponding sampling strategies. For
example, some countries apply a threshold of fi ve employees in defi ning infor-
mal fi rms, while others apply higher or lower numbers. Th is process leads to
inconsistencies, which makes comparisons across countries diffi cult. In some
surveys, the size criterion for number of employees is omitted. For example,
the 123 study developed by DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Ajustement
à Long Terme), and conducted by national African statistics offi ces (INSAE
2002; INSD 2003; DPS 2004), defi nes informal fi rms solely as fi rms lacking
formal accounting. Furthermore, some countries defi ne informal fi rms as fi rms
with no fi xed location. Some countries include agriculture in the informal
sector, whereas most countries exclude it (UN Economic and Social Council
2007). With regard to informal employment, the threshold for minimum age
of employees is subject to diff erential treatment in national surveys. In some
countries, the minimum age threshold is fi ve years (Tanzania), while in others,
it is seven (Zambia), 10 (Madagascar), 15 (South Africa), or more.


Employment-Based versus Firm-Based Sampling Strategies
Data on the informal sector are collected from a variety of surveys focusing
either on employment or on production. Employment surveys have commonly
been used to collect data on the informal sector. Th e sampling group in this
instance is the labor force. Analysis of these data enables the researcher to sort
employment into formal and informal and to determine the main characteris-
tics of informal employment and its share of total employment. Th ese data can
also be used to identify owners of informal businesses, which in turn can be a
way of identifying informal businesses in a given locality. In this case, fi rms are
identifi ed indirectly through the analysis of employment (Verma 2007).




DATA SOURCES AND METHODS 33


Much data collection has focused on informal employment rather than
informal enterprises. Th e fi ft eenth International Conference of Labor Statis-
ticians (ILO 1993) distinguishes informal employment from informal fi rms.
Informal employment consists of all informal occupations, including informal
work within formal fi rms or in households. Th is distinction implies that the
unit to be investigated is the employee rather than the individual, who may have
more than one job in the informal sector.


Th e 123 study, which is used by many countries in Africa and elsewhere, focuses
on employment.1 It proceeds in several stages, beginning with households and
working up to informal production units. Phase 1 of the study involves a house-
hold survey consisting of a questionnaire on the sociodemographic characteris-
tics of the household, followed by a survey dealing specifi cally with employment.
Th e surveyed individuals are then classifi ed as either in or out of the labor force.
Th e former are then divided into two categories: those involved in formal produc-
tion units and those involved in informal production units; informality is defi ned
as fi rms that are not registered or that fail to maintain regularly updated formal
accounting records. One of the major limitations of this survey method is the dif-
fi culty of accurately determining whether the companies are registered or keep
regular formal accounts. It is diffi cult to obtain this information, and employees
may not know whether or not their employers fulfi ll the conditions of formality,
which can impair the classifi cation of fi rms into formal and informal sectors. Even
managers may not correctly report this information. Indeed, during our inter-
views, we observed numerous instances in which owners and employees claimed
to be working in the formal sector but were actually working in the informal sector,
oft en due to honest misunderstanding rather than deception.


Another type of survey focuses on fi rms rather than employees. Th e problem
is that there are no comprehensive sample frames of informal fi rms on which
to base a representative sample. Consequently, this approach is less widely used
by government statistical agencies, which opt instead to use mixed household-
enterprise surveys.


Surveys on consumption spending of households also provide a good avenue
for studying informal sector activities. In this case too, the individual household
is the starting point for the survey. Household consumption is decomposed
according to whether the good originates in the formal or informal sector.2 Th e
main limitation of this approach is that informality is equated with small size,
ignoring large informal fi rms as well as small formal ones.


Our Data Collection Strategy


Most of the available surveys in developing countries, particularly in Africa,
are surveys of households. The main strength of such surveys is their




34 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


comprehensive coverage of the various segments of the informal sector, with
the notable exception of large informal fi rms. However, this method is subject to
several limitations. First, household-based surveys use small size as a criterion
for informality, thus excluding the large informal economy, which is impor-
tant in Africa, as noted in chapter 1 and discussed in detail in chapter 4. Th ese
large informal fi rms are a minority, but they are very important for formulating
growth strategies as well as understanding the deep connections between the
formal and informal sectors. Small informal operators are limited to survival
strategies, which is important for analyzing poverty and employment, but less
so for understanding the causes and consequences of informality for growth.
Very oft en in Africa, these large informal businesses are as big as formal enter-
prises. Charmes (2007) notes, “Th ere will be no possible transition from the
informal to the formal sector, when no companies of intermediate status are
observed in the survey.” Another limitation of this approach is that whether
or not a fi rm is categorized as informal is based on the responses to the survey
questions. Interviewees are asked several questions regarding criteria such as
the keeping of accounts, registration, as well as other criteria for informality.
However, one cannot always be certain that the employees are knowledgeable
about these aspects of their employer’s operations.


We are more interested in informal businesses than in informal employment
or household information, given our focus on the implications of informality for
economic growth and the business climate. We are also particularly interested
in how the informal sector in these countries is conditioned by the institutional
environment, as discussed in chapter 6. Th is particular focus greatly infl uenced
our sampling strategy approach, which involved targeting both households (to
identify small informal operators) and businesses. Moreover, we included the
formal sector in our sample, which enabled us to compare formal and informal
fi rms.


Data Sources
Our survey of formal and informal sectors targeted a sample of 300 enterprises
each in Dakar, Ouagadougou, and Cotonou, for a total of 900 units surveyed.


A major diffi culty was to identify a representative sample of informal and
formal enterprises in these cities. Directories of companies in the formal
and informal sectors are available from various government agencies in each
country, but these agencies typically do not coordinate their defi nitions and
methods. Th ey also use diff erent identifi cation numbers, further impeding a
consolidated database. Even worse, sometimes even within the same organi-
zation, diff erent departments compile diff erent subdirectories of companies,
using diff erent identifi ers. Th is applies, for example, to fi scal authorities where
diff erent tax collection centers oft en manage various directories independently
and inconsistently.




DATA SOURCES AND METHODS 35


Th e following directories were identifi ed in each of the three countries:


1. Th e census of the National Statistical Offi ce on formal enterprises. Th is
directory contains a database of formal enterprises, which is compiled from
information supplied by businesses to the tax collection and national statisti-
cal agencies.


2. Th e list of formal enterprises compiled by the fi scal authorities. Th is database
is generated from fi nancial statements that companies provide at the end
of each fi scal year. Only those businesses that pay formal income taxes are
included in this database.


3. Th e directory of informal fi rms of the tax collection agencies. Th is covers all
fi rms that are subject to the presumptive tax rather than the regular income
tax (see chapter 1).


4. Th e registries of the Ministry of Commerce, customs, and the Chamber of
Commerce. Th ese directories include both formal and informal businesses,
which are identifi ed on the basis of the importer license or professional iden-
tifi cation card.


Our database was formed by combining three different sources of
information:


1. For the formal sector, we consolidated the business records maintained by
the national statistics and tax bureaus.


2. For the large informal sector, we used the directory of companies recorded by
the tax department, restricted to fi rms that are subject to the presumptive tax
and that also have annual turnover exceeding the threshold of CFAF 20 million
per year. Subsequently, during the survey and interview phase, we obtained
information about actual sales used to determine which of these fi rms should
have been subject to regular business income taxes. In many cases, actual sales
were much greater than sales reported to the tax authorities.


3. For small informal businesses, we used the 123 survey for each country,
restricted to businesses with annual turnover below CFAF 20 million. In
this case, we identifi ed the main locations for particular informal activities
(for example, Sandaga market in Dakar and Dantokpa market in Cotonou
for commerce), and the enumerators randomly selected the units to survey
within these areas.


Sampling Method
We opted for a stratifi ed sampling strategy. Th at is, we sought random samples
within each of two three-by-three categories composed of (a) formal, small
informal, and large informal enterprises and (b) industry, commerce, and
other services. With regard to the modern sector, given that offi cial statistics on




36 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


output are available, we used the share of the various sectors to determine the
size of the formal sector strata by industry. For the informal sectors, the sectoral
distribution of fi rms and employment was determined from the results of the
123 survey (tables 2.1 and 2.2).


Because we base our analysis on a logistic regression, it is diffi cult to fi nd
a simple formula to determine the standard errors associated with the coef-
fi cients of our model. A rough approximation is 1 n , where n is the number
of observations. Th is approximation depends on the assumption that we have
a random sample of the parent population of fi rms (which is not strictly valid
because we adopted a stratifi ed sampling method). Th is means that improve-
ments in the precision of estimators associated with an increase in sample size
are small when sample size is on the order of 300 units.3 Th is consideration,
in addition to the fact that a sample size of 300 is practical, led us to choose
300 observations per city. Within each stratum, fi rms were randomly sampled.
However, the stratifi ed sampling approach means that the overall sample is not
representative of the parent population of fi rms, with an overrepresentation of
formal and large informal fi rms.


A potential problem is that the responses of fi rms to sensitive questions may
not always be accurate. Nevertheless, while underreporting of income is per-
vasive in the statements of informal sector fi rms to government offi cials, it is
likely to be much less so in statements to our interviewers. Informal actors were
made to understand that we were collecting data for research purposes and that
we would not provide any information to tax offi cials. Furthermore, during
our interviews, we randomly cross-checked survey data against our interview
fi ndings and confi rmed that misreporting in the former is rare, as discussed in
the next section.


Table 2.1 Breakdown of GDP in the Three West African Countries, 2003 and 2004


Indicator


Benin Burkina Faso Senegal


2003 2004 2003 2004 2003 2004


Total value added


Amount (CFAF billions) 1,900 19,610 2,583 2,713 3,500 3,715


% of total 100 100 100 100 100 100


Formal sector value added


Amount (CFAF billions) 510 519 1,308 1,379 1,578 1,730


% of total 26.8 26.5 50.7 50.8 45.1 46.6


Informal sector value added


Amount (CFAF billions) 1,390 1,442 1,274 1,334 1,922 1,984


% of total 73.7 73.5 49.3 49.2 54.9 53.4


Source: For Senegal, DPEE 2008; for Benin, INSAE 2007; for Burkina Faso, INSD 2005.




DATA SOURCES AND METHODS 37


Other Data Sources


In addition to the survey data, we used interviews, which allowed us to col-
lect qualitative information to supplement the quantitative data from our sur-
veys. We also made use of secondary data, including offi cial statistics and other
results from previous surveys.


Qualitative Data from Interviews
Besides the survey and secondary data used throughout the work, results from
semistructured interviews with various key stakeholders in the informal sector
were also important sources of information. We used a set of predetermined
questions, but also allowed the interviewees some fl exibility to discuss their
views as openly as possible. Th e usual duration of an interview was an hour
and a half. One of the major challenges we faced throughout the interview-
ing process was to avoid being perceived as fi scal agents, a concern of trad-
ers, or as independent researchers who might reveal sensitive or embarrassing
information, a concern especially of government employees. We sought to reas-
sure our interviewees that the aim of our work was mainly academic, without


Table 2.2 Distribution of Nonagricultural Informal Firms in the Three West African Countries,
by Sector


Sector


Benin Burkina Faso Senegal


Number
of fi rms


% of
total


Number
of fi rms


%
of total


Number
of fi rms


%
of total


Industry 45,080 21.86 56,520 34.20 86,200 30.62


Clothing industry 18,900 9.17 12,395 7.50 21,100 7.50


Construction 16,740 8.12 9,255 5.60 21,100 7.50


Other industries 9,440 4.58 34,870 21.10 44,000 15.63


Commerce 102,040 49.49 84,449 51.10 131,000 46.54


Out-of-store retail trade 28,440 13.79 61,643 37.30 308,000 10.94


In-store wholesale or retail
trade


73,600 35.70 22,806 13.80 100,300 35.63


Services 59,060 28.64 24,293 14.70 64,300 22.84


Repair 6,630 3.22 4,131 2.50 5,700 2.02


Food service 21,640 10.50 7,932 4.80 11,500 4.09


Transport 10,800 5.24 1,653 1.00 11,900 4.23


Other services 19,990 9.70 10,577 6.40 35,200 12.50


Total 206,180 100 165,262 100 281,500 100


Source: DPS 2004; INSAE 2002; INSD 2003.




38 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


denying that the results would be made available to policy makers. We stressed
the fact that no individual identifying information would be disclosed without
expressed consent of the respondent and that we were interested in general
trends and opinions that we would report anonymously.


We made eff orts to identify well-informed organizations and individuals. In
the case of the government, we relied on our team’s prior contacts with a number
of ministries and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU)
Commission, which enabled us to get interviews with well-informed offi cials.
To obtain interviews with entrepreneurs in the formal and informal sectors, we
made contacts through the chambers of commerce, employer organizations,
and private accountants, generally informally.


Th e aim of the interviews was to collect qualitative information to comple-
ment the mainly quantitative data obtained through our surveys and secondary
data collection. Th e questions covered the same topics as those included in the
surveys. In the case of private fi rms, we probed to identify whether a fi rm was
truly formal or informal, beyond what the interviewee asserted. For example,
we discussed the registration of the company with various government agencies
(tax authorities, Ministry of Commerce), the type and magnitude of tax pay-
ments, access to bank credit, the size of the enterprise measured by turnover or
the number of employees in the fi rm, and so forth. Taken together, responses to
these questions and related discussions enabled us to obtain an accurate picture
of the extent of formality or informality of the fi rm. While the same questions
were asked in the survey questionnaires, the give and take of the interviews
provided additional information. Indeed, comparing the results of the semi-
structured interviews with the survey data from the same fi rms revealed many
inconsistencies in the answers given by respondents regarding their formal or
informal status. Some operators claimed to be taxed as formal fi rms, yet they
did not meet certain minimum requirements to be taxed at that level, such as
keeping regular accounts or even sometimes having a fi xed employment loca-
tion. Aberrant responses were identifi ed and corrected in the process of sift ing
through the survey database, but the fi ltering methods used in these cases were
sometimes ad hoc and imprecise. Th e interviews enabled a more reliable deter-
mination of inconsistencies.


Th e interviews also covered the business environment, relations with the
government, the interactions between actors in the formal and informal sec-
tors, social relationships in the business world, and sociodemographic trends
within the company and its employees (such as age, education level, parental
education levels). All of these factors were included in the survey question-
naire, but because of the binary nature of responses (that is, yes or no), the
respondent had no opportunity to elaborate, nuance, or clarify his or her
thoughts.




DATA SOURCES AND METHODS 39


Finally, the interviews enabled us to obtain the perspective of knowledge-
able stakeholders rather than relying only on respondents within private fi rms,
particularly offi cials in the tax and customs offi ces responsible for overseeing
the informal sector, WAEMU offi cials, and representatives from business asso-
ciations. In addition, the interviews focused on the large informal sector, which
is very diffi cult to identify from the surveys alone. Overall, the interviews were
complements to, rather than substitutes for, the surveys, as they provided addi-
tional information, larger perspectives, and alternative points of view.


Secondary Data
We also made extensive use of secondary data from the national accounts of the
three countries and previous surveys of companies and households.


Th e national accounts contain estimates of gross domestic product (GDP)
for both the formal and informal sectors, listed by industry. Estimates of infor-
mal sector GDP is extrapolated from the results of the 123 survey. Th us for each
sector, we have the overall value added and its breakdown between the formal
and informal sectors, as presented in chapter 3. Th ese estimates are only as
good as the 123 survey results and the assumptions on which the extrapolation
is based. In our view, the offi cial estimates understate the size of the informal
economy. Th e large informal sector is not included in the estimates. In addition,
the survey approach accepted the fi rm’s self-described status as informal or for-
mal. As noted above, many informal individuals are confused about their status
or prefer to present themselves as formal even though they behave informally.
Nevertheless, even if understated, offi cial data still indicate a very large share of
output attributable to the informal sector.


Previous survey data on households and businesses for the three countries
complemented our own in the areas of social welfare, the labor market, and the
business environment.


Conclusion


Given the complexity of the informal sector and the diffi culties of obtaining
accurate information, we used three sources of data: national accounts and other
secondary databases, our own surveys, and qualitative information from inter-
views. Regarding our surveys, in order to have a mix of formal, large informal,
and small informal fi rms, we used a stratifi ed sampling strategy. Th is enabled us
to obtain information on the three categories of fi rms. More detailed interviews
with managers of fi rms and other stakeholders provided an important way to
check fi ndings from the surveys and develop a greater understanding of the
informal sector, particularly large informal fi rms.




40 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Notes
1. Th e countries using this survey in Africa are Cameroon, Madagascar, Morocco,


Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, the Democratic
Republic of Congo, and Burundi. Developing countries outside Africa also use this
survey, including China, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Peru, and Mexico (UN Economic
and Social Council 2007).


2. It is generally assumed that goods produced in the informal sector are of lower qual-
ity than goods produced in the formal sector (Gautier 2002).


3. For example, 1 n falls from 0.058 to 0.05 when the sample size goes from 300 to 400.


References
Charmes, Jacques. 2007. “Estimation and Survey Methods for the Informal Sector.”


Centre of Economics and Ethics for Environment and Development, University of
Versailles-St Quentin en Yvelines. Paper prepared for an ILO international seminar.


DPEE (Direction de la Prévision et des Études Economiques). 2008. Les comptes nation-
aux du Sénégal. DPEE, Dakar.


DPS (Direction de la Prévision et de la Statistique). 2004. “Le secteur informel dans
l’agglomération de Dakar: Performances, insertion, perspectives; Résultats de la phase
II de l’enquête 1-2-3 de 2003.” DPS, Senegal, June.


Gautier, Jean-Francois. 2002. “Taxation optimale de la consommation et biens inform-
els.” Revue Economique 53 (3, May): 599–610.


ILO (International Labour Organization). 1993. “Conference Report of the Sixteenth
Conference of Labor Market Statisticians.” ILO, Geneva, January 19–28.


INSAE (Institut National de la Statistique et de l’Analyse Economique). 2002. “Le secteur
informel dans l’agglomération de Cotonou: Performances, insertion, perspectives;
Enquête 1-2-3, premiers résultats de la phase 2, 2001.” INSAE, Bénin, September.


———. 2007. Les comptes nationaux du Bénin. INSAE, Cotonou.
INSD (Institut National de la Statistique et de la Démographie). 2003. “Le secteur


informel dans l’agglomération de Ouagadougou: Performances, insertion, perspec-
tives; Enquête 1-2-3, premiers résultats de la phase II, 2001.” INSD, Burkina Faso,
September.


———. 2005. Les comptes nationaux du Burkina Faso. INSD, Ouagadougou.
UN (United Nations). 1993. System of National Accounts. New York: UN.
UN (United Nations) Economic and Social Council. 2007. “Étude sur la mesure du


secteur informel et de l’emploi informel en Afrique.” African Center for Statistics,
Economic Commission for Africa, December.


Verma, Vijay. 2007. “Sample Design Consideration for Informal Sector Survey.” Univer-
sity of Essex, Colchester, U.K.




Chapter


41


3


The Informal Sector in West Africa:
Overview of Economic Signifi cance
and Welfare Effects


Th is study focuses on the informal sector in three West African Economic and
Monetary Union (WAEMU) countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, and Senegal. We
use these three countries because they are quite typical of the rest of WAEMU
and West Africa in general. Th ey are small, with populations ranging from
8 million to 14 million people in 2008, very low per capita incomes and human
development indicators, and generally poor rankings on standard investment
climate indicators such as the World Economic Forum and the World Bank
Doing Business measures (table 3.1). Like most African countries, their small
formal economies depend on a few primary products, with most output and
employment contained in the informal sector. Tables 3.2 and 3.3 display the
shares of WAEMU countries in WAEMU and Sub-Saharan African gross
domestic product (GDP).


Senegal is a coastal state, relatively industrialized and developed by West
African standards, but still very poor. It was the capital of colonial French West
Africa from which it inherited decent infrastructure (for example, the harbor
and airport) as well as close trade relations with the other francophone coun-
tries. Senegal completely surrounds Th e Gambia, an English-speaking coun-
try with markedly diff erent traditions in economic policy and whose economy
essentially relies on oft en-fraudulent trade with Senegal. Benin is a coastal state
in the Gulf of Guinea whose geography (climate, vegetation, and proximity to
Central Africa) is quite diff erent from that of Senegal. In addition, it is heavily
infl uenced by its long border with Nigeria, the economic heavyweight of the
region. Burkina Faso is an arid landlocked Sahelian country with much more
limited productive potential than the other two.


In this chapter, we provide an overview of the signifi cance and consequences
of the informal sector in the three countries. Following a brief description of
the three economies, the contribution of the informal sector to fi scal revenues is
shown to be far below its share of GDP. We also analyze the eff ects of informality




42 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


on social welfare by comparing indicators of living standards of households
engaged in formal versus informal activities.


An Overview of the Three Economies


As is typical in most of Sub-Saharan Africa, Senegal, Benin, and Burkina Faso
are all very poor countries, with formal sectors revolving around a few pri-
mary products and much of the rest of the economy dominated by the informal


Table 3.1 Economic Indicators in the Three West African Countries, 2006–08


Indicator


Benin Burkina Faso Senegal


2006 2007 2008 2006 2007 2008 2006 2007 2008


Economy


Population (millions) 7.6 7.9 8.1 13.4 13.7 14.0 11.9 12.2 12.5


GDP (US$ billions, PPP) 11.3 12.2 13.0 15.6 16.6 17.8 19.3 20.8 21.8


GDP per capita (US$, PPP) 1,484.0 1,548.0 1,608.0 1,161.0 1,209.0 1,268.0 1,617.0 1,701.0 1,739.0


GDP growth rate (%) 3.8 4.7 5.0 5.5 3.6 5.0 2.3 4.7 2.5


GDP per capita growth (%) 4.1 4.3 3.9 6.5 4.2 4.8 3.3 5.2 2.2


Exports as % of GDP 30.7 31.2 31.5 10.8 10.4 10.5 25.4 23.7 27.1


Competitiveness


World Economic Forum
ranking


— 107 — — 119 127 — — —


Doing Business ranking — 137 151 — 163 161 — 146 162


Informal sector as % of
GDP


70.3 70.1 70.3 49.0 49.0 — 46.7 45.5 46.8


Quality of life


Incidence of poverty 36.8 33.3 — 13.9 42.6 42.8 — — —


Severity of poverty 0.07 0.04 — 6.0 — — — — —


Human Development Index
ranking


161 161 163 173 177 176 153 166 156


Education


Elementary education
rate (%)


95.9 — — 66.5 65.3 — 81.8 86.0 —


Illiteracy rate (%) 65.3 54.7 — 78.2 69.6 — 60.7 56.0 —


Health


AIDS prevalence (%) 2.0 — — 2.0 — — 1.5 — 0.7


Malaria prevalence (%) 39.7 — — — — — 30.0 — —


Sources: World Bank 2009; for Senegal, ANSD 2009; for Benin, INSAE 2009; for Burkina Faso, INSD 2009.
Note: — = Not available.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 43


sector. Here we provide a brief description of the three economies (table 3.1
provides some basic data).


Benin
A small country with a coast on the Gulf of Guinea, Benin has a rather favorable
geographic position, with borders on the north with the landlocked Sahelian
countries Burkina Faso and Niger, on the east with Nigeria, and on the west
with Togo. Benin has the shape of a long north-south strip of land measur-
ing about 700 kilometers between the Gulf of Benin and the Niger River. Th e
country has a relatively fl at terrain and an ample water supply. About 65 percent


Table 3.2 Shares of WAEMU GDP of West African Countries, 1990–2008
% of WAEMU GDP, unless otherwise noted


Country 1990 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008


Benin 6.5 8.2 9.3 9.3 9.4 9.6 9.6 9.6 9.6 9.7 10.1


Burkina Faso 10.9 9.0 10.1 10.5 11.0 11.6 11.9 11.8 11.7 11.8 11.8


Côte d’Ivoire 37.9 41.6 40.5 39.2 38.6 36.9 36.5 35.7 35.3 34.6 34.1


Mali 9.7 10.7 10.4 11.2 11.2 11.9 11.8 12.0 12.4 12.5 12.7


Niger 8.7 6.6 6.5 6.7 7.0 7.1 6.8 7.4 7.4 7.4 7.8


Senegal 20.1 18.5 18.2 18.1 17.9 18.4 18.9 19.0 19.0 19.7 19.4


Togo 6.3 5.5 5.0 4.9 4.9 4.5 4.6 4.6 4.5 4.4 4.2


WAEMU GDP
(US$ millions)


28.5 26.5 25.8 26.9 29.9 37.3 42.5 45.9 49.3 57.4 69.0


Sources: World Bank 2009; for Senegal, ANSD 2009; for Benin, INSAE 2009; for Burkina Faso, INSD 2009.


Table 3.3 Shares of Sub-Saharan GDP of West African Countries, 1990–2008
% of Sub-Saharan GDP, unless otherwise noted


Country  1990 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Benin 0.6 0.7 0.7 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.7 0.7 0.6 0.7 0.7


Burkina Faso 1.1 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.0 1.0 0.9 0.9 0.8 0.8 0.8


Côte d’Ivoire 3.7 3.4 3.1 3.3 3.4 3.2 2.8 2.6 2.3 2.3 2.4


Mali 1.0 0.9 0.8 0.9 1.0 1.0 0.9 0.9 0.8 0.8 0.9


Niger 0.9 0.5 0.5 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5


Senegal 2.0 1.5 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.6 1.5 1.4 1.3 1.3 1.4


Togo 0.6 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3


WAEMU 9.8 8.1 7.7 8.4 8.8 8.5 7.8 7.2 6.6 6.7 7.0


Sub-Saharan
Africa GDP
(US$ millions)


291.1 325.7 333.6 320.9 340.7 436.5 545.0 640.6 743.4 856.1 991.5


Sources: World Bank 2009; for Senegal, ANSD 2009; for Benin, INSAE 2009; for Burkina Faso, INSD 2009.




44 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


of the land is covered by arborous vegetation, but this proportion is shrinking
steadily.


Aft er the shift from a socialist to a market-oriented economy in 1990 and
the devaluation of the CFA franc in 1994, economic growth has picked up
substantially. Th e GDP growth rate has risen to around 5 percent in recent
years—from 2.5 percent in 2005 to 4.7 percent in 2007 and to 5.0 percent in
2008. Th e economy is dominated by the primary and tertiary sectors, with a
very small secondary sector. Th e primary sector has long contributed a large,
albeit declining, portion of Benin’s GDP, averaging 37.1 percent between 1994
and 1999 and 30 percent between 2000 and 2008; it still accounts for about
60 percent of employment. Agriculture is dominated by the cultivation of food
crops (cassava root, beans, yam, corn, millet, rice) and cotton, the main cash
crop. Benin’s formal economy is highly dependent on cotton, of which it is the
largest exporter in West Africa. Cotton is the main source of income for more
than half of Benin’s farmers. As a result of low world prices and, more impor-
tantly, of mismanagement of the liberalization of the sector, cotton production
has fallen sharply, from 350,000 tons in the 2005–06 season to 240,000 tons in
2006–07. A partial recovery of cotton production has occurred in the last few
crop years. Eff orts are under way to promote diversifi cation of crops (cashew
nuts, cassava, pineapples, shea) in order to ensure food security and boost
exports of domestically produced goods.


Benin derives only 13 percent of GDP from the industrial sector, much of
which revolves around cotton processing, particularly ginning. Industrial devel-
opment is hindered by an unfavorable institutional environment, the pervasive-
ness of smuggling, and low education levels. In cooperation with the private
sector, the government has instituted a fi ve-point plan to promote investment:
legal and judicial system reforms to strengthen the protection of property
rights, fi nancial system reforms, improvements in industrial competitiveness,
deeper integration within the Economic Community of West African States
(ECOWAS), and improvements in basic infrastructure, particularly communi-
cation networks and industrial parks. Th e practical signifi cance of these plans is
doubtful, as is the case with so many similar plans in Benin and other countries
of the region, past and present.


Services represent the largest share of GDP, at about 42 percent. Regional
trade, mostly via smuggling with the landlocked countries to the north and
especially Nigeria, is Benin’s main industry, along with exporting cotton.
Transport, banking, insurance, and other services are highly dependent on this
mostly unrecorded cross-border trade. Th e informal sector plays a major role in
smuggling, as described in detail in chapter 9. Wholesale-retail trade accounted
for an average of about 19 percent of GDP between 1990 and 2008, while trans-
port contributed another 9 percent during the same period.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 45


Like many African countries, Benin runs very large trade defi cits, on the
order of 20–25 percent of GDP. Th e current account defi cits are smaller in view
of offi cial transfers and exports of services, notably related to the informal cross-
border trade. Cotton dominates offi cial exports and ships mainly to countries
like France, China, Indonesia, India, and Nigeria. Offi cial imports originate
primarily from developed countries, with France (45 percent of imports) lead-
ing, followed by the United States, Japan, China, WAEMU member states, and
Nigeria. Recorded trade with WAEMU and Nigeria is thus quite small, but offi -
cial statistics are misleading. Vast volumes of unrecorded trade fl ow in both
directions between Benin and Nigeria.


Despite the global economic turmoil since 2008, Benin has maintained rela-
tive macroeconomic stability, due largely to the CFA franc’s peg to the euro.
Infl ation has been kept at around 3 percent, conforming to WAEMU’s con-
vergence criteria. Infl ation rose temporarily to about 7.9 percent in 2008, due
to rising global food and petrol prices. Th e budget defi cit deteriorated from
5.2 percent of GDP in 2005 to 10.4 percent in 2008. However, the cancellation of
debt under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and the Mul-
tilateral Debt Relief Initiative and prudent foreign borrowing helped to reduce
external public debt from 58.3 percent to about 12.6 percent of GDP in 2008.


Benin, like many other Sub-Saharan African nations, experiences high pop-
ulation growth rates, averaging 3.25 percent in 1992–2002 and falling slightly
to 3 percent in 2007. Given the high population growth rates, the government
has recognized the need for increased investment and improved public services
such as education and training and sanitation and food safety, but the eff ective-
ness of its policies remains to be seen. Despite some improvement in social
indicators, Benin remains a very poor country, with GDP per capita of US$600,
life expectancy of 54 years, a literacy rate of 45.3 percent, a United Nations
Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Indicator (HDI) rank-
ing of 163 out of 177 countries, and monetary and nonmonetary poverty rates
of about 40 percent.


Burkina Faso
Benin’s neighbor, Burkina Faso faces one of the harshest geographic situations of
any country in the world. A landlocked and arid Sahelian country, it is bordered
on the north and west by Mali, on the northeast by Niger, on the southeast by
Benin, and on the south by Togo, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire. Th e slight decline in
the terrain guides the water fl ow of the three rivers—Mouhoun, Nayinon, and
Nakambé—that cross the country. Economic growth averaged a solid 5.9 per-
cent between 1997 and 2006 and fell to a still respectable 5.0 percent in 2008.


Burkina Faso is highly dependent on the primary sector, whose share of GDP
rose from about 40 percent in the 1990s to 51 percent in 2007. Agriculture and




46 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


livestock represent about 36 percent of GDP and are the source of employment
and income for 80 percent of the population. Th e government aims to lift agri-
cultural output growth from 5 to 10 percent and to increase income per person
of farmers and stockbreeders by at least 3 percent annually. Burkina Faso has
considerable agricultural potential: only a third of total farmland and 12 percent
of irrigable land is used. Fruits and vegetables remain a promising, but largely
untapped, source of export diversifi cation.


Industry accounts for a relatively sizable 26 percent of GDP, refl ecting the
importance of mining, which has substantial potential for growth. Th e gov-
ernment’s industrial strategy is based on 12 industries: cotton, cereals, fruits
and vegetables, oil products, milk, meat, leather, metalwork, rubber and plastic,
quarries, construction materials, and chemical products (fertilizer and phyto-
sanitary products and pharmaceuticals). Manufacturing remains underdevel-
oped, however, with factories concentrated around Ouagadougou and Bobo
Dioulasso.


Burkina Faso’s service sector is dominated by trade and tourism. Th e ter-
tiary sector represented about 32 percent of GDP between 1990 and 2007.
Wholesale-retail trade is a major but declining activity, accounting for 22 per-
cent of GDP between 1990 and 2000 and 11 percent in 2007. Burkina Faso is a
focal point for trade in WAEMU, given its location at the center of the group.
With its two commercial centers—Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso—
Burkina Faso has the best network of road connections among WAEMU
countries. Tourism also plays an important role, thanks in part to the coun-
try’s well-known handicraft s. Th e handicraft industry employs about 900,000
people and accounts for nearly 30 percent of GDP. Burkina Faso promotes
itself as the showcase for African artifacts, hosting the biannual International
Handicraft s Fair of Ouagadougou.


Despite regional instability since 1998, caused by the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire,
international trade has increased steadily, accelerating to an annual average of
12.7 percent between 2005 and 2007. Burkina’s exports cover only a third of
imports, and exports are dominated by primary products, mainly agricultural
goods, with cotton being by far the largest export (55.4 percent of total exports),
followed by livestock (15.9 percent), a variety of other agricultural products like
green beans, sesame, and shea (together, 15.4 percent), and gold (5.2 percent).


Since 1997, Burkina Faso has benefi ted from debt reduction under the
HIPC Initiative, with external debt of 34.5 percent of GDP in 2007. Th e coun-
try ranked second to last in the 2007 HDI index, and its income per capita of
US$430 in 2008 is well below the Sub-Saharan average of US$592. Th e poverty
rate fell from 55 percent in 1998 to about 42.6 percent in 2007. Offi cial unem-
ployment in 2007 was estimated at 7.8 percent in rural areas and 17.7 percent in
urban areas, but these fi gures ignore massive underemployment.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 47


Senegal
Senegal has a favorable location. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the
west, Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau
to the south. Th e Gambia forms a virtual enclave within Senegal, penetrating
more than 300 kilometers inland, and the islands of Cape Verde are located
560 kilometers from the coast of Senegal. GDP growth has averaged around
5 percent since the 1994 devaluation, but declined signifi cantly to 4.7 percent
in 2007 and 2.5 percent in 2008, due largely to the global economic crisis and
erratic economic policies.


Th e primary sector accounts for a relatively small and declining share of
GDP, falling from 16.9 percent in 2000 to 13.2 percent of GDP in 2008. Slow
growth in agriculture can be attributed largely to low rainfall levels and mis-
management, resulting in a spectacular decline in groundnut production,
the country’s main cash crop. In recent years, the Senegalese government has
introduced several new programs to promote agricultural development, but,
as in the past, lack of consistency makes it diffi cult to put these initiatives into
practice. Th e government’s proclivity for launching multiple initiatives without
fully articulating their content or identifying the resources necessary to support
them dooms these grandiose plans from their inception.


Fishing employs around 600,000 people, the majority of the coastal popula-
tion, but its overall share of GDP is still low, hovering at around 1.7 percent
over the period between 2000 and 2008. Th e fi shing industry has been aff ected
adversely by overfi shing, with the government seemingly unable to control the
problem.


Industrial output in Senegal has also experienced sluggish growth since the
phosphate industry crisis in 2005. Its share in GDP has remained at around
20 percent over the period between 2000 and 2008. Th e construction industry
is an exception, benefi ting from ambitious infrastructure projects, mainly in
Dakar, undertaken by the Senegalese government in recent years, and thriving
residential construction, funded in part by remittances. Th e construction sec-
tor’s share of GDP rose from 4.1 percent in 2000 to 4.7 percent of GDP in 2008.
Manufacturing accounted for 12.8 percent of GDP in 2008, a relatively large
portion by African standards, but the sector exhibits little dynamism, particu-
larly in labor-intensive sectors such as textiles and apparel.


Services account for approximately 45 percent of GDP. Wholesale-retail
trade is the largest subsector, accounting for around 16 percent of GDP. Com-
merce in Senegal is also marked by the proliferation of street vendors, who
account for the majority of retail trade operations. Trade in Senegal has long
been dominated by the Mouride Islamic brotherhood, with a worldwide trad-
ing diaspora, as described in chapter 8. Th ere has also been a massive instal-
lation of Chinese shops, which compete strongly with Lebanese and Mouride




48 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


vendors in the region. Retail trade is controlled largely by the informal sector.
Telecommunications have also witnessed substantial growth and now account
for 11  percent of GDP. Th ere are three major mobile operators alongside
the nation’s main fi xed-service operator, SONATEL (Société Nationale des
Télécommunications).


Like the other countries of the region, Senegal has a high level of trade in
relation to output and a large trade defi cit, funded by remittances and foreign
aid. France is Senegal’s largest bilateral trading partner, but China’s share has
been rising rapidly. Senegal’s main exports are phosphates, salt, peanuts, and
fi sh products. Th e share of the traditional cash crop, peanuts, has declined
sharply due to structural problems, including desertifi cation, soil erosion, and
afl otoxin contamination (Mbaye 2005), resulting in poor product quality and
loss of market share. Aside from the capital-intensive phosphate factories, Sene-
gal has had little success in export diversifi cation, particularly in labor-intensive
manufacturing. Horticulture has recently emerged as a promising export, but
is still small.


The Signifi cance of Informality in West Africa


In Africa, although informal activities are undeclared, attempts have been made
to estimate their magnitude. Our estimates, as well as those of others, indi-
cate that more than 80 percent, perhaps even 90 percent, of total employment
is informal. Offi cial statistics from West African countries indicate that up to
60 percent of the GDP of these countries is produced by informal activities.1


Other studies provide somewhat diff erent estimates, depending on the defi -
nition of informality adopted, but all of them agree that the informal sector
occupies an important position in African economies. According to Schneider
and Enste (2002), the informal sector represents 10 to 20 percent of GDP in
developed countries, more than a third of GDP in developing countries, and
well above that in Africa. Schneider (2000) reports that the informal sector
accounts for 42.3 percent of GDP in Africa and 60 percent of GDP in Nigeria.
Th e International Labour Organization’s estimates are of the same magnitude:
48 percent of nonagricultural employment in North Africa, 51 percent in Latin
America, 65 percent in Asia, and 72 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa (ILO 2002).
Chen (2001) estimates that 93 percent of new jobs created in Africa during
the 1990s were created by the informal sector. Xaba, Horn, and Motala (2002)
fi nd that, while formal sector employment is stagnant at best, both employment
and share of GDP are steadily increasing in the informal sector. Focusing on
the rural economy, Otsuka and Yamano (2006) report that the informal sector
accounts for 13 percent of nonfarm income in Ethiopia, 30 percent in Kenya,




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 49


and 38 percent in Uganda. Steel and Snodgrass (2008) report that the informal
economy in Africa accounts for 50 to 80 percent of GDP and as much as 90 per-
cent of employment. A Botswana Central Statistics Offi ce report fi nds that the
number of informal fi rms in Botswana rose 28.7 percent between 1999 and 2007
(CSO 2008). According to one estimate, the informal sector accounts for three
quarters of Ghana’s national income; in rural areas, this proportion reaches
90 percent (Canagarajah and Mazumdar 1999). In Burkina Faso, researchers
have found that 80 percent of total employment is attributed to the informal
sector (Calvès and Schoumaker 2004).


Some of the largest and fastest-growing sectors of West African economies
are dominated by informal fi rms: wholesale and retail trade, transportation,
restaurants, reproduction of compact discs and tapes, carpentry, construction,
and real estate, among others. Th is tendency for informal fi rms to dominate
in certain sectors, notably retail, construction, and other services, also occurs
in other developing countries (Adams 2008; Lund and Skinner 2004; Haan
2006). Verick (2006) also fi nds that the retail sector is the largest locus of
informal activities in African economies. Similarly, Charmes (1993) fi nds that
80.7 percent of fi rms in Benin’s urban zones are street vendors. Th e CSO’s
2008 study fi nds that 39.6 percent of informal fi rms in Botswana are involved
with retail trade. Other sectors with signifi cant proportions of informal activ-
ity in Botswana are real estate (20.7 percent), manufacturing (11.3 percent),
and hospitality (10.3 percent). According to a 1988 survey by the U.S. Agency
for International Development (USAID), 72 percent of informal activity in
Senegal consists of wholesale and retail trade, with very small fi rms averaging
just 1.1 employees per fi rm (ILO 1995). Th e results from the second phase
of the 123 study in Senegal (DPS 2004) show that the size of informal fi rms
had barely changed as of 2003: average employment per fi rm had edged up
to only 1.5. However, the sectoral distribution among informal sectors had
evolved substantially: trade fell to 46.5 percent of informal activity in 2003,
while industry accounted for 30.6 percent, services for 21.3 percent, and fi sh-
ing for 1.6 percent.


A Sectoral Analysis of Informality Based on National
Accounts Data


In this section, we report the offi cial estimates of the share of the informal sector
in GDP and employment based on national accounts data. Th ese estimates are
derived from surveys that are extrapolated to other years. Th e defi nition of the
informal sector in the national accounts is based on household-level surveys
that identify small household enterprises as informal. While this captures an




50 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


important part of the informal economy, it neglects large informal fi rms, so the
national accounts estimates are likely to underestimate the size of the informal
sector. Nevertheless, they are a good starting point.


Th e informal sector accounts for half or more of GDP in all WAEMU coun-
tries. For our three countries, the informal sector’s share has averaged 74, 49,
and 54 percent, respectively, for Benin, Burkina Faso, and Senegal since 2000.


Figures 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3 show the growth rates of total GDP and that part of
GDP attributable to formal and informal sectors in the three countries between
1991 and 2007. Until 2000, informal sector growth outpaced formal sector
growth in most years, but since 2000, growth rates of formal and informal sec-
tors are fairly similar, except in Senegal where growth of the formal sector has
picked up markedly.


Figure 3.4 displays the share of GDP attributable to the informal sector, by
major industry group. Th e primary sector is dominated by the informal sec-
tor in the three countries. For the secondary sector, the distributions are more
variable. In Senegal, the informal sector accounts for a little more than half of
the value added in both secondary and tertiary sectors; in Burkina Faso and
Benin, the informal sector accounts for about three quarters of tertiary output,
but in Benin, the formal sector produces the majority of value added, whereas
in Burkina it produces about half.


Figure 3.1 Growth Rate of Value Added in the Formal and Informal Sectors in Benin,
1991–2007


8


6


4


2


0


–2


–4


–6


Va
lu


e
ad


de
d


gr
ow


th
(%


)


19
91


19
93


19
95


19
97


19
99


20
01


20
03


20
05


20
07


GDP growth Formal sector’s GDP growth Informal sector’s GDP growth


Source: INSAE 2009.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 51


Figure 3.2 Growth Rate of Value Added in the Formal and Informal Sectors in Burkina Faso,
1991–2007


25


20


15


10


5


0


–5


–10


Va
lu


e
ad


de
d


gr
ow


th
(%


)


19
91


19
93


19
95


19
97


19
99


20
01


20
03


20
05


20
07


GDP growth Formal sector’s GDP growth Informal sector’s GDP growth


Source: INSD 2009.


Figure 3.3 Growth Rate of Value Added in the Formal and Informal Sectors in Senegal,
1991–2007


40


30


20


10


0


–10


–20


–30


Va
lu


e
ad


de
d


gr
ow


th
(%


)


19
91


19
93


19
95


19
97


19
99


20
01


20
03


20
05


20
07


GDP growth Formal sector’s GDP growth Informal sector’s GDP growth


Source: ANSD 2009.




52 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Figures 3.5–3.13 display a more detailed sectoral distribution of the informal
sector in the three countries over time. All primary industries (agriculture, live-
stock, fi shing) are entirely or heavily dominated by informal production (fi gures
3.5–3.7). Th e shares of formal and informal fi rms diff er considerably within
subsectors in the secondary (fi gures 3.8–3.10) and tertiary (fi gures 3.11–3.13)


Figure 3.4 Proportion of GDP Attributed to the Informal Sector in the Three West African
Countries, by Industrial Sector, 2007


100


90


80


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0


%
o


f G
D


P


Senegal


92


45 44


100 100


47


27


63


75


Burkina Faso Benin


Primary Secondary Tertiary


Sources: ANSD 2009; INSAE 2009; INSD 2009.


Figure 3.5 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses in the Primary Sector
in Senegal, 1990–2007


100


90


80


70


60


%
o


f v
al


ue
a


dd
ed


1990 1993 20071997 2001


100


85


79
82


86


90


100 100 100 100


Agriculture Livestock Fishing Forestry


Source: ANSD 2009.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 53


sectors, however. Mining has become increasingly informal in Benin and
Burkina Faso, but the opposite is true in Senegal.


Th e construction industry is heavily informal in Benin and Burkina Faso but
more evenly divided between formal and informal sectors in Senegal. Construc-
tion is an interesting example of how the informal and formal fi rms interact.


Figure 3.6 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses in the Primary Sector
in Burkina Faso, 1990–2007


100


80


60


40


20


0


%
o


f v
al


ue
a


dd
ed


1990 1993 20071997 2001


100 100 100 100 100


Agriculture Livestock Fishing, forestry


Source: INSD 2009.


Figure 3.7 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses in the Primary Sector
in Benin, 1990–2007


100


95


90


85


80


%
o


f v
al


ue
a


dd
ed


1990 1993 20071997 2001


100 100 100 100 100


96
97


96 96 96


Agriculture Livestock Fishing, forestry


Source: INSAE 2009.




54 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Figure 3.8 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses in the Secondary
Sector in Senegal, 1990–2007


41


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0


%
o


f v
al


ue
a


dd
ed


1990 1993 20071997 2001


62


50


3


49


39


57


21


3 4 4 4


5051


27


35


55
58


41


48


Mining Manufacturing Water, energy Construction


Source: ANSD 2009.


Figure 3.9 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses in the Secondary
Sector in Burkina Faso, 1990–2007


100


90


80


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0


%
o


f v
al


ue
a


dd
ed


1990 1993 20071997 2001


79


65


54


80


65


54


79


65


54


100


36


81


100 99


27


0 0 0 0 0


Mining Manufacturing Water, energy Construction


Source: INSD 2009.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 55


Figure 3.11 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses in the Tertiary Sector
in Senegal, 1990–2007


4


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0


%
o


f v
al


ue
a


dd
ed


1990 1993 20071997 2001


48


59


0


24


40


62


10


0


23


51


61


4
0


40


55


61


5
0


51


61 61


3
0


57


Trade Transport Telecommunications Finance Other services


Source: ANSD 2009.


Figure 3.10 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses in the Secondary
Sector in Benin, 1990–2007


100


90


80


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0


%
o


f v
al


ue
a


dd
ed


1990 1993 20071997 2001


14


63


85


32


65


87


57 58


87


100


57


88


100


88


58


0 0 0 0 0


Mining Manufacturing Water, energy Construction


Source: INSAE 2009.




56 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


In residential housing, small informal operators predominate. In public works
(roads, bridges), the government fi nances construction through its investment
budget or with funds supplied by donors. Informal fi rms do not have the funds
or the legitimacy to participate in the bidding process. Formal companies
always obtain the contracts, but they usually subcontract the projects to infor-
mal building fi rms. Manufacturing is split more evenly between the formal and
informal sectors, with the informal sector’s share having shrunk since 2001.


Parastatals with monopoly status usually provide energy and water, explain-
ing why almost 100 percent of the value added of these sectors can be attrib-
uted to formal activities. In the case of transport, private and public providers
share the market. Th e formal sector also predominates in telecommunications
and fi nancial services. For example, the offi cial Senegalese transport company
(Dakar Dem Dikk) coexists with a variety of informal urban and interurban
transport enterprises, which belong to individuals, to professional groups
called groupements d’intérêts économiques (GIE), or to others of a more infor-
mal nature. Telecommunications, in contrast, tends to be dominated by one or
a few large formal fi rms, oft en partially foreign owned, such as SONATEL in
Senegal, ONATEL (Offi ce National des Télécommunications) in Burkina Faso,
or Benin Telecom, which had, until recently, exercised a monopoly over fi xed-
line telecommunications, but now competes in the mobile market with a few
other fi rms. In most countries, there are plans to open competition in fi xed


Figure 3.12 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses in the Tertiary Sector
in Burkina Faso, 1990–2007


232323


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0


%
o


f v
al


ue
a


dd
ed


1990 1993 20071997 2001


50


0


62


50


0


61


50


0


65
61


4
0


59


66


2 0


58


Trade Transport and telecommunications Finance Other services


Source: INSD 2009.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 57


lines, and this is progressively being implemented. Major providers of fi xed and
mobile telecommunications services in the subregion are all formal. Neverthe-
less, informal operators function on the fringes of the market. For example,
most mobile operators rely on informal street vendors in urban centers to sell
a certain number of products, including SIM cards and refi ll cards. Telecenters,
which sell fi xed-line calling services, and Internet cafés are oft en informal.


Th e banking and fi nancial services in WAEMU countries are subject to
strong regulation by the regional central bank, Banque Centrale des Etats de
l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO). Entry and prudential regulations are quite strict.
Although access to banking services is still low, with fewer than 5 percent of
economic agents having a bank account, the number of banks and fi nancial
institutions, including microfi nance, is increasing (Mbaye, Diarisso, and Diop
2011). Th ese institutions are almost all in the formal sector, but more informal
forms of tontine and other traditional credit mechanisms remain active. Many
actors in the informal sector who are shut out of bank credit rely on these infor-
mal networks and family ties. Th ese informal fi nancial networks do not seem to


Figure 3.13 Share of Value Added Contributed by Informal Businesses in the Tertiary Sector
in Benin, 1990–2007


7069
6670


60


50


40


30


20


10


0


100


90


80


%
o


f v
al


ue
a


dd
ed


1990 1993 20071997 2001


69


0


95


72


0


95


71


0


94


73 71


0


94


74 72


0


95


Trade Transport and telecommunications Finance Other services


Source: INSAE 2009.




58 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


be included in the national accounts estimates, which incorrectly attribute all of
value added in the fi nancial industry to the formal sector.


We have seen that the informal sector accounts for a very large share of
GDP; it accounts for an even greater, indeed overwhelming, share of employ-
ment, refl ecting low productivity (see chapter 7). Formal sector jobs in govern-
ment and the private sector are very scarce in African economies, and our three
countries are typical in this regard. As shown in table 3.4, the formal sector
accounts for about 5 percent of employment in Benin and Burkina Faso and
8 percent in Senegal. In Benin and Burkina Faso, private sector formal employ-
ment is lower than public sector employment. Senegal has been somewhat more
successful in creating formal private sector jobs, with some 6 percent of the
labor force engaged in the formal private sector in 2003. Overall, however, in
all three countries, the informal sector accounts for more than 90 percent of
employment.


Tax Burdens on Formal and Informal Sectors


Data on tax revenues for the three governments indicate a remarkable imbal-
ance in the share of the informal sector in national income relative to its con-
tribution to government revenue. Th e tax institutions of the three countries are
also discussed in chapter 6. In this section, we examine the loss of fi scal revenue
associated with lack of tax receipts from the informal sector.


Overview of Tax Collection in the Th ree Countries
An analysis of contributions stemming from diff erent categories of fi rms reveals
a strong imbalance in favor of big businesses and against the informal sector.
In the three countries, large enterprises contribute more than 95 percent of tax


Table 3.4 Employment in the Formal and Informal Sectors in the Three West African
Countries, Various Years, 2003–05


Sector


Benin (2005) Burkina Faso (2005) Senegal (2003)


Number of
workers


% of labor
force


Number of
workers


% of labor
force


Number of
workers


% of labor
force


Labor force 2,811,753 100.0 5,077,926 100.0 3,513,104 100.0


Public sector,
including state-owned
enterprises


73,106 2.6 218,351 4.3 62,885 1.8


Formal private sector 59,047 2.1 50,779 1.0 214,651 6.1


Informal sector 2,668,354 94.9 4,808,796 94.7 3,235,217 92.1


Sources: For Senegal, DPS 2003; for Benin, INSAE 2005; for Burkina Faso, INSD 2003.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 59


revenue, while fi rms in the informal sector contribute less than 3 percent—
completely out of proportion to the informal sector’s 50 percent or greater share
of total value added. Th e shares of total domestic tax revenue (that is, exclud-
ing customs duties) levied on the informal sector are very low. In Senegal, the
informal sector contributed a tiny 2.4–3.5 percent of domestic tax revenue over
2004–07; in Benin and Burkina Faso, it contributed even less.2 Data on informal
sector contributions to customs revenue are particularly scarce because the cus-
toms regimes of the three states largely fail to distinguish between the imports
of the formal and informal sectors. Some data distinguishing the two categories
of importers are available for Burkina Faso, indicating that the informal sec-
tor contributes minimally to customs duty collections. Th ese fi gures, however,
may understate the informal sector’s payments insofar as informal fi rms present
themselves as formal to the customs authorities and pay indirect taxes.


In all three countries, revenues as a share of GDP have increased but remain
low (table 3.5). In the 2000–05 period, only Senegal (barely) met the WAEMU
convergence criterion of a minimum revenue-to-GDP ratio of 17 percent. In all
three countries, indirect taxes account for a very large proportion of revenues
(around 70 percent), making for rather regressive tax systems. Th e informal
sector’s low contribution to direct tax revenues is a big part of this problem.
Th e harmonization of fi scal regulations and the implementation of a common
external tariff (CET) and a value added tax (VAT) among countries in WAEMU
at the end of the 1990s involved substantial fi scal and customs changes. Indeed,
in 2001–05, aft er implementation of the CET, the proportion of fi scal revenue
from taxes on domestic goods and services was higher than in 1990–95, before
implementation, while taxes on external trade (customs duties) were substan-
tially lower in all three countries.


Senegal Although Senegal had the highest ratio of tax revenue to GDP in
WAEMU—17 percent during the period 2000–05—the Senegalese fi scal system
is quite regressive due to its high dependence on indirect taxes. Indeed, indi-
rect taxes represented 72 percent of total taxes in the mid-2000s, an increase of
2 percentage points since the late 1980s (table 3.6).


Table 3.5 Tax Revenues as a Percentage of GDP in the Three West African Countries,
1980–2005


Country 1980–85 1985–90 1990–95 1995–2000 2000–05


Senegal 14.8 13.4 14.3 14.8 17.0


Benin — 8.4 9.6 12.5 14.4


Burkina Faso — — 9.1 10.5 11.1


Sources: For Senegal, ANSD 2006; for Benin, INSAE 2006; for Burkina Faso, INSD 2006.
Note: — = not available.




60 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Over 2004–07, the informal sector accounted for less than 3 percent of direct
tax receipts in Senegal (table 3.7). Informal sector tax receipts as a share of total
Senegalese business income taxes vary by sector: 1.1 percent in the secondary
sector (0.9 percent in industry and 3.2 percent in construction) and 3.2 percent
in the services sector as a whole. Th e informal sector’s contribution to total
taxes is greatest in retail trade, where it amounts to 16.4 percent of total direct
taxes. Even in retailing, however, the informal sector’s contribution to direct
taxes is very low in relation to its share of value added in that sector, estimated
at 60 percent in 2002.


Th e Senegalese administration has undertaken several initiatives to increase
the informal sector’s contribution to fi scal revenue. Agencies established in
the early 1990s to assist the informal sector had little eff ect. Th e contribution
générale unique (CGU), set up in 2004, is the most recent major attempt to col-
lect more taxes from the informal sector. Th e CGU is a single comprehensive
tax that substitutes for all other direct taxes for eligible fi rms. As shown in table
3.8, the CGU has had a very limited eff ect. A very small number of informal
fi rms (a few thousand out of hundreds of thousands of existing fi rms) have been


Table 3.6 Tax Revenues in Senegal, by Type of Tax, 1996–2005
% of total


Type of tax 1986–90 1991–95 1996–2000 2001–05


Direct taxes 24.6 23.4 21.8 22.7


Indirect taxes 69.9 69.6 73.1 72.2


Domestic 29.1 24.9 31.8 33.4


Foreign trade 40.8 44.7 41.3 38.7


Other taxes 5.5 7.0 5.1 5.1


Source: DGID 2008.


Table 3.7 Share of Informal Sector in Business Income Taxes in Senegal, by Sector, 2004–07
% of total


Sector 2004 2005 2006 2007
Average,
2004–07


Secondary sector 0.9 1.0 1.5 1.0 1.1


Industry 0.7 0.8 1.3 0.9 0.9


Construction 3.0 3.0 4.1 2.7 3.2


Service sector 3.0 3.0 4.1 2.7 3.2


Retail 17.0 15.1 19.9 13.6 16.4


Services 1.1 1.0 1.4 1.1 1.2


Total 2.4 2.5 3.5 2.4 2.7


Source: ANSD 2009.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 61


subject to the CGU. Moreover, for those fi rms that have been subject to the
CGU, collections never reached 5 percent of total sales, representing a recovery
rate of about 50 percent of tax due in 2004–06. Although the recovery rate rose
sharply in 2007 to 75.5 percent, average tax collection per fi rm subject to the
CGU fell to about CFAF 400,000, down from more than CFAF 600,000 in 2005,
as tax due fell. Consequently, the total amount recovered in 2007 was less than
CFAF 1.5 billion—a paltry 0.6 percent of total direct taxes and 1.9 percent of
total business taxes in that same year.


Benin Benin has substantially increased its tax collections, albeit from a low
level, with the ratio of tax revenue to GDP rising from 8.4 percent in 1985–90
to 14.4 percent in 2000–05, still well below the 17 percent threshold set by the
WAEMU convergence criteria (table 3.5). Th e share contributed by direct taxes
fell 5 percentage points, from 31 percent of total revenue during 1990–95 to
26 percent during 2000–05 (table 3.9). Taxes on domestic goods and services
as a portion of total fi scal revenue jumped from 33.9 percent in the early 1990s
to 51.7 percent in 1995–2000, before falling back to 46.5 percent in 2000–05.


Table 3.8 Estimated Evasion of Informal Sector Sales Taxes in Senegal, 2004–07


Indicator 2004 2005 2006 2007


Number of fi rms subject
to CGU


2663 3498 5166 4970


Total sales (CFAF millions) 21,635.4 31,420.0 42,383.2 51,237.8


Tax due (CFAF millions) 1,525.1 2,210.3 2,931.4 1,939.8


Average CGU (tax per unit) 0.573 0.632 0.567 0.39


Collections (CFAF millions) 793.8 1,319.8 1,504.9 1,463.9


Recovery rate 51.9% 59.7% 51.3% 75.4%


Loss to fi scal revenue
(theoretical tax—collection,
CFAF millions)


732.2 890.4 1,426.4 476.0


Rate of loss to fi scal
revenue


48.0% 40.3% 48.7% 24.5%


Sources: DGID 2008; authors’ estimates.


Table 3.9 Tax Revenues in Benin, by Type of Tax, 1990–2005
% of total


Type of tax 1990–95 1995–2000 2000–05


Direct taxes 30.9 28.2 25.9


Indirect taxes 68.5 66.1 65.6


Domestic 33.9 51.7 46.5


Foreign trade 34.5 14.3 19.1


Other taxes 0.6 5.7 8.4


Sources: INSAE 2006; authors’ estimates.




62 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Taxes on external trade, in contrast, fell during the same period, dropping
sharply from 34.5 percent of total fi scal revenue in 1990–95 to 14.3 percent in
1995–2000, before partially recovering to 19.1 percent in the early 2000s. Other
taxes rose sharply, from 0.6 percent of total revenue in 1990–95 to 8.4 percent
in 2000–05.


Burkina Faso In Burkina Faso, the share of tax revenue to GDP rose more
modestly than in Benin, from 9 percent in 1990–95 to 11 percent in 2000–
05, among the lowest in the region (table 3.5). Shares of indirect and direct
taxes  as  a portion of total taxes have remained stable. Direct taxes have
held steady at about one quarter of total revenue, while indirect taxes have
remained at around 71 percent of total revenue (table 3.10). As is the case with
the other economies in WAEMU, the application of the CET and the introduc-
tion of the VAT engendered a restructuring of indirect taxes, with an increase
in taxes on domestic sales of goods and services and a decrease in taxes on
external trade. Taxes on domestic goods and services, which amounted to less
than 40 percent of fi scal revenue during 1990–95, rose to above 50 percent
during 2000–05. Taxes on external trade decreased from one-third of total
revenue to less than 18 percent over the same period. Burkina’s fi scal system
is thus doubly weak: on the one hand, it suff ers from a relatively low level of
tax collection; on the other hand, it is strongly regressive.


Estimates of Revenue Loss Due to Tax Evasion
in the Informal Sector
In this section, we examine the loss of fi scal revenue associated with tax evasion
in the informal sector in the three economies. To measure the amount of fi scal
evasion, we estimate the hypothetical level of fi scal revenue under full taxation
of the informal sector. Th ese estimates do not take into account the costs of
collecting revenue from the informal sector, which are likely to be substantial,
particularly for smaller fi rms. Th erefore, our estimates are biased upward for net
revenue obtained from taxing the informal sector.


Table 3.10 Tax Revenues in Burkina Faso, by Type of Tax, 1990–2005
% of total


Type of tax 1990–95 1995–2000 2000–05


Direct taxes 25.5 25.4 25.9


Indirect taxes 70.9 70.1 70.9


Domestic 38.1 43.5 53.3


Foreign trade 32.7 26.6 17.5


Other taxes 3.7 4.5 3.2


Sources: INSD 2006; authors’ estimates.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 63


We estimate the loss to fi scal revenue caused by the informal sector’s evasion
of taxes over 2000–05 using fi scal data from the three countries and the shares
of the informal sector in GDP (table 3.11). We assume that informal sector
enterprises currently pay indirect taxes at the same rate as the formal sector
but do not pay any direct taxes, and we estimate the increase in direct tax pay-
ments under the assumption that direct tax payments in the informal sector
have the same ratio of value added as in the formal sector. Th ese assumptions
are not completely realistic but roughly refl ect the actual situation, and possible
biases are likely to be roughly off setting. As we have seen in the case of Senegal,
formal direct tax payments are negligible. Regarding indirect taxes, informal
sector fi rms do not remit value added taxes to the government on sales, but
they also are not eligible for VAT rebates on inputs. Informal fi rms are generally
subject to VAT on imported goods, although not when the goods are smuggled
into the country. To the extent that value added is low relative to the value of
gross sales, as is the case for most industries (particularly commerce), formal
fi rms face a higher eff ective tax rate on domestic sales than informal fi rms,
but only by the share of value added in total sales. Overall, therefore, informal
fi rms pay indirect taxes to a greater extent than direct taxes, but our assumption
that informal fi rms pay their “fair share” of indirect taxes likely overestimates
indirect tax payments by informal fi rms. Our method is likely to be an upper
bound on the potential increases in revenue from direct taxation of the informal
sector because it is unlikely that informal enterprises can ever be taxed at these
levels, particularly small informal fi rms. Using this method, table 3.11 suggests
that the potential revenue gains are particularly signifi cant for Benin, resulting
in an increase of 10.6 percent in the share of tax receipts to GDP, from 14.4 to
25.0 percent. Th e large eff ect refl ects Benin’s very high share of the informal
sector in GDP (74 percent). For Senegal and Burkina Faso, the potential gains


Table 3.11 Estimates of the Potential Gain from Taxing the Informal Sector’s Business
Income in the Three West African Countries, 2000–05
% of GDP, unless otherwise noted


Activity sector Benin Senegal Burkina Faso


Direct taxes as % of total tax revenue 25.9 25.9 22.7


% of GDP


Informal sector 74.0 50.0 55.0


Total tax receipts 14.4 11.1 17.0


Direct tax revenue 3.7 2.9 3.9


Hypothetical informal direct tax 10.6 2.9 4.7


Hypothetical total tax 25.0 14.0 21.7


Sources: Authors’ calculations, based on tables 3.4–3.7 in this volume.




64 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


in revenue are not as large, but they are still signifi cant: 2.9 and 4.7 percent of
GDP, respectively.


Informality, Employment, and Living Standards


In this section, we discuss the controversies regarding whether or not the infor-
mal sector contributes to poverty alleviation and improved social welfare. Th e
perspectives and results of previous studies concerning the impact of infor-
mality on economic well-being are mixed. Some authors consider the informal
sector as a last resort for employment, providing meager incomes, while others
argue that informal sector work can be relatively lucrative. To provide more
information on these issues, in this chapter, we compare the living standards of
people engaged in formal and informal activities.


Maloney (2004) is the leading proponent of the view that the informal sector
can be a source of improved well-being. He argues that when workers leave the
formal sector to set up their businesses in the informal sector, they typically are
better off for several reasons. First, these entrepreneurs are oft en relatively tal-
ented, educated, and hardworking, contrary to the general view that the infor-
mal sector is the repository of the least capable people. Second, they benefi t
from more freedom and fl exibility. Levenson and Maloney (1998) acknowledge,
however, that informal sector actors are excluded from certain public services
such as legal protection, with resulting weak property rights, diminished cred-
ibility with formal sector customers, and reduced access to credit, which dimin-
ishes their incomes. Informal sector workers have a much higher incidence of
poverty than formal sector workers.


Th e majority opinion, overall, is that the informal sector is primarily a last-
resort source of employment for those who have few opportunities in the formal
sector. Th e greater fl exibility of product and labor markets in the informal sec-
tor allows employment in informal fi rms to absorb the surplus labor created by
contraction of the formal sector during structural adjustment. Various authors
note that informal business creation and employment swell during downturns.
Th e wave of trade liberalization in Africa led to the contraction of many pre-
viously protected industries, resulting in losses of formal sector jobs. Verick
(2006) fi nds that trade liberalization contributed to the development of the
informal sector. In Kenya, liberalization associated with structural adjustment
programs was followed by a rise in employment in the informal sector from
4.2 percent of total employment in 1972 to 53.4 percent in 1994! Similarly, Gelb
et al. (2009) fi nd that development of the informal sector is strongly correlated
with unemployment and that the informal sector acts as a safety valve. Calvès
and Schoumaker (2004) also argue that the informal sector develops in the mar-
kets that are most highly exposed to international competition and structural




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 65


adjustment. Based on data from a study in Burkina Faso, they fi nd a large
increase in informal enterprises following structural adjustment programs. Th is
increase in employment in the informal sector occurs not only among unskilled
workers but also among university-educated workers. Golub and Mbaye (2002)
and Lindauer and Velenchik (2002), using data from Senegal, also note that the
formal sector has lost international competitiveness, while the informal sector
is thriving. Notwithstanding steady growth of aggregate GDP at around 5 per-
cent, formal manufacturing has seen huge losses in employment, which have
been absorbed largely by the rapidly growing informal sector. Lindauer and
Velenchik estimate that employment in the industrial sector as a percentage of
total employment fell from 12.3 percent to 8.6 percent between 1994 and 2001.


Our fi ndings generally support the view that living standards are lower in
the informal sector. We compare levels of monetary and nonmonetary poverty
among households engaged in formal and informal activities and fi nd that pov-
erty is much higher among those working in the informal sector.


Monetary and nonmonetary poverty aff ect diff erent segments of the popula-
tion to varying degrees, depending on factors such as place of residence, gender,
social and professional status. Household surveys show that a high proportion
of workers derive their income from the informal sector, with 85 percent of
heads of household in Benin, 79 percent in Senegal, and 91 percent in Burkina
Faso engaging in informal activities on their own behalf or as part of a house-
hold enterprise. Informal activities by heads of household in Benin are concen-
trated in agriculture and services (table 3.12). Th e respective shares of agricul-
ture and services are 52.7 and 36.8 percent in Benin, 48.1 and 39.0 percent in
Senegal, and 81.1 and 12.8 percent in Burkina Faso. In West Africa, poverty is
concentrated in agriculture and the rural economy in general. In urban areas,


Table 3.12 Informal Employment in the Three West African Countries, by Sector
% of firms in the sector


Activity sector Benin Senegal Burkina Faso


Agriculture 52.7 48.1 81.1


Mining 0.3 0.6 0.6


Manufacturing 6.7 6.0 2.8


Construction 2.8 5.3 1.8


Transport 4.6 3.4 1.1


Commerce 17.4 23.7 9.4


Other services 12.2 7.4 1.2


Education and health 0.5 0.8 0.5


Government 0.1 0.0 0.1


Other 2.6 4.5 1.3


Sources: For Benin, INSAE 2005; for Senegal, DPS 2002; for Burkina Faso, INSD 2003; authors’ calculations.




66 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


the poor work largely in petty services, particularly retail, that is, in the informal
sector. Formal employment is minimal in these sectors.


Formal and Informal Activities and Income Poverty
Th e income measure of poverty is based on a utilitarian approach that focuses
on the eff ect of purchasing power on the consumption of goods and services
(Ravallion 1994). Since utility is not directly observable, we used resources (rev-
enue and spending) to approximate well-being.


Labor compensation is much lower in the informal sector. According to
Poapongsakorn (1991), businesses within the informal sector pay their work-
ers 13 to 22 percent less in wages, due to evasion of labor market regulations.
Lower taxes and labor costs are clear advantages for informal fi rms. Pay scales
and benefi ts in the formal sectors in francophone West Africa are infl uenced by
those in France. In the government and large private fi rms, labor compensation
is established, European style, in negotiations between the government, unions,
and employers. In the informal sector, worker pay is by agreement between the
employer and the individual employee, with resulting much lower pay levels
and minimal benefi ts.


Our surveys confi rm large salary diff erentials (table 3.13). In Dakar, 41 per-
cent of small informal employees, but only 2 percent of formal employees, are
paid at or below the minimum wage of CFAF 35,000 per month (US$70). In
Ouagadougou, the proportion of formal and small informal workers with wages
below the minimum is high, at 40 and 66 percent, respectively; in Cotonou, the
respective fi gures are 24 and 66 percent. Employees of the large informal sec-
tor are paid somewhere between employees of the formal and small informal
sectors. Among employees of the large informal sector, 77 percent of those in
Dakar, 7 percent of those in Cotonou, and 22 percent of those in Ouagadougou
are paid monthly salaries above CFAF 200,000. Among employees of the formal
sector, 91 percent of those in Dakar, 29 percent of those in Cotonou, and 27 per-
cent of those in Ouagadougou are paid that much per month.


Labor costs are considerably higher in Dakar than in Ouagadougou and
Cotonou, refl ecting a somewhat higher level of development originating in the
colonial period. Dakar was the capital of French West Africa and, therefore, had
higher levels of investment in infrastructure and industry.


Table 3.14 shows that in all three countries per capita expenditures of infor-
mal actors are well below those of formal actors; in Benin, for example, each
sector averages CFAF  172,000 and CFAF  289,000, respectively. Th e diff er-
ence between the two averages is statistically signifi cant (t-statistic of 17.3). In
Burkina Faso, the gap is the largest, with formal sector workers spending nearly
four times the amount of informal sector workers; the diff erential in favor of
formal sector workers is more than 100 percent in Senegal and 60 percent in
Benin. Consequently, income-based poverty is much more prevalent among




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 67


Table 3.13 Monthly Salary per Person in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or Informal
Status
% of persons in the sector in the salary range


City and status
Less than


CFAF 35,000
CFAF 35,000 to
CFAF 200,000


More than
CFAF 200,000 Total


Cotonou


Formal 24 47 29 100


Large informal 44 48 7 100


Small informal 66 25 9 100


Total 51 35 14 100


Dakar


Formal 2 7 91 100


Large informal 6 16 77 100


Small informal 41 41 18 100


Total 21 25 54 100


Ouagadougou


Formal 40 33 27 100


Large informal 28 50 22 100


Small informal 66 24 10 100


Total 53 31 16 100


Source: Calculations based on authors’ survey data.


Table 3.14 Average Monthly Expenditure per Person and Proportion of People in Poverty in
the Three West African Countries, by Formal or Informal Status of the Household Head


Country and variable Formal sector Informal sector All


Benin


Standard of living indicator (CFA francs) 289,443 172,126 194,045


Proportion of persons in poverty (%) 16.0 26.0 24.5


Senegal


Standard of living indicator (CFA francs) 492,142 232,956 286,543


Proportion of persons in poverty (%) — — 48.5


Burkina Faso


Standard of living indicator (CFA francs) 580,935 155,913 192,778


Proportion of persons in poverty (%) 3.1 39.5 36.3


Sources: For Benin, INSAE 2005; for Senegal, DPS 2002; for Burkina Faso, INSD 2003; authors’ calculations.
Note: — = Not available.




68 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


informal than formal actors: in Benin, it reaches 26 percent among informal
actors versus 16 percent among formal actors; in Burkina Faso, average spend-
ing per person by households in the informal sector is equivalent to slightly
more than one-quarter of spending per person by households in the formal sec-
tor. Th is explains the high incidence of poverty in the informal sector (39.5 per-
cent) compared to the formal sector (3.1 percent). Formal sector households
in Senegal spend slightly more than double per person what informal sector
households spend: CFAF 492,000 versus CFAF 233,000, respectively.


Th e gap between formal and informal spending per capita occurs in all sec-
tors of activity, although to varying extents. In Benin, for example, disparities
are less signifi cant in agriculture, manufacturing, and transport and larger in
construction and retail (table 3.15). In the construction and retail sectors, dis-
parities are much greater: formal actors spend almost double what informal
actors spend.


Across all sectors, average spending per person among formal sector house-
holds in Senegal is higher than spending per person among informal sector
households. Formal sector households’ spending per person in diff erent activity
areas is as follows: CFAF 252,000 in agriculture, CFAF 356,000 in manufactur-
ing, CFAF 500,000 in transport, CFAF 593,000 in retail, and CFAF 531,000 in
the service industry. Th ese averages can be compared to spending per person in
the informal sector (see table 3.15): CFAF 145,000 in agriculture, CFAF 261,000
in manufacturing, CFAF  295,000 in transport, CFAF  316,000 in retail, and
CFAF 420,000 in the service industry. Formal sector spending is, on average,
almost double informal sector spending per person, which confi rms the argu-
ment that informal sector households have a relatively low standard of living
when compared to formal sector households.


Similar to the two other cities, spending per person in the informal sector
in Burkina Faso is lower than spending per person in the formal sector, in all


Table 3.15 Average Monthly Expenditure per Person in the Three West African Countries,
by Formal or Informal Status of the Household Head and Sector of Activity
CFA francs


Area of activity


Benin Senegal Burkina Faso


Formal Informal Formal Informal Formal Informal


Agriculture 194,200 144,648 251,822 145,855 377,844 123,712


Manufacturing 239,778 195,664 356,498 261,770 347,462 273,136


Construction 296,835 155,262 562,881 237,131 528,733 298,686


Transport 264,320 187,753 499,678 295,728 766,189 315,015


Retail 379,364 220,542 593,752 316,356 455,534 289,326


Services 308,968 197,326 531,313 420,604 664,489 422,388


Sources: For Benin, INSAE 2005; for Senegal, DPS 2002; for Burkina Faso, INSD 2003; authors’ calculations.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 69


sectors of activity. Signifi cant disparities exist in the agricultural and transport
sectors.


Formal and Informal Activities and Nonmonetary Poverty
In contrast to the income-based approach to poverty, which measures well-being
by looking at household resources, the nonincome-based approach uses free-
dom and accomplishments as measures of well-being. Th e nonincome-based
approach evaluates an individual’s living situation by looking at factors such as
the ability to nourish and clothe oneself. Th e approach places little emphasis,
if any, on measures of utility. Nonincome-based approaches have enabled the
identifi cation of specifi c forms of deprivation and are frequently used in studies
on both developing and developed countries. Classifi cations range from “total
deprivation of goods” (this classifi cation is used in studies based on nutrition
or other fundamental necessities and is more common in studies of developing
countries) to “relative deprivation of goods.”


Nonutilitarian approaches are more diverse, but one can distinguish two sub-
groups: Sen’s (1985) capabilities approach and the basic necessities approach.
Sen’s capabilities approach measures well-being through freedom and empower-
ment of individuals. Th e individual must retain certain fundamental capabilities
that are necessary to attain a certain standard of living. To this eff ect, the individ-
ual must be adequately nourished, be educated, be in good health, have adequate
accommodation, take part in community life, appear in public without feeling
shame, and so forth. Nonmonetary poverty focuses on basic needs for attaining
a minimum standard of living and human dignity (Sen 1985). Th ese basic neces-
sities include education, health, hygiene, waste management, drinking water,
housing, and access to basic infrastructure, among others. Non-income poverty
is proxied here by access to electricity, water, and cooking fuel.


Lighting Source Table 3.16 shows that formal sector households in Senegal
have greater access to electricity (76.9 percent of households) than informal
sector households (26.2 percent of households). Informal sector households rely
instead on traditional forms of lighting: 36.3 percent use kerosene lamps, com-
pared with only 12.5 percent of formal sector households. Similarly, artisanal
oil lamps and wood-burning lamps are more common in informal than in for-
mal sector households (among informal sector households, 25.7 percent use oil
lamps and 2.7 percent use wood-burning lamps; only 3 percent of formal house-
holds use oil lamps). Electricity usage in Benin follows a similar pattern: infor-
mal sector households have less access to electricity (19.8 percent) than formal
sector households (63.6 percent). In Burkina Faso, only 7.8 percent of informal
sector households have access to electricity compared with 70.6 percent of for-
mal sector households. Almost three out of four informal sector households use
gas lamps, compared with only one out of four in the formal sector.




70 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Water Sources Likewise, most formal sector households (66.1 percent) in Sen-
egal have running water in their home, compared to only 24 percent of infor-
mal sector households. In Benin, these proportions are 24.5 and 6.2 percent,
respectively. In both Senegal and Benin, informal sector households use public
water taps (24 and 19.3 percent, respectively) or wells (13.7 and 33.6 percent,
respectively). Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso, 37.6 percent of formal sector house-
holds and 2.5 percent of informal sector households have a water tap installed
in their homes. Informal sector households resort to wells (48.3 percent) and
protected boreholes (32.1 percent).


Home Energy Sources In Senegal, informal sector households make greater
use of traditional combustibles, such as wood (61.6 percent) and wood coal
(9.9 percent), than formal sector households (13.4 and 8.7 percent, respec-
tively). Formal sector households, conversely, use butane gas much more oft en
(76.9 percent) than informal sector households (26.5 percent). In Benin, more
than four out of fi ve informal sector households use wood as a combustible,
while only two out of fi ve formal sector households do so. Diff erences in usage
are more marked in Burkina Faso, where more than 90 percent of informal sec-
tor households use wood versus only slightly more than half of formal sector
households (table 3.16).


Table 3.16 Indicators of Nonmonetary Poverty in the Three West African Countries,
by Formal or Informal Status of the Household Head
% of households


Indicator


Benin Senegal Burkina Faso


Formal Informal Formal Informal Formal Informal


Cooking fuel


Wood 42.7 84.6 13.4 61.6 54.5 93.1


Coal 41.4 11.1 8.7 9.9 15.5 3.7


Petroleum 8.7 3.2 — — 0.1 0.2


Gas 6.0 0.6 76.9 26.5 28.2 1.5


Lighting


Lamps 35.4 79.3 15.5 62.0 28.1 74.1


Electricity 63.6 19.8 76.9 26.2 70.6 7.8


Water source


Private 24.5 6.2 66.1 24.0 37.6 2.5


Public 35.2 19.3 24.0 24.0 32.3 15.6


Wells 17.6 33.6 37.6 13.7 13.8 48.3


Streams and rivers 16.5 28.4 2.5 30.4 3.8 32.1


Sources: For Benin, INSAE 2005; for Senegal, DPS 2002; for Burkina Faso, INSD 2003; authors’ calculations.
Note: — = Not available.




THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 71


Conclusion


In recent years, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Senegal have registered respectable
growth rates in the context of general macroeconomic stability. Poverty remains
endemic, but social indicators have improved somewhat. In this regard, these
three countries are quite typical of West Africa and Africa in general. Despite
these moderate successes, the formal sector remains generally weak, with a few
exceptions such as telecommunications. Th e preponderance of GDP and an
overwhelming proportion of employment are in the informal sector. Formal
sector jobs in government and the private sector number in the few hundreds of
thousands compared to a total labor force in the millions. Agriculture and other
primary activities are nearly exclusively informal. For industry and services,
the extent of informal sector dominance varies by subsector. Wholesale retail
trade, construction, and transport are among the sectors where informal fi rms
are particularly important.


In contrast to its large role in GDP and employment, the informal sector
provides less than 3 percent of fi scal revenue in all of the three countries. We
estimate that fi scal revenues would rise by between 25 and 75 percent if the
informal sector carried its full share of the tax burden, disregarding the costs of
implementing the requisite measures.


Th e eff ects of the informal sector on poverty and living standards are much
debated. On the one hand, informal employment is a safety valve for the unem-
ployed, particularly in diffi cult economic times. On the other hand, the stan-
dards of living of households engaged in informal work are far below those of
households engaged in the formal sector. Overall, the informal sector is a source
of income for persons with limited options, but it is not a sustainable source of
long-term growth and income generation.


Notes
1. AFRISTAT defi nes informality using the criteria of fi rm size and registration.
2. Data provided by the Beninese and Burkinabe authorities are patchy and not


reported here.


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THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN WEST AFRICA 73


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Chapter


75


4


Large Informal Firms in West Africa


One of the most important features of the informal sector in Africa that emerges
from our study is the distinction between large and small informal operators.
In West Africa, large informal fi rms and trading networks coexist with small
operators, but little is known about who is involved, the sectors in which they
operate, and the nature of their businesses. Th e existence of large-scale informal
operators is well known and acknowledged even by government offi cials, even
if it is undocumented and diffi cult to prove with the available data.


We approached the issue of the “large informal” sector from several angles.
First, we designed our sample in such a way that large informal fi rms are well
represented. Second, we interviewed both government offi cials and managers or
owners of formal and informal fi rms in our three countries. Th ird, we matched
reported sales and import data for fi rms, which suggests that some fi rms are
grossly underreporting sales. Fourth, we reviewed press accounts of confl icts
and scandals regarding some of the largest informal operators.


In this chapter, we discuss the characteristics of the large informal sector, the
main industries in which they operate, and the interactions between the large
informal sector, the small informal sector, and the formal sector. We report
on case studies of some of the largest informal fi rms and some of the sectors
in which they operate, much of which revolve around importing, wholesale
or retail trade, and other services. Th e fi ndings are derived mainly from our
interviews with stakeholders, as described in chapter 2, as well as confi dential
government customs and fi scal data that were made available to us.


The Large Informal Sector in West Africa


A Few Defi ning Characteristics
Our interviews reveal some similarities, but many important diff erences,
between the large and small informal sectors.


Large informal fi rms are like a giant with a clay foot. On the one hand,
they have a large volume of sales, rivaling fi rms in the formal sector. On the
other hand, they are much more fragile and less structured than formal fi rms.




76 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Entrepreneurs, although very talented and hardworking, oft en have little for-
mal education and lack managerial capacities. A simple disagreement with a
customs offi cial can result in bankruptcy. Th e existence of these fi rms is usually
strongly linked to one individual owner; most fi rms collapse aft er the death or
incapacitation of the proprietor. Th e assets and liabilities of the fi rm and the
owner are not clearly separated. Oft en, those who inherit the fi rm cannot come
to an agreement, and the fi rm is liquidated. At other times, a dramatic scandal
leads to the imprisonment of the owner. Th is was the case with many actors in
the large informal sector in Senegal, such as Cheikh Tall Dioum, Adel Korban,
Khadim Bousso, and Moustapha Tall, described later in this chapter. In other
cases, disputes with customs or with suppliers undermine the fi rm.


Although proof is diffi cult to come by, it is common knowledge that most of
these fi rms engage in informal activities. It is also clear that they benefi t from
the acquiescence or even collusion of high government offi cials. Despite their
size and political connections, large informal fi rms are precarious because they
are visible to the government and public opinion. As soon as fi rms lose their
political or marabout support, are entangled in incriminating public scandals,
or cannot stifl e a disagreement with the customs agency, imprisonment of the
owner or disappearance of the fi rm usually follows. Customs laws are particu-
larly restrictive; when a disagreement with the customs agency arises, the entre-
preneur usually has no choice but to compromise or go to jail.


Large informal fi rms do not see themselves as informal; they are even off ended
at the suggestion that they might be lumped into that category. In truth, they
would not be classifi ed as informal if the usual criteria were applied mechani-
cally. Th ey appear, superfi cially, to meet most of the criteria defi ning formality:
they pay taxes; they are oft en taxed under the regular business tax regime; their
tax fi lings are sometimes handled by the DGE (Division des Grandes Entreprises,
Division of Large Companies), which handles fi lings for large formal fi rms (dis-
cussed in chapter 3); they have a high level of sales; and they have access to bank
credit; among other characteristics. But a closer examination reveals that their
practices are, in fact, informal. Even though these fi rms are large, as measured
by sales, their administrative structures and managerial styles resemble those of
small informal fi rms. Formal fi rms of the same size have distinct departments
and a coherent organizational structure; informal fi rms do not. Apart from the
owner and a few permanent employees (rarely more than fi ve), the rest of the per-
sonnel are temporary. A single individual manages the fi rm with little assistance
from others. None of the usual departments in formal fi rms (sales, input sourc-
ing, fi nance, and human resources, among others) exists in large informal fi rms,
despite their high level of sales. Even the accounting function is outsourced to an
independent fi rm, while all medium-size formal fi rms have in-house accounting
departments. In addition, the accounting for these large informal fi rms is typi-
cally highly inaccurate, massively underreporting sales and profi ts. Th e absence




LARGE INFORMAL FIRMS IN WEST AFRICA 77


of honest accounting is one of the distinctive features of the informal sector, par-
ticularly the large informal sector.


Th e Transition from the Small to the Large Informal Sector
Analysis of results from our interviews and data from studies reveals a huge
diversity of informal activities along several dimensions: the sociodemographic
characteristics of employees, the interactions of informal fi rms with the formal
sector and with the administration, the level of formality of fi rms, and the sec-
tors in which they operate.


Th e characteristics of actors in the large and small fi rms in the informal
sector diff er considerably. Although illiteracy is more common in the informal
sector than in the formal sector, many participants in the large informal sector
are educated. In fact, according to many criteria, the large informal sector is
in-between the small informal sector and the formal sector. Actors in the large
informal sector are oft en older than those in the formal sector, having started
off in the small informal sector and succeeded in diversifying and developing
their activities.


Th ree categories of small informal fi rms succeed in transitioning to either
the formal sector or the large informal sector as they grow: those whose owners
are not educated at all and must remain informal, those that move to a higher
level of formality without becoming completely formal, and those that become
part of the formal sector.


In the fi rst category, owners have a low level of education, and their
fi rms remain individually operated enterprises despite handling  billions of
CFA francs. Th ey are found mainly in retail, transportation, or importing and
exporting. Th ey conceal their activities completely or reveal only a small frac-
tion of revenues subject to a presumptive tax. Th ese fi rms are very diffi cult to
apprehend and frequently declare bankruptcy, only to reappear under a diff er-
ent name. Th ey use premises that disguise their activities, pay low rents, and are
completely informal. Th ey employ few permanent employees (mainly family
members) and sometimes have several fi scal identifi cation numbers under dif-
ferent names, each used for fraudulent import activities.


In the second category, fi rms declare themselves as formal but maintain
many informal practices. Th ey tend to be in construction and in certain ser-
vice sectors. Th ey oft en rely on government procurement and realize that they
would not be able to obtain contracts without meeting some of the criteria
for formality. Th ey are sometimes subject to a presumptive tax, but are oft en
assessed regular business taxes. To meet the requirements of regular business
taxes, they employ a minimal number of permanent workers and many tem-
porary workers. Permanent employees are normally confi ned to an accountant,
a chauff eur, and perhaps a messenger. Usually, bookkeeping is outsourced to
external accountants, who are paid by the task for end-of-year reporting. As a




78 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


result, accountants with minimal education do the books for a number of fi rms
simultaneously. Outsourcing accounting has become so widespread that the
business associations of accountants in the subregion have asked fi scal authori-
ties to accept only fi nancial documents signed by an authorized accounting
expert. Th is request has hardly stopped the outsourcing of accounting. Instead,
there is now just a higher level of complicity between “informal” accountants
and their formal counterparts. “Informal” accountants do the work, and autho-
rized accountants provide their seal of approval.


Firms in the fi nal category are essentially part of the formal sector. Th ese are
quite rare, and actors in this category oft en have experience within the admin-
istration or in other private companies. Th ey quit their previous occupations to
start their own businesses, but, lacking capital, they began with small-scale activi-
ties. As they grew, they progressively changed their status and became formal.


In truth, it is hard to fi nd a completely formal fi rm in the West African sub-
region. Many entrepreneurs that we met from the formal sector admitted to
selling products to fi rms in the informal sector without declaring or reimburs-
ing the value added tax. Other times, they fail to record transactions in their
accounts. Most of these fi rms claim that they can only compete with informal
fi rms by engaging in these actions. Other fi rms have both formal and informal
activities. Th ey decide which entity to use—formal or informal—depending
on the situation of the market in which they are operating. In fact, fi rms in the
formal sector and large fi rms in the informal sector diff er mainly in the share
of activities they declare rather than their size: formal fi rms declare almost all
activities (but do not hesitate to renege on this obligation if the opportunity
presents itself); meanwhile, large informal fi rms conceal almost all of their
activities. However, when they want access to formal markets or government
contracts, they declare just enough to pass as a “formal” entity.


Evidence from Fiscal and Customs Statistics and from Our Studies
To provide some evidence on the magnitude of underreporting of sales by the
large informal sector, we carried out a comparison for Senegal of fi rm-level
imports, as reported by customs, and sales, as reported to the tax authorities
and recorded by the government statistical agency for those same fi rms. We
selected a number of fi rms that paid the lump-sum presumptive tax (in prin-
ciple, reserved for small informal fi rms). We considered only importing fi rms
with an identifi cation number that allows their declared sales to be traced to
the fi scal agency. Given that most importing fi rms do not have an identifi cation
number (which is not a requirement for importing), we were able to match only
132 fi rms in the fi scal and customs statistics, a small proportion of the fi rms that
pay the presumptive tax. Moreover, it was not possible to identify the largest
informal operators from these data. Large informal fi rms oft en have many iden-
tifi cation numbers and fragment their imports, making it diffi cult to determine




LARGE INFORMAL FIRMS IN WEST AFRICA 79


their total imports. Indeed, it would not be surprising if a large number of the
132 identifi cation numbers whose imports and sales we were able to cross-check
belonged to one individual.


Notwithstanding these limitations, our analysis starkly reveals the extent of
underreporting of sales, demonstrating that many fi rms that are subject to the
presumptive tax because of their underreporting of sales should actually be sub-
ject to regular business taxes. Th ese false declarations are facilitated by the lack
of cooperation and exchange of data between customs and the fi scal agency. Fig-
ure 4.1 shows enormous gaps between imports and sales fi gures for some fi rms,
with imports sometimes 10 times greater than sales. While some imports are
for capital goods, the discrepancies are much too large to be explained this way,
particularly given the largely commercial nature of the activities concerned.
Among fi rms in our sample, more than 41 percent report sales below imports.
In certain sectors, like jewelry, retail sale, and car mechanics, this proportion
is greater than 50 percent. As shown in fi gures 4.1 and 4.2, in the retail sec-
tor, 56 percent of fi rms in our sample have a greater value of imports than of
sales! In fact, the discrepancies between imports and reported sales may be even
larger than fi gures 4.1 and 4.2 suggest, given that imports can also be under-
stated as a result of smuggling and underinvoicing.


Figure 4.1 Proportion of Firms in Senegal for Which Imports Are Larger or Smaller Than
Sales, by Industry


100


75


50


25


0


Pe
rc


en
t


Import-Export Mechanics Jewelry MiscellaneousTrade Food and
beverages


67
59


50 50


33


100


41


100


50 50


Importation > Turnover Importation < Turnover


Source: Authors’ calculations using customs and fiscal databases.




80 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Th e government offi cials we interviewed are well aware of this situation and
acknowledged that fraud is common. Joint squads of customs and tax agents
identify a signifi cant number of fraudulent tax fi lings. When they identify tax
evasion, they subject the fi rms to penalties and regular business taxes. Oft en,
however, these fi rms then declare bankruptcy or simply disappear, only to
resume their practices under a diff erent name.


Th e second phase of our survey, conducted in 2009, focused on formal and
large informal fi rms. Many of the large informal fi rms identifi ed in the fi rst
phase of the survey in 2007 had disappeared by 2009. For example, in Ouaga-
dougou, only 54 percent of large informal fi rms had survived, compared with
76 percent of formal businesses (table 4.1). Th e low survival rate of fi rms in the
large informal sector is somewhat misleading, however, as fi rms oft en closed
and reappeared in a diff erent form.


Figure 4.2 Proportion of Firms in Senegal for Which Imports Exceed Sales, by Industry


60


40


20


0


Pe
rc


en
t


Import-Export Mechanics Jewelry MiscellaneousTrade Food and
beverages


5


16


56


0
4


18


Source: Authors’ calculations using customs and fiscal databases.


Table 4.1 Survival Rates of Firms in Ouagadougou
% of firms


Firms Surviving Disappeared


Formal 76 24


Informal 54 46


Total 64 36


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




LARGE INFORMAL FIRMS IN WEST AFRICA 81


Interrelations between the Formal Sector
and the Informal Sector


In West Africa, the coexistence of the formal and informal sectors takes complex
forms. At times, the two sectors are in competition; at others, they collaborate.


Competition and Cooperation between Formal
and Informal Sectors
As noted, it is hard to fi nd a completely formal fi rm in the region’s economies.
Th e only fi rms that meet all of the necessary criteria are branches of multina-
tional corporations, banks and fi nancial institutions, state-owned enterprises
or parastals, certain professions (law fi rms, notaries’ offi ces), and a few large
enterprises. All other fi rms participate at least minimally in the informal sector.
Th eir informal activities are quite varied, covering undeclared sales or services,
value added tax (VAT) collected and not remitted, and so forth. In carrying out
these actions, informal fi rms generally act as subcontractors for formal fi rms.


Th e customs clearance process for merchandise at ports and at airports pro-
vides a good illustration of this type of interaction. Normally, customs services
are performed only by customs clearance agents; these agents are part of the
formal sector, which implies a maximum level of transparency in their opera-
tions. In reality, many unauthorized agents work in this sector, collaborating
with the legally authorized agents. Th ese informal actors off er to help clients to
clear merchandise from the port at much lower costs than if they were to deal
with authorized customs agents. Because they are not recognized by the cus-
toms agency, these fraudulent agents must use the seal of an authorized agent.
In return for use of the authorized agent’s seal, the informal agent passes on a
portion of the fees he collects for clearing clients’ merchandise. Th is practice
is common in ports throughout the region and is well known even to customs
offi cials, as they made clear in our discussions with them. Th e authorized cus-
toms agents that we met justifi ed their collaboration with informal fi rms on the
grounds that the latter have the most contact with clients and thus control a
good part of the demand in this sector.


Collaboration between the formal and informal sectors is also prevalent in
the construction sector. Large contracts for public works can only be acquired
by formal enterprises. To win a contract, a fi rm must produce documents prov-
ing that it is in compliance with regular income taxes and that it has the means
to fi nance large investments, pending payment by the government. Formal
fi rms oft en subcontract with informal fi rms to do most of the construction,
including hiring workers, in exchange for a lump-sum payment from which
they pay laborers and retain the surplus as profi t. Th e acquisition and provision




82 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


of construction materials and other necessary inputs are the responsibility of
the lead enterprise with the contract.


Similar types of collaboration between formal and informal fi rms are com-
mon in many other sectors. Many large manufacturing fi rms use informal
distribution channels to sell their products. Cement factories collaborate with
merchants with cement depots, which sell their products to retail outlets and,
fi nally, to consumers. Most participants in the value chain are informal. Similar
practices occur with breweries, storage depots, and the production of household
items.


Despite these examples of collaboration, it would be naive to believe that
fi rms in the formal and informal sectors always cooperate. Fierce competition
between the two sectors can escalate into open confl ict. Th e pharmaceutical
sector is a case in point: the formal component is under the control of well-
educated pharmacists who have formed a pharmacists association. Th ey oft en
sell imported medications, following a strict distribution circuit that involves
only formal fi rms. Low-income customers, however, oft en cannot aff ord the high
prices at pharmacies and instead purchase medications from informal vendors
at much lower prices. Drugs available from informal venders are not, of course,
as reliable and can sometimes even be hazardous to the consumer. Informal ven-
dors sell counterfeit and expired medications and almost never store them in
proper conditions. Nevertheless, their low prices make them attractive to desper-
ate patients. Formal pharmacies are oft en burglarized, and professional pharma-
cists frequently accuse informal vendors of handling their stolen goods.


Th e Keur Serigne Bi (KSB) case in Senegal provides a good illustration of
these dilemmas. Th is neighborhood, in the heart of Dakar, is home to the larg-
est and best-known informal market for medicines (apart from a hub situated
in Touba, the capital of the Mourides, discussed in chapter 8). Th e Mouride
brotherhood owns KSB and gives free reign to its disciples to use the market to
sell medications informally. Th e medications include locally produced counter-
feit products and imports from India, China, and Arab countries, which oft en
arrive in dubious condition. In mid-2009, an open confl ict broke out between
formal pharmacies and KSB. Recurrent theft s of medicines had been occurring
at the formal pharmacies, oft en followed by violence and, in some cases, deaths.
Th e pharmacies accused KSB of instigating the theft s and possessing stolen
goods. In an attempt to pressure the government to close KSB, the pharmacies
went on strike several times; they were eventually successful, and the govern-
ment closed KSB in both Dakar and Touba. Th ere was little chance, however,
that this order could be implemented, given that the caliph of Touba publicly
disavowed the decision and stated his opposition to the closing of KSB. Th is
example illustrates how formal and informal sectors are oft en in opposition
rather than in collusion.




LARGE INFORMAL FIRMS IN WEST AFRICA 83


Contrary to the common belief of formal sector actors, informal fi rms may
face more competition than formal fi rms in many instances.1 Sectors with a
high concentration of informal fi rms (transportation, retail, certain services like
automobile repairs, the clothing industry, carpentry) are usually highly com-
petitive, with low-quality, homogeneous products, fl exible prices, and many
sellers. Meanwhile, in the modern sector, fi rms are oft en protected by special
agreements with the government or through membership in professional orga-
nizations, which defend their interests.


A More Detailed Analysis of Selected Sectors
In this section, we discuss some sectors in which large informal fi rms oper-
ate, based on our interviews and other research. Th e sectors we examine here
include transport, retail, port transit, and construction. Most of the examples
in this and the following sections are related to commerce, as this is by far the
most important sector in which the informal sector operates. Th e 123 survey
fi nds that, for all three countries, around 50 percent of informal enterprises are
involved in wholesale-retail trade and a large part of this involves importing.2
Particularly in Benin but also in the other countries, smuggling is a major arena
for large formal fi rms. Th e issues involved with customs and smuggling are
discussed in chapters 6 and 9.


Th e characteristics of the large informal sector described earlier emerge
clearly in our interviews. In many cases, large informal fi rms have a large vol-
ume of sales but are taxed under the presumptive lump-sum regime. Th ey have
few permanent employees, rely heavily on family sources of fi nancing, and have
weak organizational structure; many of their activities rely on offi cial corruption
and falsifi ed documents.


Th e Used Vehicle Market in Benin As also discussed in chapter 9, the used car
market plays a crucial role in Benin’s economy, accounting for perhaps 10 per-
cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Th e used vehicle market in Benin is
mostly oriented toward informal reexports to Nigeria and landlocked countries
to the north (Chad, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso). Th e value chain includes
a large number of participants, including shippers, customs clearance agents,
used vehicles salesmen, car parks, and drivers, among others.


In Benin’s capital, large open-air parking lots have been developed to serve
the used vehicle market, for both cars and trucks. Th ese parks are privately
owned but lack a strict administrative structure, as is typical of the informal
sector. All parks have a director and a general manager responsible for issuing
certifi cates of exit from the park. Apart from these two individuals, tempo-
rary workers handle a variety of tasks. Th e parks claim to serve clients from
both the formal and the informal sectors. Each car park houses a large num-
ber of importers, with a designated area for displaying their cars. Rents are




84 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


CFAF 250,000–CFAF 300,000 (US$500–US$600) a month per hectare. Th e fi rm
operating the free zone in Cotonou allocates the lots to the various car dealers.


Th e fi rms operating in the parking lots import an average of 100 to 150
vehicles per year. Th e vehicles are an average of 15 years old and generally
too dilapidated and too old to be in demand in developed countries, but
they are prized by low-income Africans who do not have the means to pur-
chase newer vehicles. Vehicles are transported from their country of origin to
Cotonou in 20- and 40-foot containers, with each container costing between
CFAF 1.75 million and CFAF 3.5 million, respectively. A 20-foot container
can hold three vehicles, and a 40-foot container can hold six. Importing fi rms,
like the parks, have minimal organizational structure. Th ose that we visited
employ only a director and no more than four temporary workers charged with
unloading vehicles at the port and transporting them to the car park. Th ese
workers said that they take care of customs declarations, bypassing authorized
customs agents. In many cases, the majority of buyers are from other countries
of the region, usually Nigeria.


To an even greater degree than in the rest of the informal sector, most work-
ers in the parking lots are male. Among workers, levels of education vary: some
are illiterate, while others have a high school education or higher. Most of the
workers we met had previous professional experience, both in the formal or
informal sectors and sometimes in formal fi rms in other countries. For exam-
ple, one of the workers we interviewed, who had completed his fi rst year of high
school, worked in a formal enterprise in Nigeria for 15 years before coming to
the car park. Familial relations are common among employees; one manager
even admitted to having his wife as his secretary. Some may not have close
relatives but may work with cousins, in-laws, or close friends. “I work morning
to night,” one interviewee declared, adding, “I created this corporation with
my brother and an associate. A brother-in-law who worked as an agent got us
started. Relatives (fathers, aunts, etc.) lent us CFAF 10 million to get it off the
ground. It started this way for most of us. Sometimes, we get bank loans, but
the most we’ve ever gotten was CFAF 12 million. We got loans from European
banks. My brother, who is also an associate, is based in Europe; he works out
the loans there and sends the money to us through Western Union. We avoid
local banks because they are complicated. We transfer funds in multiple trans-
actions.” Another interviewee who transports merchandise stated, “One of my
uncles helped me to establish my business. I used to be a taxi driver, but then
I transferred to the car park. Th e initial investment required to transfer was
CFAF 12 million, CFAF 5 million of which was supplied by my uncles. We never
had any bank credit.”


Every manager we interviewed claimed that their businesses were registered.
Th ey all stated that they have a fi scal identifi er, which is required for an importer
card. Th ey all added, however, that it is almost impossible to conduct business in




LARGE INFORMAL FIRMS IN WEST AFRICA 85


their country without participating in fraudulent activities. For example, some
admitted to submitting fi nancial statements to fi scal authorities that misrep-
resent their sales and profi ts. In addition, some acknowledged importing on
behalf of a third party and billing them aft erward. Th ey stated that they oft en
bribe government agents to expedite the paperwork, which otherwise would be
bogged down by indefi nite delays.


While all of the fi rms we interviewed are under the lump-sum presumptive
tax regime, their annual sales fi gures are at least CFAF 200 million—four times
the limit required to be taxed a lump sum. Th e offi ces they rent in town are oft en
small, with monthly rents never above CFAF 20,000 (US$40). Th ey lack internal
accounting services and hire external accountants to handle their accounts. On
this subject, one of the shippers we met stated, “I am just starting out; I am taxed
a lump sum. My head offi ces are in Boykon, 136 kilometers from Cotonou. It is
one of our parents’ houses; I rent two rooms that cost me CFAF 7,000 per year.
I have a branch offi ce in town, which costs me CFAF 20,000 per year.”


Car park managers’ perception of the working environment is very negative,
consistent with the fi ndings in the previous chapter: they complain about the
cost of electricity, telephone, and water. Even more disturbing to them, however,
are their relations with the government. Th ey declared that the government is
corrupt and predatory and decried the multiple fees they must pay. Th ey must
pay the government a CFAF 50,000 fee per imported vehicle, in addition to the
port’s fees. In theory, vehicles in the transit regime are exempt from customs
duties, but other fees add up. Also, if the vehicles are not sold within six months,
retailers are fi ned CFAF 400,000 for each vehicle.


Trucking in Benin Firm characteristics and perception of the working envi-
ronment in the trucking sector are similar to those in the used vehicle market.
Th e people we spoke with own some trucks and rent others. One of our inter-
viewees told us, “We buy old trucks that we tinker with. I had to save up to buy
all of my trucks; I bought them on credit from local suppliers. I would like to
quit this sector because it’s too diffi cult to make money. Th e last three vehicles
that I purchased have been idle for a very long time. I bought them and repaired
them, and they cost me CFAF 3 million each.” Another stated, “In the past,
I would get CFAF 2 million in revenues from a truck. However, for the past
while, traffi c has slowed and business has decreased. Nowadays, the Lomé port
competes fi ercely with the Cotonou port, especially over imports destined for
reexport to Nigeria. Togolese customs fails to apply the WAEMU [West African
Economic and Monetary Union] common external tariff , undercutting Benin’s
competitiveness; moreover, port delays are not as long in Lomé. One should not
stay in this profession for his whole career. I have a master’s degree in law. I have
two declared permanent employees (an accountant and a chauff eur) and many
temporary workers.” He added, “Relations with the drivers are very strained




86 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


because they do not take care of the trucks. Th e drivers are not serious—they
quit and abandon their trucks. My employees who are declared have social secu-
rity, but the others do not.”


On average, truck drivers work two trips a week, at a rate of CFAF 150,000
per trip. Th e upkeep of the vehicles accounts for 50 to 60 percent of total costs.
In this sector, fi rms pay approximately CFAF 210,000 a year to a tax called taxe
unique sur le transport routier (TUTR), a form of the lump-sum tax. Enter-
prises with sales of more than CFAF 10 million per year pay the regular business
income tax, with TUTR payments counting as a credit. Our three interviewees
at the fi scal administration largely confi rmed this information.


Imports and Retail Distribution in the Th ree Cities Th e fi ndings from our
interviews in the retail sector are very similar to those from interviews in other
sectors. Our most striking interview was with a Beninese civil servant who is
involved with smuggling across the Nigerian border. He imports frozen goods,
which were prohibited in Nigeria until recently. He sometimes reexports these
products to Nigeria and then returns to Benin with goods smuggled from Nige-
ria. He noted that it is very diffi cult for authorities to patrol the more than
1,000 kilometers of border that the countries share.


Like others, he claimed that Togo fl outs WAEMU agreements on taxes and
customs duties, thereby undercutting Beninese competitors. Goods from Lomé
enter Benin duty free, fraudulently labeled as goods in transit, with the conniv-
ance of Togolese customs agents. Products in transit are supposed to be escorted
to the border, but collusion or negligence on the part of customs agents allows
large amounts of products to “go missing.” According to our interviewee, the
informal sector is also encouraged because it is so costly to register formally.
He estimated that an importing permit costs about CFAF 750,000, of which the
most important costs are the following:


• Public notary costs: CFAF 300,000
• One-stop shop for enterprises: CFAF 40,000
• Licenses: CFAF 120,000
• Contribution to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry: CFAF 50,000
• Tax for the Division of International Trade at the Ministry of Commerce:


CFAF 30,000
• Commerce registry: CFAF 50,000
• Land Use Division at the Ministry of Finance: CFAF 160,000


What’s more, the retailer’s professional identifi cation card costs at least
CFAF 140,000. Our interviewee stated that these costs are much too high for
many entrepreneurs, who have no choice but to remain in the informal sector.




LARGE INFORMAL FIRMS IN WEST AFRICA 87


Another importer with whom we spoke is of the same opinion. He stated
that he is part of the formal sector and is subject to regular business taxes. He
imports used vehicles and foodstuff s destined for both the Beninese market and
the region. His biggest diffi culties are related to customs. In his opinion, lack
of cooperation on the part of customs agents makes transit diffi cult because
merchandise is searched and containers are opened. Th ose who do not bribe
offi cials see their business delayed. Th is is due not only to customs but also to
civil servants in the Ministry of Finance. As did others, he noted that electricity,
telephone, and water services are expensive and of dubious quality. He said that
his electricity generator costs approximately CFAF 1 million a year to maintain.


A customs clearance agent who works for both formal and informal import-
ers said that tax rates in Benin are much too high, because “we stupidly copied
French laws. Th e French also experience many problems in this area.” In his
daily work, as well as in his relations with employees, he said that he tries to
stay clear of the judicial system, which he views as corrupt. Also, the workers
are strongly “advised” not to unionize. He acknowledged, however, that despite
the diffi culties he incurs because of formal status, he is privy to many benefi ts,
such as access to public markets and the possibility of deducting the VAT. He
recognizes that informal clearing agents are more dynamic and effi cient because
they do not pay taxes and can make “deals” with customs. As a result, informal
agents can charge as little as a third of what formal fi rms charge. Th ey cannot,
however, handle large shipments that require advance fi nancing.


Construction in Burkina Faso Among the construction fi rms that we visited
in Burkina Faso, one in particular is revealing. Th e manager owns two enter-
prises, with three permanent employees at the fi rst enterprise and fi ve at the
second. He also employs numerous contractual employees. Th e two fi rms share
headquarters, and the combined turnover for the two fi rms is CFAF 1 billion.
He has a tax identifi cation number and separate certifi ed annual statements of
accounts for each fi rm. He is subject to regular business taxes for the two fi rms
and hires an accounting fi rm to prepare the accounting statements each year.
Both fi rms were created in 1994. He told us that he used to manage a small for-
mal commercial enterprise and has a master’s degree in law. All of his employees
have a university level of education. He told us, “Our enterprise started with a
turnover of CFAF 50 million and has remained a sole proprietorship. We vol-
untarily participate in the formal sector and pay regular business taxes, with a
sales fi gure of just above the required amount. As an informal fi rm, we would
not be able deduct the VAT. When we created the fi rm, we started with a few
employees, and that has not changed.” He also stated that many fi rms, even
corporations, produce two sets of accounting documents. Th is is facilitated by
the lack of collaboration between customs and tax agencies. He said that the
regular business tax regime is appropriate for his country because fi rms that are




88 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


subject only to presumptive taxes are excluded from the government procure-
ment markets.


Th is manager admitted that he sometimes creates fake invoices, does not
always invoice the value added tax, and omits some activities from his offi -
cial accounts. He justifi ed these actions on the grounds that the government
misuses public funds, while admitting that it is more responsible than many
other governments in the region. According to our interviewee, corruption and
bribes are rampant in public markets. Customs agencies suff er from the highest
level of corruption, and custom clearance agents sometimes sell their identifi ca-
tion number to informal agents. Firms attempting to smuggle goods through
customs deal with informal customs clearance agents because they undervalue
merchandise.


An Example of a Successful Transition from the Informal Sector to the Formal
Sector in Burkina Faso An interesting example of a successful transition
from the informal to the formal sector is of SOPAM, an electric power gen-
eration corporation with CFAF 200 million in capital. Th e founder also owns
GEOGORFD, a fi rm with a turnover of CFAF 200 billion and 600 employees.
Both of these companies operate in drilling and delivery of water, in addition to
energy. SOPAM was created fi rst; before creating these fi rms, the owner headed
the supplier division of a transit company. SOPAM began in the informal sec-
tor, with only 10 employees. Th e owner holds a master’s degree in fi nance and
accounting. In his opinion, education was the key to his successful transition
from the informal to the formal sector: “I understand foreign languages and
have access to a computer, which makes me more effi cient.” According to him,
uneducated economic entrepreneurs usually stay in individual enterprises in
the informal sector, even when their fi rms grow. Nonetheless, he does not think
that his success is unique: “Th ere exist many people who, like me, started off
with nothing. One expects work and a conscientious attitude. We worked with
the government, with SONABEL, the Offi ce National de la Formation Professi-
onnelle, and other governmental and parastatal institutions. I had CFAF 15,000
in start-up capital, and my fi rst loan was for CFAF 200,000, which I obtained
from the bank aft er 14 days of negotiations. Th e loan was to buy an air condi-
tioner for the university. I still work with the same banker. We obtain loans with
short maturities, less than 90 days.”


The Stories of Some Large Informal Operators in Senegal


Th is section focuses on the stories of four large informal operators in Senegal,
illustrating the scope of their enterprises, the importance of their political and
religious connections, and their fragility. Th ese fi rms are generally controlled by




LARGE INFORMAL FIRMS IN WEST AFRICA 89


a single individual and are vulnerable to collapse if the government musters the
political will to take them on, for good or bad reasons. Th ese profi les are based
mainly on press reports, the most important of which are referenced below.


Moustapha Tall
Moustapha Tall is one of the most important economic actors in Senegal.3 He
controls an estimated 25–36 percent of Senegal’s rice market and is involved
in other markets, such as sugar. His career’s trajectory exemplifi es the rags to
riches dynamic of a transition from the small to the large informal sector as well
as the vulnerability of these fi rms.


Tall’s entry into business is typical of the beginnings of large informal entre-
preneurs. Starting with nothing, a select few succeed in building very suc-
cessful enterprises through tremendous eff ort and acumen. He described his
background in an interview. “I come from Kaolack and completed my primary
school studies there, at the Kasaville school. I am my father’s fi rst son and my
father’s brother’s namesake. Th is same uncle put me in school in 1962 and took
me out of school 10 years later. My uncle owned a store and was having trouble
managing it. Th e previous manager had left without warning my uncle; the
next day, my uncle told me to get the keys to the store and to open it for the
day. It was with that order from my uncle that I entered retailing. I think that,
in a way, it was retail that chose me. Aft er 10 years, I quit working at my uncle’s
store and came to Dakar. My uncle had given me nothing, and I came here
without a cent.”


Tall’s experience also illustrates the relations between the formal and infor-
mal sectors. He started out in the sugar industry, working as a distributor for
Companie Sucrière Sénégalaise, owned by Jean-Claude Mimran, a French
national. In Senegal, sugar production has long been monopolized by the Mim-
ran family, which has long-standing ties to the Senegalese government. Sugar is
one of the few sectors in Senegal that remains heavily protected, with a variable
levy, resisting the trend toward liberalization. Consequently, sugar is much more
expensive in Senegal than in neighboring countries, thereby inviting smuggling
from Th e Gambia and Mauritania, as described in chapter 9. Importers who
have ventured into this area have wound up in great diffi culties, sometimes
even in jail. Tall quickly proved to be a very successful trader, claiming to earn
CFAF 200,000 to CFAF 300,000 per week. In 1983, within three years of arriving
in Dakar, he opened his own store. He said, “By the grace of God, I am where
I am today. Th e liberalization in 1989 allowed me to begin importing rice. In
1995, the liberalization was completed, and as I already had good relations with
my bank, I jumped at the opportunity to begin importing greater quantities.”


Like many of the other large informal entrepreneurs, he encountered set-
backs that almost destroyed his business. He went to prison on charges of smug-
gling sugar imports estimated at CFAF 1 billion (US$4 million), which he was




90 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


forced to pay to customs along with a fi ne of about CFAF 350 million. In regard
to his arrest, he stated, “At the time, I paid customs CFAF 1 billion to recover
my freedom. In the end, I gave in because I was worried that these people were
going to harm me. I had to leave and recoup my activities as soon as possible.
My business was badly looted while I was in prison. Both employees and clients
escaped with my money. Th e damage to which I was subjected is immense—I
lost about CFAF 3 billion because of my unjust imprisonment. Yet today, thanks
to the grace of God, I still survive. I started with zero francs, and even if I have
zero francs today, I will still thank God’s grace. Regardless of how this confl ict
aff ected me fi nancially, I am not complaining. I am beginning to rebuild my
business, and I will continue fi ghting until I reach my previous level.”


His relations with government, particularly customs, are typically complex.
Large informal traders invariably engage in various forms of smuggling and tax
evasion. Th eir success is contingent on tacit or even explicit complicity. Some-
times, however, for various reasons, an entrepreneur falls out of favor with the
authorities, or the government is under pressure to crack down and increase
revenues. On paper, customs laws impose draconian sanctions on tax evasion
and smuggling. In cases brought to court by customs, the judge reportedly
always rules in favor of the government, regardless of the truth of the accusa-
tions. Th e defendant must either settle with customs or go to jail. As Tall put
it, “I’m telling you, two customs agents can simply make an accusation against
a businessman, fi ne him, and send him to a tribunal. If the judge is either in
collusion with them, is misinformed, or has no courage, he will send the busi-
nessman to jail.”


Cheikh Tall Dioum
Cheikh Tall Dioum is another successful businessman in Senegal who was
imprisoned following a confl ict with customs related to allegations of evasion
of the laws protecting sugar.4


Aft er independence, almost all of the jewelry stores in Senegal were owned
by Europeans. Companies like Vendome, Pierrres Precieuses, Taj Mahal, and
Comptoir Franco-Suisse were well established in downtown areas. Local so-
called “traditional” jewelers were confi ned to suburbs where they made jewelry
and sold it to these big stores, which would then resell the products at a sub-
stantial markup.


Dioum, a traditional jeweler, opened a modern jewelry store downtown
aft er accumulating some savings. Aft er establishing the fi rst shop, he opened
other jewelry stores everywhere there was a high concentration of Europeans—
Hyper Sahm, Score Sarraut, Meridien Hotel in Ngor, the Club Mediterranee
des Almadies, the chicest locations in Dakar—by buying out European owners.


He quickly diversifi ed into other sectors, including ice cream. Previ-
ously, Miko and Gervais, two French companies, had a monopoly in the ice




LARGE INFORMAL FIRMS IN WEST AFRICA 91


cream market in Senegal. Dioum’s ice cream business was so successful that
the French companies exited the market. He also bought a news agency and
bought a nightclub in collaboration with the renowned Senegalese singer
Youssou Ndour. His biggest investment and near downfall was creating the
Nouvelles Brasseries Africaines, a soft drink producer. He repeatedly came
into confl ict with SOBOA, a Senegalese franchise of Coca-Cola, from which
he emerged victorious. He met his match in customs and the Mimran sugar
monopoly, however. Customs accused him of abusing his license to import
duty-free sugar to manufacture beverages by illegally reselling sugar on the
domestic market. Like Tall, he wound up in prison and was only freed aft er
paying a huge fi ne and losing almost all of his businesses.


Bocar Samba Dieye
Bocar Samba Dieye illustrates another dimension of fragility of large informal
entrepreneurs.5 Dieye is a major Senegalese importer of rice, wheat, and ani-
mal feed. Even more than Tall, he is a self-made man. He can neither read nor
write French, yet he controls a vast trading network spanning Asia, Europe,
and Africa.


Like Tall, his near downfall came from a legal confl ict, in this case involv-
ing a foreign partner rather than the government. In 2008, he was accused of
failing to make payment on a debt of CFAF 17 billion to the Swiss partner,
Ascot, a major global rice trading company. Th e confl ict between Dieye and
Ascot occurred during a run-up in global food prices, particularly rice, which
is the most important food staple in Senegal and is overwhelmingly imported.
According to Dieye, the government was worried about social unrest result-
ing from the soaring price of rice. He imported 160,000 tons of rice, worth
CFAF 46 billion from Ascot, with whom he had been working for 15 years.
Dieye paid Ascot CFAF 29 billion, with a remaining CFAF 17 billion debt. Dieye
claimed that he was selling at a loss due to a sharp unexpected decline in the
price of rice. He also complained that Ascot was requesting earlier payment
than specifi ed in the contract and that the agreed legal venue for adjudicating
the dispute was the Tribunal of Paris rather than that of Dakar. Th e judge in
the case, however, ruled in favor of Ascot and ordered seizure of Dieye’s goods,
particularly his storage depots of rice.


Marabout Serigne Khadim Bousso
In March 2003, Senegalese society was shaken by the “Khadim Bousso” aff air,6
which revealed the complex linkages between informal sector commercial
interests, politics, and religious groups, notably the Mouride Islamic brother-
hood. Khadim Bousso was an infl uential Mouride marabout: a member of the
Bousso family (and a descendant of Cheikh Amadou Bamba’s mother), founder
of the Mouride brotherhood. He also managed two formal fi rms and was in




92 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


possession of all the necessary documents. Th e two fi rms, NOSOCOM (Nou-
velle Societé de Commerce) and IDECOM (Internationale pour le Développe-
ment du Commerce Senegalo-Maghrebin), were both commercial enterprises.
Bousso also directed the ROES (Rassemblement des Opérateurs Economiques
du Sénégal), which was an employers’ syndicate. A majority of members of
ROES were well-known businesses in Senegal, especially in the informal sector.


In 1999, BICIS Bank—a subsidiary of the French Banque Nationale de Paris
(BNP)—took the marabout to court. Th e case involved a CFAF 2 billion loan
(approximately US$5 million) that the bank extended to Bousso, who then
proceeded to declare himself insolvent, feigning bankruptcy. When the bank
attempted to seize his companies’ assets, it quickly realized that there were very
few assets to seize. Th e bank brought the case to court, sparking a political furor
that brought into the open the complicity between political and marabout pow-
ers. Th e judge ordered Bousso personally to reimburse the total amount due to
the bank and condemned him to the maximum sentence of civil imprisonment.
He was incarcerated, and the press put the spotlight on the infl uence of busi-
nessmen based in Touba (the capital of the Mourides).7


Touba is a unique city where the state’s authority requires the explicit consent
of the marabouts, as discussed extensively in chapter 8. A tacit understanding is
that the police or customs offi cers cannot enter the city without authorization
of the marabouts. Government offi cials can be transferred outside of the city
on request of the marabout. Th e caliph-general of the Mourides has also closed
public schools, because he decided that the content of the instruction did not
conform to Islamic principles. What in other areas of the country would be con-
sidered an off ense and be severely punished is considered completely normal
in Touba. Because of this unusual situation, as long as Khadim Bousso stayed
in Touba he would only be at risk if the marabout gave permission to the police
to arrest him. Th e BNP realized this and, with the help of the French govern-
ment, applied a lot of pressure on Senegalese authorities. Squeezed between the
opposing forces of the marabouts and the French powers in Africa, Senegalese
authorities attempted to convince the Mourides’ caliph to release him. In the
end, Bousso was released by the caliph and incarcerated on March 5, 2003.
However, he was transferred fi ve days later to the wing for sick detainees at the
Artistide le Dantec Hospital in Dakar. Some interpreted the transfer as a condi-
tion placed by the caliph on Bousso’s arrest.


Several days later, Bousso escaped from prison with the help of his prison
guard, who turned out to be his disciple. He then took refuge in Touba and
declared on national radio that the conditions in prison were detestable and that
he did not intend to return. Under great pressure from the BNP, the authori-
ties again demanded that the caliph authorize Bousso’s arrest and succeeded
in recapturing him. During his second arrest, Bousso was shot and killed. Th e
reason for the murder and its perpetrator remain unknown. According to the




LARGE INFORMAL FIRMS IN WEST AFRICA 93


police, it was a suicide; according to the marabout’s family, it was a police blun-
der. Regardless of the cause, this tragedy marked the end of the aff air, and the
bank still has not been repaid.


Conclusion


Th e existence of large informal fi rms is one of the most important aspects of the
informal sector in West Africa, yet has been almost completely ignored in the
literature until now. Th ere are no publicly available data on these fi rms, given
that they massively understate their sales and income, yet they are well known
in the countries themselves. We used several methods to obtain information.


We found that large informal fi rms are fundamentally diff erent from both
formal and small informal fi rms, while at the same time resembling each of
them in some respects. Th e main sectors in which they operate include import-
export trade, domestic wholesale-retail, transportation, and construction. Th ese
large informal entrepreneurs oft en began as small operators with minimal edu-
cation but became very wealthy and infl uential due to superior entrepreneur-
ial ability and eff ort, along with assistance from ethnic and religious trading
groups. In terms of volume of sales and other measures of activity, these fi rms
do not diff er from their formal counterparts. In terms of family-based organi-
zation and management, they are very much like small informal fi rms. Typi-
cally, a single person controls all major functions (human resources, accounts,
fi nance, marketing) in contrast to formal fi rms, where separate departments
control each activity. In addition, they are fragile insofar as they oft en are run
by a single individual who may dissolve the business because of a confl ict with
tax or customs offi cials or reappear under another name.


Notes
1. Chapter 5 presents fi ndings on perceptions of competition in formal and informal


sectors, from our survey data.
2. Th e 123 study developed by DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Ajustement à


Long Terme) covers small informal fi rms. Our interviews and the second wave of
our surveys focusing on large informal fi rms showed that a similarly high propor-
tion of large informal fi rms are involved in trading activities.


3. See “Moustapha Tall, l’importateur de riz,” Sud Quotidien, May 17, 2008; http://www
.nettali.net/Moustapha-Tall-importateur-l-Etat.htm; http://www.rewmi.com/
Moustapha-Tall-importateur-de-produits-alimentaires-Le-prix-du-riz-ne-baissera-
pas_a9702.html.


4. See http://www.houblon.net/spip.php?article559; “La chute d’un empereur, Cheikh
Tall Dioum,” Afric.com, December 2, 2001; http://www.xibar.net/ENTRETIEN-
EXCLUSIF-AVEC-CHEIKH-TALL-DIOUM-Le-golden-boy-ouvre-une-fenetre-




94 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


sur-lui_a6801.html;”Entretien exclusif avec Cheikh Tall Dioum: Le golden boy
ouvre une fenêtre sur lui,” Lissa Magazine, January 22, 2008, http://www.xibar.net.


5. See http://www.nettali.net/Bocar-Samba-Dieye-fait-bloquer-une.html; “Bocar
Samba Dieye,” Walfadjri, May 26, 2009, http://fr.allafrica.com; Walfadjri, May 26
2009; http://fr.allafrica.com/stories/200807250746.html.


6. See Marsaud (2003); Gueye (n.d.); http://www.socialisme-republiquesn.org/.../oci-
khadim-bousso-les... – February 22, 2008; “Senegal: Khadim Bousso; la lettre du con-
tinent n°423,” AfricaIntelligence.com, May 15, 2003, http://www. africaintelligence.
fr/LC-/who-s-who/2003/05/15/khadim-bousso,7360581-ART.


7. See Marsaud (2003).


References
Gueye, El Modou. n.d. “Aff aire Khadim Bousso: La famille du marabout dément Me


wade.” Walfadjri. http://www.walf.sn/politique/suite.php?rub=2&id_art=28133.
Marsaud, Olivia. 2003. “La mort du marabout.” afrik.com, May 25. http://www.afrik


.com/article6126.html.




Chapter


95


5


Characteristics of the Informal Sector:
Findings from Our Surveys


Th e preceding chapters emphasize the heterogeneity of the informal sector in
West Africa, noting in particular the key distinction between large and small
informal fi rms. In this chapter, we examine in detail the characteristics of these
two types of fi rms as well as formal fi rms, using the fi ndings from our surveys
in the three cities.


As discussed in chapter 1, informality is best viewed as a continuum rather
than a dichotomy between purely formal and informal fi rms, with most fi rms
satisfying some, but not all, of the six criteria of informality identifi ed. Like-
wise, the two categories of large versus small informal fi rms contain a range of
enterprises with various degrees of formality. For the purposes of this chapter,
formal fi rms are those that meet all six criteria and, in particular, pay regular
income taxes. Th erefore, any fi rm that fails to meet one of these criteria is infor-
mal. We then split the informal fi rms into two groups: large and small. Small
informal fi rms are those that pay the presumptive tax or no tax at all and have
sales below CFAF 50 million. Some of them are registered or have a fi xed work-
place; very few of them have access to credit, however. Large informal fi rms are
those that underreport sales, oft en paying the presumptive tax, despite having
actual sales above the threshold qualifying for the business income tax regime.1
Th ey are almost always registered and have a fi xed workplace; in some cases,
they have access to credit. For this chapter, we ignore the fact that some fi rms
that pay business income taxes are, in fact, largely informal, in the sense that
they greatly underreport their sales to the tax authorities, as discussed in detail
in chapter 4.


Size and Other Characteristics of Firms in the Sample


Table 5.1 presents descriptive statistics regarding our sample of formal, large
informal, and small informal businesses in the three cities. Sales and num-
ber of employees are greatest in the formal sector, with the notable exception




96 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


of Cotonou, where the average number of employees in large informal fi rms
matches the number of employees in the formal sector, refl ecting the role of
these fi rms in Benin’s thriving informal cross-border trade, as described in
chapter 9. An interesting aspect is the rather weak correlation between fi rm
size as measured by sales and by number of employees, except in the formal
sector, where they are both higher than in the others. For example, in Ouaga-
dougou the number of employees in large informal fi rms is virtually the same
as the number in small informal fi rms, but sales are nearly 20 times greater.
Single-person fi rms (excluding temporary workers) are quite numerous and
found at all levels of sales. For example, 75 percent of companies in Senegal
with turnover below CFAF 5 million and 67 percent of companies with turnover
between CFAF 600 million and CFAF 1 billion are single-employee fi rms. Th is
again refl ects the importance of large informal fi rms, most of which are sole
proprietorships, as discussed in chapter 4.


Th e size distribution of fi rms in the sample is rather skewed, with only a few
very large fi rms: in Dakar 11 percent of formal fi rms and 2 percent of large infor-
mal fi rms in our sample have turnover above CFAF 1 billion, while 34 percent
of formal fi rms and 20 percent of large informal fi rms have turnover exceeding
CFAF 300 million. Th e distribution is similarly skewed in the other two cit-
ies. Also, although the number of employees is higher, on average, in formal
than in informal sector fi rms, there are many small formal fi rms, contradicting
the conventional assumption that small size connotes informality. In Dakar, for


Table 5.1 Descriptive Statistics of Firms in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or
Informal Status


City and status
Share in total


country sample
Average sales
(CFAF millions)


Average number of employees
(including temporary workers)


Formal


Dakar 24 833 9.6


Ouagadougou 13 615 21.2


Cotonou 23 725 22.1


Large informal


Dakar 16 117 4.5


Ouagadougou 11 155 6.1


Cotonou 15 319 22.6


Small informal


Dakar 60 13 4.2


Ouagadougou 76 11 5.4


Cotonou 62 13 5.8


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 97


example, 50 percent of formal fi rms have fewer than fi ve employees, compared
to 76 percent of the informal sector as a whole. Only 18 percent of fi rms in the
formal sector, 14 percent in the large informal sector, and 6 percent in the small
informal sector have more than 10 employees. Table 5.1 shows the average sales
and number of employees by category of fi rms in each of the three cities.


As discussed in chapter 1, the various characteristics of informality
are highly correlated. Only 30 percent of small fi rms (those with less than
CFAF 5 million in sales) maintain proper accounts, while all fi rms with turn-
over exceeding CFAF 600 million do so. Between 5 and 17 percent of fi rms
with sales exceeding CFAF 50 million, which makes them eligible for formal
business income taxes, do not maintain regularly updated accounts. More-
over, 60 percent of companies with turnover below CFAF 300 million do not
maintain up-to-date and complete books, compared with 97 percent of com-
panies with turnover exceeding CFAF 300 million. A similar trend is evident
in fi rms’ registration decisions. Only 62 percent of fi rms with turnover below
CFAF 5 million are registered, as opposed to 100 percent of fi rms with turnover
at or above CFAF 100 million. Th e fact that most small fi rms are registered,
however, implies that 88 percent of the fi rms in our sample are formal, a wholly
implausible result. In fact, as mentioned in chapter 1, many informal enter-
prises are registered with one administrative authority but not with others. As
discussed in detail in chapter 1, the most relevant type of registration is lump-
sum or regular business taxation. Companies that are taxed at a fi xed rate, even
if they are well known to the tax authorities, do not generate a formal system of
accounting that allows their fi nancial activities to be monitored.


Informality, Market Structure, and Exports


In this section, we examine the domestic and international markets in which
the informal sector operates. Previous research on the subject indicates that the
informal sector tends to develop in certain industries and is shaped by interna-
tional trade patterns. Sectors that are the most exposed to international competi-
tion are oft en among those that have the most extensive informal sectors. Several
studies of Latin American and African countries show that informalization is
most pervasive in retail trade, nonfi nancial services, and certain manufactur-
ing sectors. Liedholm (2001) fi nds that three markets (clothing; food products,
including alcoholic drinks; and wood products) constitute 75 percent of the
manufacturing activities of small fi rms in urban areas and 90 percent in rural
areas. He also fi nds that the distribution circuits for these enterprises are very
rudimentary: most enterprises sell directly to fi nal consumers.


Th e data from national income accounts reported in chapter 3 and from our
surveys largely confi rm the tendency of the informal sector to dominate in certain




98 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


sectors. In our surveys, 48 percent of small informal fi rms operate in the industrial
sector compared with 38 percent of large informal fi rms and 18 percent of formal
fi rms; the economy-wide average of fi rms in the secondary sector is 38 percent.
Th is may seem surprising, but it refl ects both the decline of formal manufactur-
ing and the preponderance of informal operators in construction and in artisanal
manufacturing of wood products and clothing. In our sample, 17 percent of small
informal fi rms and 15 percent of all fi rms produce nonmarketable services. Th e
large informal and formal sectors are more involved with wholesale-retail trade,
with 59 and 52 percent of their total staff , respectively, engaged in this trade.
Financial service and insurance entities, in contrast, are all in the formal sector,
as a result of the stringent regulation to which they are subjected by regional
organizations such as the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO). Table
5.2 presents the distribution of the sampled fi rms by industry.


Th e formal sector serves a much more diverse clientele than the informal
sector. Th e most important clients of formal enterprises are the public sector
and private enterprises—large or small, commercial or noncommercial. For
informal fi rms, the main clients are households and microenterprises. Th is illus-
trates the exclusion of informal fi rms from selling to the public sector. Oft en,
selection committees for the allocation of public sector contracts demand that
bidding fi rms provide proof of good legal standing, particularly vis-à-vis fi scal
and social security agencies. Th ese documents are diffi cult, if not impossible, to
procure if the fi rm is informal. Th is does not imply, however, that there are no
commercial relations between formal and informal enterprises; it only means
that most of the business of informal fi rms comes from households and other
informal fi rms, while formal fi rms have more diverse buyers.


As in many other countries, exports are usually a small share of fi rm sales
(fi gure 5.1). Exports as a share of sales are highest in the formal sector, followed
by the large informal sector and, fi nally, by small informal sector fi rms, but in all
cases they are quite low. For fi rms in Ouagadougou and Dakar, exports do not
exceed 10 percent of total sales. In Cotonou, they are slightly higher, at 18 per-
cent of total sales, for fi rms in the formal sector. In the informal sector, exports
are, on average, only 6 to 16 percent of sales.


Table 5.2 Distribution of Sampled Firms in the Three West African Countries, by Sector of
Activity


Activity sector


Benin Burkina Faso Senegal


Number % Number % Number %


Industry 67 22.7 61 20.3 120 38.9


Commerce 104 35.3 155 51.7 122 39.6


Service 124 42.0 84 28.0 66 21.5


Total 295 100.0 300 100.0 308 100.0


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 99


Patterns of input sourcing in the formal and informal sectors are the oppo-
site of those in output markets: informal fi rms have a much greater diversity of
suppliers than do formal fi rms. Th is may be evidence of stricter quality require-
ments in the formal sector, which would lead formal fi rms to rely on large com-
mercial enterprises.


Some of the questions in our survey probed the relationship between formal
and informal sectors. Given the pejorative connotations of the term “informal,”
we avoided it in our interview questionnaire. Instead, we used phrases associ-
ated with small commercial and noncommercial enterprises, which connote
informality to respondents.


Perception of competition among economic actors is acute, particularly
among formal fi rms. Formal fi rms cited large enterprises as their greatest source
of competition, while informal fi rms cited mainly small enterprises. Compe-
tition from imports is also important, particularly for formal fi rms. Imports
account for more than half of the formal domestic market for many products
in the three cities. However, for the informal sector, except in Ouagadougou,
domestic competitors are viewed as more threatening than foreign competitors.


Formal and informal fi rms seem to have diff ering perceptions of the qual-
ity of their products. More than 40 percent of formal actors believe that the
quality of domestically produced goods is higher than the quality of imported
goods. However, less than 20 percent of informal actors share this opinion. Th is
discrepancy suggests that the quality of goods and services provided by the
informal sector is low, confi rming the hypothesis that a key diff erence between
formal and informal activities is product quality (Gautier 2002).


Figure 5.1 Share of Exports in Total Sales in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or
Informal Status


20


16


12


8


4


0
Dakar


10
9


5


8


18


7
5


16


6


Ouagadougou Cotonou


Formal Large informal Small informal


Pe
rc


en
t


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




100 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


We attempted to assess the effi ciency and dynamism of informal fi rms rela-
tive to their formal counterparts through several indirect questions about prod-
uct and client turnover. Evidence is mixed. In Cotonou, 30 percent of formal
actors reported that product turnover is fast, while only 5 percent of informal
actors agreed that products sell quickly, indicating more effi ciency in the for-
mal sector. In Dakar and Ouagadougou, informal actors said that products sell
quickly, while formal actors complained of slow turnover.


Financing and Investment


Lack of access to credit is generally considered to be a near-universal charac-
teristic of informality and small and medium enterprises, more generally, as
noted in chapter 1. Consequently, such fi rms turn to loans from family, friends,
or tontines and usually face high interest rates (Johnson 2004; Akoten, Sawada,
and Otsuka 2006).


Our fi ndings largely support the view that informal fi rms have little access to
bank credit, but this is also largely the case for formal fi rms (table 5.3). Between


Table 5.3 Sources of Financing for Firms in the Three West African Cities, by Method of
Financing and Formal or Informal Status


City and status


Internal funding
or undistributed


benefi ts Bank credit
Loan from a family
member or friend


Savings, gift,
or inheritance


Dakar


Formal 64 20 4 12


Large informal 62 16 8 14


Small informal 64 8 2 26


Total 64 13 4 20


Ouagadougou


Formal 67 19 14 0


Large informal 55 14 23 9


Small informal 56 8 20 16


Total 59 10 19 12


Coutonou


Formal 76 15 7 2


Large informal 64 8 14 14


Small informal 68 15 0 16


Total 70 14 4 12


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 101


4 and 8 percent of small informal fi rms and between 4 and 12 percent of large
informal fi rms said they had recently been able to borrow from a bank. As noted
in chapter 1, in West Africa, formal fi rms also face substantial credit constraints;
the proportion of such fi rms obtaining a recent bank loan is only 10 percent in
Cotonou, 14 percent in Dakar, and 18 percent in Ouagadougou. In addition, a
high proportion of fi rms rely on internal funds (personal savings or undistrib-
uted profi ts) to fi nance investments. Our results show that most investments
in the three countries are fi nanced through personal funds. In Cotonou, for
example, more than 70 percent of land purchases in the formal sector and more
than 80 percent in the informal sector are fi nanced through personal funds. In
Dakar, these proportions are slightly lower, with 65 percent of formal actors
and 72 percent of informal actors relying on personal funds to fi nance land
purchases. Almost 100 percent of formal fi rms and just 40 percent of informal
fi rms in Ouagadougou fi nance land purchases with personal funds. Remain-
ing investments are fi nanced mostly with grants, loans from family members,
or inheritances. Only a minute portion of investments by both informal and
formal fi rms is funded by bank credit.


Interest rates are high across the board, with informal fi rms facing particu-
larly elevated rates (table 5.4). Formal fi rms in Dakar and Cotonou typically
face rates of about 15 percent, while formal fi rms in Ouagadougou enjoy the
relatively low rate of 12 percent. In Dakar and Cotonou, informal fi rms must
pay rates on the order of 20 percent, while in Ouagadougou rates can rise to
36  percent. Th e higher rates paid by informal fi rms can be justifi ed by the


Table 5.4 Interest Rates on Bank Loans in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or
Informal Status


City and status Interest rates on bank loans (%)


Dakar


Formal 15.3


Large informal 20.7


Small informal 23.2


Ouagadougou


Formal 12.0


Large informal 35.0


Small informal 36.1


Cotonou


Formal 15.2


Large informal 22.0


Small informal 24.0


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




102 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


increased risk involved in lending to them and the high operating costs faced
by microfi nance institutions.


In Cotonou, 70 percent of all fi rms interviewed admitted to having great dif-
fi culty repaying their loans, whereas in Dakar and Ouagadougou fi rms reported
having relatively less trouble, with 57 and 45 percent, respectively, mentioning
the same problems. Formal fi rms reported fewer diffi culties repaying loans than
informal fi rms, especially small informal fi rms (table 5.5). Th e share of the small
informal sector having diffi culty servicing their loans reached 92 percent in
Cotonou, 70 percent in Dakar, and 57 percent in Ouagadougou.


Infrastructure


As discussed in chapters 6 and 8, defi ciencies in the investment climate are
viewed as a primary source of informality, as they raise the costs and lower the
benefi ts of formal sector status.


Our surveys confi rm that weaknesses in the business environment are oner-
ous for both formal and informal fi rms, but more so for fi rms in the informal
sector, as noted in chapter 1. Poor infrastructure is a major dimension of the
problem (fi gure 5.2). Water services in all three cities are surprisingly limited.


Table 5.5 Share of Firms Having Difficulty Repaying Loans in the Three West African Cities,
by Formal or Informal Status


City and status % of fi rms having diffi culty repaying loans


Dakar


Formal 36


Large informal 69


Small informal 70


Total 57


Ouagadougou


Formal 13


Large informal 58


Small informal 57


Total 45


Cotonou


Formal 35


Large informal 64


Small informal 92


Total 70


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 103


Figure 5.2 Proportion of Firms with Access to Public Utility Services in the Three West
African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status


100


80


60


40


20


0


85
74


67
60


34
28


80


63
55


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Dakar


c. Telephone service


b. Electrical power


a. Water


Ouagadougou Cotonou


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Pe
rc


en
t


90 8988 85
96


90
100


80


60


40


20


0


Pe
rc


en
t


97


69 69


85


69 65


95


83
77


100


80


60


40


20


0


Formal Large informal Small informal


Pe
rc


en
t


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




104 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Firms in Cotonou have the best access to water, at 85 percent for formal fi rms
and 67 percent for informal fi rms. Th ese proportions are 80 and 55 percent,
respectively, in Dakar and 60 and 28 percent, respectively, in Ouagadougou.
Access to electricity and telephone service is of the same magnitude. In Coto-
nou, 90 and 89 percent of formal and informal fi rms, respectively, have access
to electricity. In Dakar, 96 percent of formal fi rms and 90 percent of informal
fi rms have access to electricity, while in Ouagadougou, 88 percent of formal
fi rms and 85 percent of informal fi rms have access. Access to telephone service
is similar, with formal fi rms enjoying greater access than informal fi rms, but
with inadequacies for both sectors.


Long delays in obtaining connections to utilities are also a problem, with
formal fi rms reporting longer delays than informal fi rms. For example, in Coto-
nou, 46 percent of formal fi rms, 36 percent of large informal fi rms, and 29 per-
cent of small informal fi rms reported waiting more than one month for a water
connection (table 5.6). Waiting times are lengthier for formal than for informal
fi rms both for electricity (table 5.7) and for telephone services (table 5.8): infor-
mal fi rms are much more likely to obtain a connection within one week. Th is
provides evidence for the claim that access to services is allocated in a corrupt


Table 5.6 Waiting Time for Water Connection in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or
Informal Status


City and status Within a week
Between one week


and one month More than a month


Dakar


Formal 29 38 33


Large informal 63 13 25


Small informal 50 19 31


Total 46 23 30


Ouagadougou


Formal 53 40 8


Large informal 73 18 9


Small informal 78 17 5


Total 74 20 6


Cotonou


Formal 40 15 46


Large informal 32 32 36


Small informal 43 28 29


Total 41 24 35


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 105


Table 5.7 Waiting Time for Electricity Connection in the Three West African Cities, by Formal
or Informal Status


City and status Within a week
Between one week


and one month More than a month


Dakar


Formal 28 46 26


Large informal 53 24 22


Small informal 32 39 29


Total 35 38 27


Ouagadougou


Formal 30 63 8


Large informal 48 45 6


Small informal 42 44 14


Total 41 47 12


Cotonou


Formal 38 17 46


Large informal 30 19 52


Small informal 29 28 42


Total 31 24 45


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.


Table 5.8 Waiting Time for a Telephone Connection in the Three West African Cities, by
Formal or Informal Status


City and status Within a week
Between one week


and one month More than a month


Dakar


Formal 55 34 11


Large informal 79 7 14


Small informal 64 30 6


Total 64 27 9


Ouagadougou


Formal 48 45 8


Large informal 58 36 6


Small informal 60 29 11


Total 58 32 10


Cotonou


Formal 40 25 35


Large informal 39 26 35


Small informal 48 24 28


Total 44 25 31


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




106 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


manner and that the informal sector has its own methods for achieving rapid
access. Burkina Faso again stands out as a much better performer than Senegal
and Benin in the speed of access to telephone services. However, the quality of
telephone service is better in Dakar than in Ouagadougou.


Water, telephone, and electricity service outages, one of the signature fea-
tures of a poor business environment, are pervasive in West Africa (tables 5.9–
5.11). Formal and informal actors gave identical responses to questions regard-
ing accumulated interruption times for these services, which is clear evidence
of their general unreliability. In Dakar and Cotonou, 90 or more percent of
fi rms reported water and telephone outages lasting up to a week. For electricity,
the story is the same in Cotonou and only slightly better in Dakar, with about
60 percent of fi rms reporting outages of up to a week. Ouagadougou has a lower
number of reported service interruptions.


In response to the unreliable supply of electricity, both formal and informal
fi rms have had to purchase expensive generators (fi gure 5.3): in Dakar and Oua-
gadougou, 55 percent of formal fi rms own generators, while about half those
percentages of large informal fi rms own generators. Slightly fewer small infor-
mal fi rms own generators: 31 percent in Cotonou, 20 percent in Dakar, and
20 percent in Ouagadougou.


Table 5.9 Annual Duration of Water Outage in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or
Informal Status


City and status Within a week
Between one week


and one month More than a month


Dakar


Formal 92 6 2


Large informal 95 3 3


Small informal 92 5 2


Total 93 5 2


Ouagadougou


Formal 100 0 0


Large informal 100 0 0


Small informal 98 1 1


Total 100 0 0


Cotonou


Formal 77 13 11


Large informal 71 13 17


Small informal 60 27 13


Total 66 21 13


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 107


Table 5.10 Annual Duration of Electricity Outage in the Three West African Cities, by Formal
or Informal Status


City and status Within a week
Between one week


and one month More than a month


Dakar


Formal 59 2 39


Large informal 60 5 35


Small informal 64 7 29


Total 62 5 33


Ouagadougou


Formal 97 3 0


Large informal 96 4 0


Small informal 89 6 4


Total 91 6 3


Cotonou


Formal 60 8 32


Large informal 45 3 52


Small informal 34 22 44


Total 42 16 42


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.


Table 5.11 Annual Duration of Telephone Outage in the Three West African Cities, by Formal
or Informal Status


City and status Within a week
Between one week


and one month More than a month


Dakar


Formal 94 2 4


Large informal 95 2 2


Small informal 96 2 2


Total 96 2 2


Ouagadougou


Formal 100 0 0


Large informal 92 4 4


Small informal 98 1 2


Total 97 1 2


Cotonou


Formal 87 4 9


Large informal 85 8 8


Small informal 75 11 14


Total 80 9 11


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




108 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Taxation


Th e fi ndings presented in this section derive from the second phase of inter-
views, focusing primarily on large informal and formal fi rms. Th e questions
focused on taxation.


Recent literature emphasizes the role of “tax morale” as a crucial determi-
nant of the extent of tax evasion and informalization more generally (Perry et
al. 2007). Tax morale refers to the perception of fairness and honesty of the
tax system and the government’s appropriate use of these revenues. In Latin
America, countries in which taxpayers are confi dent that their money has been
put to good use have higher voluntary compliance with tax obligations. Th is
conclusion is strongly corroborated by our fi ndings in West Africa. In Senegal,
the proportion of fi rm managers who expressed dissatisfaction with govern-
ment use of tax revenues varies between 65 and 100 percent, depending on
fi rm size; the range is 63 to 94 percent in Burkina Faso and 88 to 100 percent
in Benin (fi gure 5.4).


We also examined the eff ectiveness of the tax authorities in tax collection.
One aspect of this issue is fi scal harassment, that is, the extent to which the
fi scal authorities disproportionately target formal fi rms. In Benin, between 17
and 60 percent of managers complained that, once the fi scal authorities identify
them as signifi cant taxpayers, they are subject to repeated audits and upward
adjustments in payments. In Senegal, 41–55 percent of fi rms said they feel the
same way, compared with 17–50 percent of fi rms in Burkina Faso (fi gure 5.5).


Figure 5.3 Share of Firms Owning a Generator in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or
Informal Status


80


40


0
Dakar


55


29


20


55


74


29


20


51


31


Ouagadougou Cotonou


Formal Large informal Small informal


Pe
rc


en
t


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 109


Figure 5.4 Share of Firms Expressing Dissatisfaction with the Government’s Use of Tax
Revenues, by Tax Revenues


100


90


80


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0
Dakar OuagadougouCotonou


Less than 50 million CFA 50 to 100 million CFA More than 100 million CFA


Pe
rc


en
t


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.


Figure 5.5 Share of Firms Agreeing That Tax Compliance Entails Subsequent Harassment in
the Three West African Cities, by Tax Revenues


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0
Dakar OuagadougouCotonou


Less than 50 million CFA 50 to 100 million CFA More than 100 million CFA


Pe
rc


en
t


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




110 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Tax offi cials themselves acknowledge targeting formal fi rms, as discussed in
chapter 6. In an environment rampant with corruption, informal fi rms seem to
possess greater fl exibility in their relations with the government.


Tax payments must oft en be made in person, entailing long waits in line. In
all three countries, managers view this as a signifi cant hassle for both formal and
informal fi rms. In Benin, for example, 75 and 76 percent of formal and informal
fi rms, respectively, said that this situation is bad or very bad (fi gure 5.6).


Tax compliance is also weakened by the perceived lack of enforcement by the
government. Managers were asked about enforcement in several areas, includ-
ing social insurance payments, honest accounts, and declarations of income on
tax returns. For example, in Senegal, 65 to 100 percent of managers, depending
on fi rm size, said that underreporting of income is pervasive and not sanctioned
by the government (fi gure 5.7).


Other Aspects of the Institutional Environment


In this section, we examine other aspects of the institutional environment
beyond those discussed in the previous sections (fi nance, infrastructure).


Figure 5.6 Perception of Time Waiting in Line to Pay Tax Bill in the Three West African Cities,
by Formal or Informal Status


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0


FormalInformal


Pe
rc


en
t


Dakar OuagadougouCotonou


Very
good


Good Bad Very
bad


Very
good


Good Bad Very
bad


Very
good


Good Bad Very
bad


0
4


25
20


25


12


47


34


20


9


20


10


10
6


50


61


35


29


5 3


50


64


13
13


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 111


Figure 5.7 Share of Firms Saying That Government Adequately Enforces These Obligations in
the Three West African Cities, by Tax Remitted


60


50


40


30


20


10


0


Pe
rc


en
t


40


30


20


10


0


Pe
rc


en
t


50


40


30


20


10


0


Pe
rc


en
t


Less than 50 million CFA 50 to 100 million CFA More than 100 million CFA


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


a. Social security obligations


b. Honest declaration of income


c. Honest accounting


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




112 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Information and Communication Technology
A minority of fi rms use information and communication technology (ICT),
such as e-mail and the Internet, for business purposes, particularly in the small
informal sector (fi gure 5.8). Among formal fi rms, 43  percent in Cotonou,
46 percent in Dakar, and 35 percent in Ouagadougou use ICT; among small
informal fi rms, 14, 20, and 19 percent, respectively, use ICT. For large informal
fi rms, ICT use is between that of formal and informal fi rms.


Professional Associations
Formal fi rms are more likely than informal fi rms to be a member of a profes-
sional organization: 35 percent of formal fi rms and 13 percent of informal fi rms
in Cotonou; 30 and 19 percent, respectively, in Dakar; and 18 and 7 percent,
respectively, in Ouagadougou (fi gure 5.9). Th e advantages of membership are
varied and apply diff erently to formal and informal fi rms:


• Confl ict resolution. Informal fi rms benefi t from confl ict resolution services
more than formal fi rms: in Cotonou, 40 percent of informal fi rms stated
that they participate in confl ict resolution compared to 12 percent of formal
fi rms; the respective fi gures are 20 and 10 percent in Ouagadougou and 60
and 40 percent in Dakar.


• Availability of information on product or input markets. Again, informal fi rms
benefi t from information services more than formal fi rms in Dakar and
Ouagadougou, but formal fi rms make more use of these services in Cotonou.


Figure 5.8 Proportion of Firms Using ICT in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or
Informal Status


50


40


30


20


10


0
Dakar


46


32


20


35


43


33


19


29


14


Ouagadougou Cotonou


Formal Large informal Small informal


Pe
rc


en
t


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 113


• Accreditation to quality standards and reputation. Th e informal sector ben-
efi ts more than formal fi rms from accreditation in Dakar, while the formal
sector reaps more benefi ts from this recognition in Ouagadougou.


• Information on current regulations. In both Dakar and Ouagadougou, informal
fi rms again make more use of information on regulations than formal fi rms.


• Perspectives on future prospects. Both informal and formal fi rms said they
believe that their future prospects are high. In Cotonou, 92 percent of infor-
mal actors said they are optimistic about their fi rm’s future. Th e lowest level
of optimism is evident among informal actors in Dakar, where only 82 per-
cent said they are confi dent of their fi rm’s future. Similarly, a majority of both
informal and formal actors responded that they would like their children to
pursue their career. Among formal actors in Cotonou, 82 percent responded
affi rmatively to the prospects of having their children follow in their career
footsteps, as did 72 percent of informal actors. In Dakar, 62 percent of for-
mal actors and 60 percent of informal actors responded favorably. Finally,
in Ouagadougou, 65 and 72 percent, respectively, responded favorably. Th is
feeling of optimism is also evidenced by the small proportion (30 percent) of
workers who said they wish to change professions.


• Business strategies. Strategies developed by fi rms to promote growth in the
near term are centered on diversifi cation. We proposed several growth strat-
egies, including (a) canvassing for new clients, (b) changing suppliers in an
attempt to cut costs, (c) moving to a less expensive offi ce, (d) limiting pay


Figure 5.9 Share of Firms Belonging to a Business Association in the Three West African
Cities, by Formal or Informal Status


30


41


19 18


35


21


7


19


13


60


40


20


0
Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Formal Large informal Small informal


Pe
rc


en
t


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




114 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


increases, and (e) none of these strategies. Most interviewees preferred to
canvass for clients or did not have a short-term strategy.


• Relations with government. More formal than informal fi rms reported having
recent confl icts with government offi cials. In Cotonou, 34 percent of formal
fi rms reported such confl icts, compared with 21 percent of large informal
fi rms and 20 percent of informal fi rms (fi gure 5.10). Very few fi rms reported
confl icts with unions, especially in Ouagadougou, where virtually no con-
fl icts were reported.


Figure 5.10 Share of Firms Experiencing Conflicts with Government or Unions in the Three
West African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status


4


3


2


1


0


Formal Large informal Small informal


Pe
rc


en
t


3


4


1


0 0


1


4


3 3


40


30


20


10


0


Pe
rc


en
t


31


16


27


34


21 20


34


21 20


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


a. Conflicts with government


b. Conflicts with unions


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 115


The Informal Sector Workforce


Most studies on the informal sector conclude that its workforce diff ers substan-
tially from that of the formal sector. Self-employment characterizes the informal
sector and represents 62 percent of employment in the informal sector in North
Africa as well as 70 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. Th is proportion rises to 81 per-
cent if South Africa is excluded (Becker 2004). Also, domestic workers and street
hawkers represent 10 to 25 percent of nonagricultural employment in develop-
ing countries (ILO 2002). A study in Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, and Zimbabwe
shows that about two-thirds of informal fi rms in these countries consists only of
the owner (Haan 2006). A study by the Botswana Central Statistics Offi ce fi nds
that most (84.2 percent) informal enterprises are individually operated and that
12.7 percent of enterprises are family owned (CSO 2008). In Latin America, infor-
mal self-employment accounts for 40 percent of the workforce (Maloney 2004).
Another important characteristic of the informal sector is its high proportion of
women: 60 percent of women in the active labor force in the developing world
are in the informal sector. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 84 percent of employed women
are in the informal sector. According to Steel and Snodgrass (2008), the majority
of informal workers (59–83 percent) are women. Th is confi rms the fi ndings of
CSO (2008) that 67.6 percent of informal enterprises in Botswana were owned by
women in 2007.


Low levels of education among managers also characterize the informal sector.
La Porta and Shleifer (2008), using data from African and Asian countries, fi nd that
6.1 percent of managers of informal fi rms have a university education, compared
with 15.9 percent of managers of formal enterprises. In a study of fi ve African
countries, Haan (2006) fi nds that half of informal sector employees have no edu-
cation at all or have reached only the elementary school level and only 5 percent
of employees have reached secondary school. In his study of South Africa, Braude
(2005) fi nds a huge discrepancy between informal sector and formal sector levels
of education: 37 percent of informal sector employees have not fi nished secondary
school, compared with only 16 percent of formal sector employees. Similarly, Gelb
et al. (2009), based on data from Southern and Eastern Africa, fi nd that, in almost
every country, informal entrepreneurs have less education than formal entrepre-
neurs, except in Tanzania and Uganda, where the proportions are the same.


Th ere are also important discrepancies in earnings between the two catego-
ries of workers. El Mahdi and Amer (2005) fi nd that, in the Arab Republic of
Egypt, informal sector employees earn only 84 percent as much as formal sec-
tor employees. Work in the formal sector is also viewed as preferable because
informal sector employees have little job security, work very long hours, and
rarely receive social security benefi ts or are members of a union.


Our surveys confi rm these general fi ndings, but with several nuanced diff er-
ences. Formal sector actors are much better educated than informal sector actors,




116 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Figure 5.11 Distribution of Educational Attainment of Workers in the Three West African
Cities, by Formal or Informal Status, as a Share of All Workers in Respective Subgroups


40


20


0


6 7


21
15


19 17


9
13


30


50


40


30


20


10


0


47
44


28


18


9 8


41


18
13


Formal Large informal Small informal


80


60


40


20


0


35
38




42


55
50




58


45




42


56


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


a. Some elementary education


b. Some secondary education


c. Some university education


Pe
rc


en
t


Pe
rc


en
t


Pe
rc


en
t


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 117


but education among informal sector workers is not as low as one might expect
(fi gure 5.11). In Ouagadougou, 17 percent of small informal workers have stopped
their education at the primary level; this is also the case in Cotonou (21 percent)
and Dakar (30 percent). Among small informal sector employees, 58 percent in
Ouagadougou have reached secondary school, compared with 42 percent in both
Dakar and Cotonou. Th e share of employees in large informal fi rms with a sec-
ondary level of education in the three cities is 50 percent in Ouagadougou, 38 per-
cent in Cotonou, and 56 percent in Dakar. Among formal sector workers, 55, 35,
and 45 percent in the three cities, respectively, have some secondary education. In
Ouagadougou, 8 percent of small informal sector workers have a university-level
education. Th e fi gure is 28 percent in Cotonou and 13 percent in Dakar. Th ese
relatively high levels of primary and secondary education in the informal sector
are surprising. Th e even higher levels in the large informal sector are especially
revealing. Clearly, a substantial proportion of well-educated people are attracted
to the informal sector. Th is is consistent with the fi nding of Gelb et al. (2009) that
productive actors gravitate toward the informal sector in countries with weak
business climates and poor enforcement capabilities.


We also fi nd high levels of self-employment in the informal sectors of the
three cities, with the highest proportions occurring in Cotonou. In Cotonou,
51 percent of small informal actors work in self-owned enterprises, compared
with 39 percent of large informal actors and 25 percent of formal actors. In
Dakar, the gap between self-employment in the formal and informal sectors is
smaller: only 28 percent of small informal workers, 27 percent of large informal
workers, and 20 percent of formal sector workers are self-employed (table 5.12).


Women in the informal sector workforce are less prevalent in West Africa
than in other economies. In the three countries examined here, proportions of


Table 5.12 Self-Employment in Two of the Three West African Cities, by Owner of the
Enterprise and Formal or Informal Status


City and status Another individual Corporation Myself


Dakar


Formal 55 25 20


Large informal 54 19 27


Small informal 65 6 28


Total 61 13 26


Cotonou


Formal 44 30 25


Large informal 43 18 39


Small informal 44 5 51


Total 44 13 43


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.
Note: No information was available for Ouagadougou.




118 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


female workers do not substantially vary between formal and informal sectors,
averaging about 11 percent of employment in all sectors combined (table 5.13).
At times, women even occupy a greater portion of formal sector jobs than infor-
mal sector jobs. Overall, women represent a very small portion of employed
workers in both formal and informal sectors in our survey, in contrast to some
of the literature reviewed above. Men represent 80–90 percent of managers in all
cases, except in Cotonou, where 38 percent of managers in the small informal
sector are women (table 5.14).


As expected, a greater portion of formal enterprises have social security con-
tracts than informal entities, although some informal fi rms have such contracts:
87 percent of formal fi rms in Cotonou, 81 percent in Dakar, and 79 percent
in Ouagadougou have social security benefi ts. Meanwhile, 24 percent of small
informal fi rms in Cotonou and 14 percent in Dakar and Ouagadougou have
signed social security contracts. Firms that do not off er social security benefi ts
justifi ed their decision by citing complex formalities relating to the enrollment
of workers and compliance. Most interviewees were in favor of a method of con-
tributions to cover small enterprises. However, informal fi rms were only willing
to contribute up to CFAF 2,000 per month, while formal fi rms were prepared to
contribute greater amounts (fi gure 5.12).


Table 5.13 Proportion of Female Employees in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or
Informal Status
% of firms


City and status
Less than 25%


female
25–50%
female


50–75%
female


75% or more
female


Dakar


Formal 58 20 17 6


Large informal 74 16 6 4


Small informal 80 12 3 5


Total 74 15 7 5


Ouagadougou


Formal 46 30 17 6


Large informal 59 19 19 3


Small informal 31 16 17 36


Total 39 20 17 24


Cotonou


Formal 60 18 8 15


Large informal 58 9 3 30


Small informal 64 13 8 15


Total 63 13 8 16


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 119


Table 5.14 Gender of Firm Managers in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or Informal
Status
% of firms


City and status Number of men Number of women


Dakar


Formal 82 18


Large informal 94 6


Small informal 91 9


Total 89 11


Ouagadougou


Formal 81 19


Large informal 87 13


Small informal 62 38


Total 70 30


Cotonou


Formal 88 12


Large informal 91 9


Small informal 84 16


Total 85 15


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.


Figure 5.12 Share of Firms Complying with Social Security Obligations in the Three West
African Cities, by Formal or Informal Status


120


80


40


0
Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Formal Large informal Small informal


Pe
rc


en
t


81


37


14


79
87


61


14


56


24


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




120 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Conclusions


Th is chapter compared the characteristics of formal, large informal, and small
informal fi rms. For small informal fi rms, our survey results largely confi rmed
the standard fi ndings in previous literature. Small informal fi rms are concen-
trated in many of the same sectors as the larger informal fi rms: commerce,
handicraft s, transport, and new and used clothes. Small informal fi rms sell low-
quality products to other microenterprises and low-income households in a
highly competitive market. Firm size in this group is tiny, and self-employment
is especially prevalent. Th e level of education of actors is generally low, with a
relatively high participation of women in the workforce. Access to bank credit
is almost nonexistent due to insuffi cient documentation, and small informal
fi rms resort to unoffi cial credit markets with onerous interest rates. Use of ICT
is limited. Th ese fi rms rarely export. Additionally, small informal fi rms operate
in a completely unregulated and competitive labor market, and employees have
no social security protection.


Formal fi rms diff er from informal fi rms in all the characteristics mentioned
above. Th e characteristics of large informal fi rms tend to fall somewhere in the
middle, between formal and small informal fi rms. Th e large informal fi rms’
organizational structure diff ers little from that of smaller informal fi rms. Vol-
ume-of-sales data suggest that large formal fi rms are generally as big as formal
fi rms, but they have far fewer permanent employees, except in Cotonou. How-
ever, formal fi rms suff er even more than informal fi rms from defi cient infra-
structure. In some cases, formal fi rms have longer wait times for connections to
utilities than small informal fi rms. Moreover, formal and informal fi rms share
the same highly negative view of the business environment.


Overall, all private fi rms, regardless of formal or informal status and size,
face some common problems, notably access to fi nance, the business climate,
lack of competitiveness, and gender imbalance, although to varying degrees. In
other respects, however, there are important diff erences in fi rm characteristics
and challenges. Consequently, policy recommendations from Investment Cli-
mate Assessment studies are certainly appropriate, but they should be supple-
mented with measures targeted to the diff erent segments of the private sector:
formal, large informal, and small informal.


Note
1. Some large fi rms paying the regular business income tax are classifi ed as informal in


view of their underreporting of income.




CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR: FINDINGS FROM OUR SURVEYS 121


References
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Credit Access and Its Impacts on Micro and Small Enterprises: Th e Case of Garment
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Becker, Kristina F. 2004. Th e Informal Economy. Stockholm: SIDA Publications.
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Markets and Informal Work in Egypt, El Salvador, India, Russia, and South Africa, ed.
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Network, Economic Policy Institute.


CSO (Central Statistics Offi ce). 2008. “2007 Informal Sector Survey Preliminary Results.”
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El Mahdi, Alia, and Mona Amer. 2005. “Egypt: Growing Informality, 1990–2003.” In
Good Jobs, Bad Jobs, and No Jobs: Labour Markets and Informal Work in Egypt, El
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Gammage. Washington, DC: Global Policy Network, Economic Policy Institute.


Gautier, Jean-Francois. 2002. “Taxation optimale de la consommation et biens inform-
els.” Revue Economique 53 (3, May): 599–610.


Gelb, Alan, Taye Mengistae, Vijaya Ramachandran, and Manju Kedia Shah. 2009. “To
Formalize or Not to Formalize? Comparisons of Microenterprise Data from Southern
and East Africa.” Working Paper 175, Center for Global Development, Washington,
DC.


Haan, Hans Christiaan. 2006. Training for Work in the Informal Micro-enterprise Sec-
tor: Fresh Evidence from Sub-Sahara Africa. Technical and Vocational Education and
Training. Dordrecht: Springer.


ILO (International Labour Organization). 2002. “Decent Work and the Informal Econ-
omy: Sixth Item on the Agenda.” Report VI, ninetieth session of the International
Labour Conference, Geneva, June 20.


Johnson, Susan. 2004. “Gender Norms in Financial Markets: Evidence from Kenya.”
World Development 32 (8): 1355–74.


La Porta, Rafael, and Andrei Shleifer. 2008. “Th e Unoffi cial Economy and Economic
Development.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 2: 275–364.


Liedholm, Carl. 2001. “Small Firm Dynamics: Evidence from Africa and Latin America.”
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Maloney, William. 2004. “Informality Revisited.” World Development 32 (7): 1159–78.
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Mason, and Jaime Saavedra-Chanduvi. 2007. Informality: Exit and Exclusion. Wash-
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Steel, William F., and Don Snodgrass. 2008. “World Bank Region Analysis on the Infor-
mal Economy.” In Raising Productivity and Reducing Risk of Household Enterprises.
Annex 1, “Diagnostic Methodology Framework.” Washington, DC: World Bank.






Chapter


123


6


The Institutional Environment
of the Informal Sector in West Africa
With Ibrahima Thione Diop and Birahim Bouna Niang


In this chapter, we examine the institutional environment facing the informal
sector in the three countries that are the focus of this book. We begin with a
review of the literature. We then provide a detailed description of the institu-
tions and rules governing the informal sector. We conclude with an assessment
of the institutional environment, emphasizing that cumbersome regulations,
bad governance, and weak enforcement contribute to the spread of the informal
sector, as does the infl uence of powerful political and religious actors.


State Failures and the Informal Sector:
Hypotheses and Literature Review


State failures are oft en identifi ed as a central factor contributing to the spread
of the informal sector in developing countries. Recent literature views infor-
mality as a rational choice in response to the costs and benefi ts of formal versus
informal status (for example, Perry et al. 2007; Kanbur 2009; Djankov et al.
2002; Loayza, Oviedo, and Serven 2005; Ishengoma and Kappel 2006; Aterido,
Hallward-Driemier, and Pages 2007; Marcouiller and Young 1995; Johnson et
al. 2000). Th e institutional environment heavily conditions this choice. For-
malization means greater access to public services but also requires compliance
with regulations and payment of taxes. Th e extent to which the government
enforces rules and sanctions noncompliance is also critical. Many studies have
corroborated the importance of these considerations. Th ree factors aff ect fi rms’
choice of formal or informal status:


• Th e benefi ts of formalization, including the quality of public services and
diff erential access to these services for formal and informal fi rms


• Th e costs of formalization in the form of higher taxes and regulatory com-
pliance costs




124 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


• Th e extent to which informal fi rms are sanctioned for failing to comply with
tax and regulatory obligations.


In this section, we review the literature on those aspects of the institutional
environment aff ecting the informal sector.


Access to Public Services
Steel and Snodgrass (2008) and Verick (2006) argue that lack of access to ser-
vices is a major determinant of informality. Relevant services span infrastruc-
ture, capital, education, health, and social security. According to Liedholm
(2001), many government programs discriminate against small enterprises and
small informal enterprises in particular. He states that most tax exemptions
for imports apply only to large enterprises, and most small enterprises do not
qualify. By simply eliminating such distortions, governments could stimulate
the growth of small enterprises. Th ese authors argue that we should be con-
centrating less on formalizing the informal sector and more on improving the
provision of public services.


Education and training have been identifi ed as important factors in assist-
ing informal fi rms to grow and transition toward formality. According to many
authors (Atchoarena and Delluc 2001; Brewer 2004; Haan 2006; NISER 2007),
even more so in the informal than in the formal sector, education has largely
failed to promote the kinds of skills and knowledge that are helpful for private
sector development. Formal education in Africa retains an antiquated orienta-
tion toward preparation for a career as a government offi cial and fails to develop
practical skills (such as management and entrepreneurship) that are needed
by private fi rms. According to Adams (2008), most schools that off er training
to informal actors in Africa are themselves unregistered and informal. Th ese
organizations off er training of dubious quality (Johnson and Adams 2004).
Churches and nongovernmental organizations have attempted to close this
training gap but have had diffi culty meeting the needs of informal actors (Haan
2006). Similarly, although large enterprises devote considerable resources to
employee training, small enterprises—especially informal enterprises—do not.
According to Nielson, Rosholm, and Dabalen (2007), only 4.6 percent of fi rms
with fewer than 10 employees in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Zambia off er train-
ing programs for their staff . Of fi rms with 151 employees or more, 81 percent
off er training programs. Th is lack of training confi nes informal actors to low-
productivity and low-profi tability endeavors. Th e most common form of train-
ing in informal sectors in Africa is the traditional apprenticeship, which is of
dubious quality. Others stress that informal fi rms and workers have less access
than formal fi rms and workers to some training programs, lines of credit, and
insurance. In Peru in 1985, the interest rate for fi rms in the informal sector
was 22 percent, while it was only 4.9 percent for fi rms in the formal sector (De
Soto 1989). Th is could refl ect both cause and eff ect of the fact that informal




THE INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR 125


businesses tend to be smaller, more ineffi cient, and more inexperienced and to
have a higher mortality rate.


Th e Regulatory and Tax Environment
Loayza (1997) views excessive taxes and regulations as the main factors determin-
ing informality. His empirical model for Latin America fi nds that tax burdens and
labor market restrictions greatly infl uence the size of the informal sector: a one
standard deviation change in these variables raises informality by 0.33 and 0.49
standard deviation, respectively. De Soto (1989) also stresses the role of excessive
regulation in informality. Similarly, Loayza, Oviedo, and Serven (2005) conclude
that excessive regulation reduces growth and favors the development of the infor-
mal sector. Branstetter et al. (2010) and Bruhn (2011) fi nd that relaxation of entry
regulations leads to an increase in registration of enterprises, although the eff ects
are concentrated on wage earners who are opening a business or “marginal” fi rms
that are small and have low survival rates.


In the same vein, Arias et al. (2005) fi nd that excessive labor market restric-
tions reduce productivity and inhibit the adoption of new technology, adversely
aff ecting economic growth. Dabla-Norris, Gradstein, and Inchauste (2008) fi nd
that the regulatory framework is the greatest determining factor in the develop-
ment of an informal sector, followed by access to certain services—fi nancial ser-
vices in particular—for small enterprises. Gelb et al. (2009) confi rm, but refi ne,
this view: they argue that the quality of the regulatory framework, along with
the state’s capacity to enforce regulations, is vital in determining a fi rm’s deci-
sion to join the informal sector. According to these authors, it is important to
distinguish between two scenarios: (a) educated individuals manage productive
informal fi rms that have a high potential for growth, in which case improving
the regulatory framework and access to services might lead them to formalize,
and (b) an adequate regulatory framework is already in place, and the only fi rms
in the informal sector are those that are practicing survival strategies. In this
scenario, helping fi rms to access social services would, at best, enable them to
survive. Ingram, Ramachandran, and Desai (2007) test a probit model where
perceptions of constraints in the business climate are a determinant of locating
in the formal or informal sector. Th e results show a robust correlation between
formality and certain attributes of the business climate—access to electricity,
fi nance, land—but the authors acknowledge that, without panel data, these
attributes cannot be established as “causing” formality.


Using data from 69 countries, Friedman et al. (2000) fi nd that the high costs
of corruption and bureaucracy push fi rms toward the informal sector. Similarly,
Azuma and Grossman (2002) blame development of the informal sector on
predatory governments that siphon off tax revenue for the benefi t of the elites.
Tax evasion by these elites places excessive tax burdens on formal fi rms, pushing
them to seek refuge in the informal sector.




126 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


La Porta and Shleifer (2008) distinguish between the cost of becoming for-
mal, the cost of remaining formal, and the benefi t of becoming formal. To deter-
mine the cost associated with becoming formal, they take the log of the number
of procedures required to start an enterprise legally. To measure the cost asso-
ciated with remaining formal, they defi ne three categories of proxy variables:
the cost of having to pay taxes, the cost of abiding by work legislation, and the
cost associated with bureaucratic red tape. Th e authors defi ne the benefi ts of
remaining or becoming formal as having easier access to public goods and ser-
vices and being able to defend one’s legal rights in a court of law. Analyzing data
from several countries, they determine that these three categories of variables
are strongly correlated with the size of the informal sector. Apart from these
variables, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has a strong negative cor-
relation with the size of the informal sector, as found in other studies.


Beyond tax and regulatory issues, governmental behavior and enforcement
capabilities have a strong impact on private sector behavior. Perry et al. (2007)
argue that actors’ decisions are strongly infl uenced by their perception of and
relationship with the government. Willingness to abide by laws and pay taxes
is strongly infl uenced by one’s perception of the level of honesty and effi ciency
of the government.


Informal sector fi rms are also particularly vulnerable to arbitrary state action
such as extortion and confi scation of assets by police, customs offi cials, and
others. De Soto (1989) argues that in order to protect themselves against abuse
of power by the government, fi rms in the informal sector pay between 10 and
15 percent of their income in bribes, compared with only 1 percent for fi rms in
the formal sector. Moreover, informal businesses are obliged to remain small
so as not to attract attention, inhibiting their development and the consequent
gains to the overall economy.


Enforcement of Regulations
Kanbur (2009) argues that a key determinant of informality is lack of enforce-
ment of regulations. Gelb et al. (2009) also fi nd that fi rms opt for formality
when access to public utilities and credit are favorable and where tax and regis-
tration rules are enforced. Comparing several countries in Eastern and South-
ern Africa, they test a probit model, also following Lucas (1978), where the
market sorts the more talented managers and productive fi rms into the formal
sector. Th ey fi nd that the model is far more applicable in countries with stronger
business climates and better enforcement of regulations. In some countries with
weaker business climates, they fi nd that formal and informal fi rms are similar to
each other in all other aspects besides formal registration. Th ey explain:


To the extent that enforcement and provision of public services are character-
ized by a high degree of arbitrariness and variability, the concealment func-




THE INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR 127


tion will be less sharply convex. Th erefore, it would pay for an entrepreneur
in one country to remain informal while a similar entrepreneur in another
country would be better off by operating formally. Th e benefi ts of formal reg-
istration might not be realized because of poor delivery of fi nancial or other
services, or because the concern of business—such as reliable power—is simi-
lar for formal and informal fi rms.


Building on the general equilibrium model of Lucas (1978), which focuses
on government enforcement capability, Dabla-Norris, Gradstein, and Inchauste
(2008) analyze informal sales by formal fi rms using data from 40 middle- and
high-income countries, none of which is in Africa. Th ey fi nd that the informal
sector’s growth is more sensitive to the government’s capacity to enforce laws
(measured by the rule-of-law index developed by Kaufmann, Kraay, and Zoido-
Lobatón 1999) than to the quality of public services. According to Dabla-Norris,
Gradstein, and Inchauste (2008), fi rms choose to enter the informal sector to
avoid costs associated with formal sector regulations; the fi rm does, however,
run the risk of being apprehended and having to pay a fi ne. In many developing
countries, however, the weakness of the legal system considerably lowers the
probability of being apprehended and sanctioned. Consequently, the informal
sector grows to a much greater extent. In a related vein, Gatti and Honorati
(2008) use data from 40 countries, including several from Africa, to show a
strong relation between tax compliance and access to credit. Th ey fi nd that,
as noncompliance with tax codes weakens the informational content of bal-
ance sheets, access to credit declines. Th ey conclude, “From a policy perspective
this underscores the fact that policies directed at improving the functioning of
capital markets are unlikely to be fully successful unless they are complemented
by policies—such as increased enforcement and simplifi cation of tax codes—
aimed at decreasing the level of informality and improving transparency.”


Lack of adherence to regulations may not necessarily be due to failures of
enforcement but rather to lack of knowledge and capacity. Hence the appro-
priate response is not necessarily to crack down but rather to educate. Results
from the 123 study in Senegal show, for example, that lack of fi rm registration
of small fi rms cannot be completely explained by defi cient government services
or excessive regulations. At least 60 percent of these actors claim to be unaware
of any particular regulation; either they do not know that registration is obliga-
tory, or they do not know with which institution they must register (Brilleau
et al. 2005). UNACOIS, the trade association that represents informal fi rms
in Senegal (Ndiaye 2004), claims that lack of training of informal actors, most
of whom are illiterate, is the reason for noncompliance, rather than deliberate
violation of rules. Of course, this view should be taken with a grain of salt, but
it has some validity, given the lack of training and education of most informal
entrepreneurs.




128 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


The Institutional Framework in West Africa


In the following section, we describe and analyze the governmental, and in
some cases, semi-offi cial institutions that regulate and assist the informal sector
in West Africa.


Regional Institutions
WAEMU Commission In West African Economic and Monetary Union
(WAEMU) countries, monetary, fi scal, and trade policies are administered
by the WAEMU Commission, which establishes the rules that are applicable
to all member countries. In recent years, the commission’s purview has been
extended to policies in sectors such as agriculture, industry, and education.


WAEMU Customs Union Benin, Burkina Faso, and Senegal are all members
of WAEMU, which features a single currency—the CFA franc—and a customs
union. Domestic taxation has also been substantially harmonized.


In principle, the common external tariff and other liberalization and har-
monization measures should reduce smuggling. Moreover, customs systems
are almost wholly computerized, which should reduce the scope for fraud. But
smuggling remains pervasive, as discussed below.


OHADA Th e Organization for Harmonization of Business Law in Africa
(OHADA) is a system of business laws adopted by the francophone countries
of Central and West Africa with the ambitious goal of providing a unifi ed legal
framework for business. Th e goal is to promote investment and growth through
harmonization. It prescribes various levels of reporting and tax obligations for
enterprises of diff ering sizes, including microenterprises. While countries have
followed some general OHADA principles in their fi scal and regulatory sys-
tems, in reality most countries establish practices largely at the national level. In
particular, as mentioned in chapter 1, OHADA stipulates diff erential tax treat-
ment depending on fi rm size. Countries follow this general principle, but the
application diff ers considerably. Th e presumptive tax regime, which prevails
under many fi scal agencies in the subregion, goes well beyond what OHADA
prescribes with regard to establishing a relaxed regime for informal fi rms
(Ndjanyou 2008).


Taxation and Customs
Domestic Taxes Informal fi rms avoid the proliferation of taxes faced by for-
mal fi rms. Formal enterprises are subject to numerous taxes, including the fol-
lowing: corporate income tax, corporate lump-sum tax, wage tax, property tax
on buildings that the corporation owns, property tax on real estate, surcharge
on undeveloped or partially developed land, registration fees, stamp tax, taxes




THE INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR 129


on consumption of certain products, tax on motor vehicles, special tax on cor-
porate cars, fees for licenses, and more.


Most of these taxes are cumulative and can amount to a signifi cant portion
of income. Informal fi rms are, however, denied exemptions and deductions that
reduce the tax burden on formal fi rms. Value added taxes (VAT) on inputs, for
example, are deductible only for formal fi rms.


Th e tax systems of WAEMU member countries are similar, but not identical.
Revenue collection is split among several agencies, of which the following are
the main three:


• Th e Division of Large Companies (Division des Grandes Entreprises, DGE)
collects taxes from the largest companies in the country


• Secondary collection centers, which collect taxes from companies that are
subject to formal income taxes but do not qualify for the DGE


• Th e centers responsible for the taxation of informal enterprises, which spe-
cialize in businesses eligible for lump-sum tax collection as well as local
taxes, usually collected on behalf of local communities.


Th e fi scal systems in francophone West Africa in practice do distinguish
between fi rms by size, but not exactly in the way prescribed by OHADA. Here
we distinguish between two main fi scal regimes in WAEMU: the regular busi-
ness tax regime and the lump-sum tax regime.


Th e Regular Business Tax Regime Taxable income for fi rms subject to this
regime is obtained from declared sales fi gures. Th is assumes that the enter-
prises maintain regular accounts. Th e thresholds for eligibility are set, but
limits vary signifi cantly among countries and activities. Within this regime,
fi rms are further divided into large and small. Larger fi rms with sales in excess
of a predetermined threshold report to the DGE. Th e threshold is currently
CFAF 500 million (US$1 million) or above in the three countries. In all three
countries in our study, the DGE collects around 90 percent of tax revenue.
Enterprises assigned to the DGE are subject to a more restrictive declaration
procedure: in addition to the accounting documents required of other fi rms
under the regular tax regime, these fi rms must also submit a detailed table of
receipts, expenditures, and sources and uses of funds.


In addition to the DGE, Burkina Faso and Benin further distinguish between
the normal regular business tax regime and the simplifi ed regular business tax
regime. Firms subject to the normal regular business tax regime have sales of more
than CFAF 80 million in Benin and more than CFAF 50 million in Burkina Faso.
Firms subject to the simplifi ed regular business tax regime have sales between
CFAF 40 million and CFAF 80 million in Benin and between CFAF 30 million
and CFAF 50 million in Burkina Faso. Senegal does not distinguish between nor-
mal and simplifi ed and has only one unifi ed regular business tax regime.




130 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Th e Lump-Sum Tax Regime Firms under the lump-sum tax regime must have
sales below CFAF 40 million in Benin, CFAF 30 million in Burkina Faso, and
CFAF 50 million in Senegal. Th is is intended to apply to informal enterprises
with limited capacities to maintain records. Enterprises subject to this regime
have minimal reporting obligations. In view of the lack of documentation of
sales and profi ts, fi scal agencies mostly estimate tax liabilities and usually apply
a single tax for each fi rm. Th is single rate is in lieu of taxes on profi t, licensing
fees, and several other types of taxes that fi rms subject to regular business taxes
must pay. In Senegal, the single tax applied to informal fi rms is called the uni-
fi ed levy (contribution globale unique); in Benin, it is the unifi ed professional
tax, and in Burkina Faso, it is the informal sector contribution (contribution du
secteur informel).


However, certain enterprises cannot become informal, regardless of the level
of their sales. Th ese include certain professions such as lawyers and customs
agents, corporations, and foreign subsidiaries.


Th e thresholds and ranges on sales vary considerably within countries,
depending on the fi rm’s product lines, and over time. For example, although
Benin previously had similar limits to Burkina Faso, it has recently made sig-
nifi cant changes, and further modifi cations are to be expected.


In addition to these special regimes for informal operators, governments
have instituted a variety of programs to reduce tax evasion by informal fi rms,
such as various withholding requirements at the level of customs. In Benin,
customs withholds 1 percent on all taxable imports, inclusive of the value of
duties paid (with the exception of the VAT) on fi rms that are registered, includ-
ing fi rms subject to presumptive taxation. For informal importers that are not
registered with fi scal authorities, the withholding rate rises to 5 percent. If the
importer is subject to the regular business tax regime, this withholding is a pro-
visional deposit to be deducted from tax liability at the end of the tax year. If the
importer is subject to the lump-sum tax or is unknown to fi scal authorities, the
withholding is not recovered. Th e same system is applied to the road transport
tax (TUTR) in Benin, which is a presumptive tax paid annually by businesses in
the road transport sector. At the end of the year, the road transport tax becomes
defi nitive for any fi rm with sales below CFAF 10 million; for others, it is a pro-
visional payment that is deducted from year-end taxes.


Despite these eff orts, tax evasion remains pervasive. Fiscal offi cials cite the
incoherence of the registration system, with diff erent agencies each providing
their own identifi ers and failing to exchange information, as the key reason for
their inability to ascertain and tax informal sector incomes.


Th ese diffi culties are illustrated by one of the largest bastions of informality
in Benin, the sprawling Dantokpa market in Cotonou, which houses 23,000
known economic operators with fi xed workplaces. Th is understates the number
of operators, as many do not have a fi xed locale. Benin’s fi scal administration




THE INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR 131


has created a division assigned exclusively to Dantopka (the Dantopka Tax
Agency), along with other agencies, including the national management com-
mittee for fi scal verifi cation and registration, the rapid intervention brigade, the
agency for taxation at the port and other borders, in addition to the customs
withholding procedures, noted earlier. Despite all of these eff orts, many wealthy
operators who handle billions of CFA francs avoid paying for business licenses.
Our interviewees noted that many politicians have interests in the Dantopka
market and send their brothers and spouses to work there. Many large informal
transportation companies operate out of Dantopka. Furthermore, many formal
fi rms engage in informal activities in that market.


Taxpayers are recorded with a unifi ed tax identifi cation number (TIN). But
this does not prevent large-scale evasion, for several reasons. First, agents oft en
import more than they declare, and many import on behalf of others. Further-
more, according to our interviews, customs enforcement is handicapped by
the lack of links between government computer networks, forcing offi cials to
cross-check records manually. Since 2009, Beninese enterprises under the DGE
system are no longer subject to tax withholding. Firms routinely provide false
statements and refuse to pay on time, without being sanctioned. According to
fi scal authorities, the fi nancial documents presented to them are not reliable.
Many fi rms subject to regular business taxes do not make their payments on
time. Th e informal sector contributes mainly to local government revenues.
According to our interviewees, fraudulent accounting is rampant, and the
underlying documentation for verifying statements does not exist. Beninese
authorities now require account certifi cation to reduce fraudulent bookkeeping.


To identify informal activities more accurately, fi scal administrations have
resorted to some similar measures in all three countries. Within each, collection
has been decentralized by region and by sectors, such as the Dantokpa branch
in Benin mentioned earlier. Offi cials also attempt to cross-check reported sales
fi gures with other information. In Burkina Faso, offi cials look at the mobility
of workplace, the capital stock, and other factors. Consequently, the actual tax
burden varies according to the locale of the activity, the profession, the means
of displacement, and the fi rm’s activities and capital equipment.


Overall, despite these eff orts, the informal sector largely continues to escape
taxation. In Burkina Faso in 2008, the informal sector accounted for a paltry
CFAF 2 billion out of a total of CFAF 226 billion in revenues, or less than 1 per-
cent—completely out of proportion to its predominant role in economic activity.


Why are so few taxes collected from informal fi rms, when they account for
such a large share of the economy? Tax collection offi cers explain that it is very
diffi cult to determine the level of taxable income of informal fi rms. Suspicions
of underreporting of sales are almost impossible to prove. Th e human and
fi nancial resources devoted to investigating and pursuing informal sector tax
cheats are, in most cases, larger than the amounts recouped. Consequently, it




132 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


is more cost-eff ective for offi cers to direct eff orts toward collecting taxes from
formal fi rms, which are in government databases and pay their taxes. However,
many formal actors perceive this approach to be the most signifi cant reason for
the expansion of the informal sector. Entrepreneurs in the formal sector com-
plain of unrestrained tax harassment, dissuading informal actors from shift ing
to formal status.


Informal fi rms, even large ones, fi nd it quite easy to avoid paying taxes. Infor-
mal actors generally have several accountants and can easily fi nd accountants
who will authenticate fraudulent documents underreporting income. Accord-
ing to our interviewees, fraudulent accounting is rampant and the underlying
documentation for verifying statements does not exist. Beninese authorities
now require the certifi cation of accounts to reduce multiple books, but there is
little evidence of improvement.


Some informal actors also slip through customs without paying duties by
presenting themselves as casual importers, exempting them from providing
proper identifi cation. According to our interviewees, even more blatant fraud
occurs in the real estate market: buildings with fi ve or more fl oors in Cotonou
do not have identifi ed owners. Tax authorities are unable to monitor the bulk
of land and real estate transactions. Estimates of real estate values approved by
notaries are drastically understated. Normally, notaries are agents sworn under
oath, and their documents are used as evidence in a court of law—at least until
they are challenged or proved invalid. Notaries have the exclusive power to
grant land and real estate titles and record values. Because of the high cost of
fees and taxes for real estate transactions (21 percent of the total value of the
transaction for the buyer and 5 percent for the seller in Senegal), buyers and
sellers have an incentive to undervalue buildings. Oft en, clerks (assistants to
the notary) will off er to record undervalued prices in exchange for a suitable
side payment.


Customs Th ere is no specifi c customs regime for informal fi rms. Much of the
merchandise that crosses borders is known to be informal. Indeed, importation
of merchandise does not require a business license. No inspection is necessary
for imports valued between CFAF 500,000 and CFAF 2 million. Many fi rms
whose imports exceed this limit will divide their merchandise into smaller lots
and import them fraudulently under separate orders. In addition, formal fi rms
will oft en contract with informal operators to smuggle in merchandise and
then purchase the goods. Individuals importing no more than CFAF 500,000
worth of goods are allowed to import duty-free aft er a simple declaration, and
there are oft en gross abuses of this allowance. Most people caught fraudulently
importing are only front men.


Smuggling is common through ports because customs supervision is imper-
fect. Customs verifi es only 10 percent of goods presented for inspection; the rest




THE INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR 133


undergoes a risk analysis. Many fraudulent imports pass through borders under
false declarations. Fraud occurs most oft en among imports of the most highly
taxed products. Th ese products include petroleum products, tobacco (which is
subject to import permits), sugar (also subject to prior authorization), as well
as cooking oils. Motorcycle trade between Benin, Burkina Faso, and Togo is an
oft en-cited example: informal operators drive imported motorcycles from Togo
to Burkina Faso, taking the opportunity to smuggle goods that they transport
on the back of motorbikes or smuggle the motorbikes themselves.


According to customs offi cials, all economic actors participate at least some-
what in the informal sector, particularly in commerce, from wholesalers to retail
distributors. Th ey all import, sometimes legally and sometimes illegally. In the
transit sector, formal customs clearance agents oft en take part in informal busi-
ness transactions. Th ey sell their seals to informal actors and no longer play a
role in customs clearance. Th ese formal sector agents seek out informal agents
who have more clients. Certain customs clearance agents are importers as well.
Many formal enterprises import merchandise through informal importers in
order to lower costs. Customs offi cials are rather fatalistic about the high level
of smuggling, attributing it to long-standing social relationships among ethnic
groups such as the Mourides and the Yoruba, as discussed in detail in chapters
8 and 9.


Customs offi cials reported that, among informal actors, various family
members oft en have separate identifi cation numbers. People change names fre-
quently to evade customs. Customs agents observe this practice when they stop
someone for an infraction and charge them a fi ne. When the perpetrator reports
to the authorities, it is oft en clear that he is an agent for someone else and can-
not aff ord to pay the fi ne. Oft en, the individual will claim to be a relative who is
not linked to the fraud in question but is stepping in to help. He will then off er
to remit a token amount well below the proposed fi ne. Seeing through these
hoaxes, our interviewees noted that the supposed “good Samaritan” is oft en
an employee of the importer. However, in the absence of conclusive evidence,
customs agents are forced to accept the token amount or risk not recovering
any part of the fi ne. Customs agents argue that this strategy is more benefi cial
than reporting the off ender to the police. Off enders convicted of such frauds
are released aft er only a short period of time, and, in the interest of recover-
ing anything, it makes more sense for customs agents to deal with off enders
directly. Both tax offi cials and customs agents reported cases of agents selling
their identifi cation number to importers. Th ey also reported cases of fi rms that
had declared bankruptcy but were later discovered to be continuing to import.


According to customs authorities, large informal actors are responsible for
the bulk of fraudulent activities and it is more advantageous for customs offi cials
to deal with large informal fi rms than with smaller ones. Large informal fi rms
are more solvent, are better known to customs offi cials, and have more assets to




134 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


protect than do small informal fi rms. Consequently, it is easier to enforce fi nes
on large informal fi rms than on small informal ones.


Coordination between Tax and Customs Administrations Th e customs and
domestic taxation agencies share responsibility for raising revenue. Domestic
tax authorities themselves are quite fragmented. Tax and customs agencies levy
and collect direct taxes, while the treasury collects income taxes and adminis-
ters spending. However, in certain countries, such as Benin, tax agencies col-
lect their own revenues before turning them over to the treasury. Th is does not
apply to the VAT levied at the border, which is collected by customs. Similarly,
many agencies collect taxes on behalf of the treasury. For example, airport taxes
are collected by airline companies, and rental charges for cell phones are col-
lected by the national regulatory authority.


Th e authorities claim that there is a good relationship between the fi scal
agency and other fi nance agencies—customs and the treasury in particular—but
acknowledge that these relationships could be improved. To improve the coordi-
nation of customs and tax agency interventions, a common identifi er (TIN) was
created in Benin and Burkina Faso. A similar step is planned in Senegal.


In order to improve communication between customs and tax authorities,
an investigative unit was created to bring together offi cers from both agencies.
Th is unit undertakes aft er-the-fact investigations, selecting cases based on a
few factors:


• Information obtained from informants
• A random sample of certain products
• Whether or not the product is politically sensitive


Once the sample has been selected, investigators compile the taxpayers’ fi s-
cal and customs information. In Burkina Faso in 2008, 3,409 violations were
recorded, amounting to CFAF 3.6 billion. Th is process is impeded, however, by
the lack of connectivity between networks.


In reality, collaboration between tax and customs remains mini-
mal. Information exchange is limited because both sides are unwilling to
collaborate. WAEMU commission offi cials go even further, arguing that lack
of communication exists even within departments. Within tax agencies, for
example, departments in charge of the VAT and departments in charge of
property taxes do not share fi les. We confi rmed this lack of communica-
tion during our visits to national fi scal agencies. We consolidated the lists
of enterprises used in diff erent divisions, compared them to the list of enter-
prises used in the department that oversees all of the divisions, and found
many discrepancies between the two. On top of this, competition between
customs in diff erent countries to attract greater activity can trump coopera-
tion. For example, Benin and Togo compete for serving as the gateway to the




THE INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR 135


landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger and for smuggling
into Nigeria, as discussed in Chapter 9.


Business Support Agencies
Th e governments of the subregion support small and medium enterprises
(SMEs)—informal sector ones in particular—through support centers for fi nan-
cial and administrative regulation. Th is support is provided mainly through the
centres de gestion agréés and takes many forms:


• Assistance in credit applications as well as provision of information relating
to available fi nancial sources


• Training in accounting, fi nance, and management and information about
fi scal, social, and legal legislation relating to private enterprises


• Preparation of accounting statements
• Assistance relating to fi scal and social security declarations
• Assistance in fulfi lling registration procedures
• Assistance in registering with social security institutions
• Organizational assistance—help in creating an organizational chart for per-


sonnel management and preparing administrative and accounting procedure
manuals


• Assistance in increasing sales
In order to entice SMEs to obey regulations, governments off er them limited


tax allowances. In Senegal, for example, eligibility is limited to fi rms with no
more than CFAF 30 million in sales for commercial enterprises, CFAF 20 mil-
lion for artisan enterprises, and CFAF 10 million for other enterprises. Benefi -
ciaries of the tax allowances are required to produce sincere accounting docu-
ments. An external, centralized accounting system was meant to help to ensure
the honesty of accounts, but the system rarely conducts evaluations. Th e offi cial
report on this program found that it has had little eff ect, with fewer than 200
out of 200,000 informal enterprises participating.


In most countries, support funds for the informal sector are available from
the ministry responsible for SMEs, the treasury, or other agencies. Government
funding for the informal sector in Burkina Faso provides a good illustration
of this system. Several organizations have been established to improve access
to credit. Loan repayment for these facilities has been dismal. Th eoretically,
individuals who default on their loans can be pursued through legal means. In
reality, however, they always end up being released by the police or by the courts
without making good on their obligations.


Th e ultimate objective of this assistance is to promote transition to for-
mal status, in particular as measured by the number of fi rms that switch from




136 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


lump-sum tax status to regular business taxes. By this measure, little has been
accomplished, in part due to the poor functioning of the support agencies.


Business support agencies for the informal sector tend to be very bureau-
cratic, with much red tape inhibiting the eff ective provision of services. Pro-
grams suff er from a grievous lack of coherence: numerous overlapping organi-
zations support informal fi rms without coordination and with much duplication
in their missions and services. Th is leads to strong competition for the same
public resources and turf battles among agencies. In Senegal, for example, sev-
eral organizations provide support to SMEs: the Agency for the Development
of SMEs, the Directorate for SMEs at the Ministry of SMEs, the Directorate of
Industry, the National Agency for the Promotion of Youth Employment, the
National Fund to Promote Youth, and more. Most of these institutions are man-
aged by diff erent ministries, are autonomous, or are affi liated with the presi-
dency of the republic. Th eir missions oft en overlap, and they rarely consult each
other.


Registration Procedures
Numerous institutions are involved with registering fi rms, imposing substantial
costs and time for managers. Th e Ministry of Commerce distributes commer-
cial licenses, commercial registrations, import licenses, and other documents
necessary for obtaining a fi scal identifi cation number. Th e national statistical
agency also plays a role in the registration of enterprises and in the compila-
tion of data on enterprises. All registered enterprises must submit some of their
accounting and fi nancial statements to the fi scal and national statistical agen-
cies. Of course, they are also supposed to register with the tax authorities at the
national and local levels. Firms must also pay fees to register with the Chamber
of Industry and Commerce and must certify that they have paid social security
contributions and other fees.


Th ere are long delays in obtaining import and commercial licenses. Firms
are given temporary certifi cates and have two years to obtain a permanent com-
mercial permit. Th e cost of a business license varies depending on the activity
and the issuing country. Th e various offi cials we interviewed acknowledged the
delays and costs, but all blamed other agencies rather than their own. Private
sector actors found fault with all of the agencies.


State Failures and the Informal Sector in West Africa


Government policies and institutions, and their failures, shape the informal
sector in West African countries. Th ese issues are similar to those highlighted
in the literature review presented earlier. All of the following contribute to infor-
mal sector growth: the length and complexity of registration procedures, the




THE INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR 137


failings of the judicial system, the inadequacy of organizations charged with
recovering loans and providing support to small enterprises (informal enter-
prises in particular), and the ability of large and infl uential actors—oft en with
the government’s help—to bypass regulations. In this section, we analyze a few
of these obstacles to formality.


In West Africa, informal activity is pervasive. Given governments’ limited
monitoring and enforcement capabilities and widespread corruption, informal
enterprises can easily conceal their activities and evade taxes. Firms simply do
not list certain activities in their accounting, present falsifi ed fi nancial state-
ments, import goods under multiple fi scal identifi cation numbers, or smuggle
goods outright. Th ese practices are, however, not without some risks for the
actors involved. Fiscal and customs legislation mandates severe penalties for
these types of fraud. Sometimes, perpetrators are apprehended and suff er very
severe sanctions, which can put their enterprises in danger of bankruptcy, as
seen in chapter 4.


Large informal fi rms are much more vulnerable to detection and sanctions
than are small informal fi rms. In fact, a sort of fool’s bargain exists between
the government and large informal fi rms: the government is oft en aware of the
actions of large informal fi rms, but tolerates and even indulges them. At the
same time, the government has at times cracked down on large informal actors,
as described in chapter 4, with large fi nes or even imprisonment. Th e customs
code is especially draconian, forcing the accused to choose only between accept-
ing the sanctions and going to jail.


Th e Business Climate
Th e quality of services (infrastructure, judiciary, fi nance) aff ects the choices of
fi rms insofar as one of the benefi ts of formal sector status is greater access to
these services; if these services are of poor quality, what is the point of being for-
mal? Likewise, if formal fi rms must comply with onerous regulations and high
taxes, informal sector status is more appealing. Most studies on the investment
climate confi rm that countries in the subregion experience a more adverse busi-
ness environment than do other developing countries (see rankings from the
World Economic Forum’s World Competitiveness Report and the World Bank’s
Doing Business indicators). Countries in West Africa are generally ranked well
below other developing countries. Steel and Snodgrass (2008) conclude that, in
the African context, getting registered and becoming formal are not advanta-
geous for informal fi rms.


Our fi ndings largely confi rm the results of these surveys, but with certain
variations. Few enterprises see registration as an obstacle. Of all the enterprises
included in the second phase of our study, which focused on formal and large
informal fi rms, only 12 percent had encountered obstacles in registering. Enter-
prises did, however, cite many other inadequacies in public services.




138 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Our interviews revealed that perceptions of the institutional environment are
consistent with the fi ndings of the surveys reported in chapter 5. Actors from
the formal sector and the large and small informal sectors all responded simi-
larly concerning their perception of the business environment in their country.
Invariably, they pointed to arbitrariness and delays in the judicial system, the
high cost of factor inputs, as well as the poor quality of water, electricity, and
telephone services. Corruption and ineffi ciency in government, especially fi s-
cal, customs, and commercial agencies, were also oft en mentioned. Opinions
regarding time for obtaining access to these services vary: some actors said
the delays are abnormally lengthy, reduced only by bribes, while others cited
some improvement and did not report that bribes are necessary to gain access.
Customs clearance agents, for example, cited some improvements in a generally
unwelcoming business environment: “We have seen progress in terms of ease of
starting a business. Th e time for obtaining permits has dropped from 126 days
to two days. Th e administration (the legal system, customs, the fi scal agency)
is still too slow, however. Our energy costs are the highest in the region. Th e
informal sector provides unfair competition for the formal sector.”


Formal and informal actors in retail distribution hold similar views on the
informal sector. A supermarket owner complained that the government mis-
manages its relations with both the formal and informal sectors. He argued that
the informal sector mostly arises from this poor management. He told us that
the building that houses his fi rm may be demolished and that the government
plans to compensate the owner of the building for lost business, but not him.
He admitted that most of his local suppliers are informal. Although the law
requires payment by check for all transactions exceeding a certain amount, local
suppliers only accept cash. Taking these fi rms to court accomplishes nothing.
He claimed that the state is ineffi cient and predatory. Advertisements and park-
ing spots are excessively taxed. Moreover, the administration is slow and cor-
rupt. Power outages are frequent, forcing him to buy a generator that is costly
to maintain. Credit is expensive, compounding his diffi culties. He fi nished
by stating that if his fi rm were informal, he would earn much more and have
fewer hassles. A high-ranking Beninese government offi cial adopted a similar
position, stating that the presence of informal fi rms is justifi ed by the need to
provide products and services for poor consumers, for whom formal market
products are too expensive. He also claimed that the informal sector is benefi -
cial because it supplements the meager salaries of civil servants. He himself is
a civil servant in the highest salary bracket, yet he earns a salary of only about
CFAF 300,000. His informal activities cover his end-of-month bills. He noted
that the informal sector acts as a sort of social security system, absorbing unem-
ployed labor and providing cheap products; if it were not for informal fi rms,
there would be food riots.




THE INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR 139


Th e lack of credible policies to promote private sector development becomes
obvious when heads of enterprises are asked about their taxation. Two-thirds
said that the state does not make good use of tax revenue, and this proportion
rises to 88 percent among medium-size fi rms (enterprises with sales of between
CFAF 50 million and CFAF 100 million). Furthermore, 69 percent of respon-
dents said that the state uses public funds unethically. Th is proportion rises to
almost 100 percent among medium-size fi rms. Most fi rms also claim that the
state imposes excessive tax burdens on fi rms, leading to tax evasion. Many also
agree that they are exposed to even greater hassles if they formalize their fi rms.
Among all respondents in Senegal, 52 percent said that paying taxes exposes a
fi rm to greater hassles; 59 percent of large enterprises said they share this view.


A Senegalese tax agent explained the problem to us this way: “Informal actors
are expensive in terms of the research that we need to carry out to tax them.”
Indeed, the fi scal administrations of the three countries seem to be of the opinion
that the cost of obtaining information on informal fi rms outweighs the benefi t of
the increased revenues that would result. Consequently, they focus their eff orts
on the fi rms they can easily identify and from which they can collect the full
amount of taxes due—in other words, formal fi rms, as stated earlier.


Most respondents have a negative view of the level of taxes and the man-
agement of tax collections. Th e majority said that fi scal pressure is very high
(60 percent of all fi rms and 67 percent of large informal fi rms). In addition,
46 percent of respondents reported long queues that make tax payment more
diffi cult; 20 percent said they fi nd it hard to declare taxes and 42 percent said
that the collection service is poorly managed.


Th e state’s failure to enforce obligations is also widely recognized. In Senegal,
for example, 68 percent of interviewees said that the state does not adequately
enforce regulations concerning workers’ social security; the same proportion
said there is inadequate verifi cation of honesty in revenue declarations and
accounting. Th e perceived lack of enforcement capabilities on the part of gov-
ernment is one of the most important determinants of informality.


Inadequate Public Services
Discrimination against the informal sector in access to services does not seem
to be a major problem in West Africa. Public services are poor for both formal
and informal fi rms. All fi rms suff er from similar constraints in this respect.


Education Th e problem with education is not so much lack of resources but
misdirected focus. Governments devote a large share of their resources to educa-
tion and training services. In Senegal, education and training account for more
than 40 percent of the operating budget. Th ese resources, however, are devoted
mainly to general education, with very little allocated for practical training for
enterprises. Formal enterprises suff er as much as informal enterprises from the




140 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


lack of practical orientation. Training is mostly on the job and, for most infor-
mal fi rms, in the form of apprenticeships. Young people who drop out of school
are oft en pushed by their parents toward informal fi rms, where they can be
enrolled as apprentices. Th ey are used for small tasks and are paid so little (or
not paid at all) that they are basically a source of free labor. Th e same appren-
ticeship training occurs in formal enterprises. All formal and informal actors,
regardless of whether they work in textiles, fi shing, or other manufacturing
sectors, decry government’s failure to provide much-needed practical training
for workers (Golub and Mbaye 2002).


Financial Services As we have seen, most informal fi rms, and almost all small
fi rms, have little access to credit. Th ese enterprises must resort to informal
forms of credit, such as loans from family, friends, or tontines, which generally
charge high rates of interest (Johnson 2004; Akoten, Sawada, and Otsuka 2006),
as reported in chapter 5 based on our survey data.


Although fi rms in the large informal sector have access to bank credit, many
of them continue to make use of personal funds or funds from their families
or other personal relations. However, this use of personal savings is a matter
of choice rather than necessity—these fi rms have all the necessary documents
required to obtain a bank loan. Most of these documents are, of course, fraud-
ulent, but this would not be an impediment to accessing bank credit. Th ese
fi rms generally eschew bank credit because the conditions of this credit are
onerous and because the increased transparency of their business income could
increase their exposure to the tax authorities. In an interview, one large informal
fi rm complained about the high cost of credit, citing interest between 13 and
17 percent.


Tax Incentives Discrimination against small informal fi rms occurs, however,
with regard to exemptions and subsidies for which informal fi rms are ineligible.
Th e VAT, which is collected by the fi rm and transferred to the government, is
an example of this type of tax. Firms are supposed to pay the VAT in advance,
when purchasing inputs, and are then supposed to be reimbursed by the fi scal
administration for exemptions. Firms must, however, present credible docu-
ments for reimbursement, which most informal enterprises cannot do. Informal
fi rms also do not benefi t from exemptions on other inputs, like machines and
equipment, which formal fi rms can obtain under several regimes, such as the
investment code and the free zones. However, many formal fi rms frequently fail
to receive refunds owed to them, while large informal fi rms usually have little
trouble obtaining exemptions and refunds.


Th e investment code regime excludes small informal fi rms because the mini-
mum amount that fi rms must invest to benefi t from the exemption is higher
than what most small fi rms are capable of investing. Th e free trade zone regime,
the free trade point regime, and the free status regime also exclude informal




THE INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR 141


fi rms because of investment minimums. As with the other exemptions, small
informal fi rms are excluded; large informal fi rms, however, have the necessary
connections and have no trouble providing the required paperwork to benefi t
from the exemption.


Corruption and the Power of Large, Infl uential Actors
Corruption and failure to enforce rules and regulations are also major determi-
nants of informality. Th e corruption that exists at all rungs of society contrib-
utes to the fl ourishing of large informal fi rms. Oft en, they are well connected
politically, which off ers them some impunity. Court decisions are frequently
challenged, and the press oft en reports corruption scandals in the courts. Large
informal fi rms are supported by a chain of collusion that involves customs, the
administration, and the courts. A customs authority from one of the countries
we visited confi ded to us, “When we arrest a person for fraud, we quickly off er
him a deal and do our best to ensure that the case does not get to the tribunal or
to the police; once there, one is never sure what the outcome will be.”


In our interviews, truckers confi rmed this negative view of the judiciary. One
of them explained, “Th e judicial system is slow and corrupt; we have created
arbitration centers, in conformity with OHADA provisions. Th ere are desig-
nated arbitrators and mediators, who can be lawyers, heads of enterprises, or
others, but arbitration rulings are oft en challenged.”


Some large informal fi rms also rely on Islamic brotherhoods for support, as
discussed in chapter 8, particularly in cross-border trade (chapter 9). Cross-
border trade between Senegal and Th e Gambia off ers a good illustration (Golub
and Mbaye 2009). Th is trade has long been dominated by well-identifi ed social
and religious groups, such as the baolbaol (traders from the Mouride brother-
hood), Guineans, and Mauritanians. Th e Mouride brotherhood plays an impor-
tant role in this process. Collusion between the Senegalese state and heads of the
Mourides has been well documented. In 1986, aft er the partial deregulation of
rice imports, with 25 percent of the market allocated to private enterprises, one
of the largest transporters benefi ting from the clientelistic allocation of market
shares was the personal secretary to the caliph of the Mourides.


Conclusion


Th is chapter focused on how the institutional and policy environment aff ects
the decision of fi rms to operate in the informal sector. As in much of the pre-
vious literature on developing countries, weaknesses in the business climate
are very important determinants of the spread of informality in West Africa.
Formal businesses are subject to a proliferation of taxes, resulting in numerous
duplicative levies that entail onerous compliance costs. Another major problem




142 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


is lack of cooperation among government agencies, particularly between cus-
toms and tax authorities. Also, there are a large number of underfunded and
ineff ective government agencies with overlapping and unclear mandates.


State failures also include corruption, bureaucracy, and the establishment of
state rent-seeking systems. Corruption at all rungs of society contributes to the
fl ourishing of large informal fi rms. Th e weaknesses of the state are also manifest
at the level of tax collection. Fiscal authorities disproportionately target formal
fi rms. Many fi rm managers also believe that underreporting of income is per-
vasive and not sanctioned by the government.


Due largely to these problems, indicators of the business climate are poor. In
this regard, our surveys and interviews for the most part corroborate standard
international rankings and indicators of the business environment.


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Chapter


145


7


Informality and Productivity
With Dominique Haughton


Central to the impact of informality on development is its relation to productiv-
ity. Previous research has shown that informality is associated with lower growth
and productivity. Th e productivity gap could be either a consequence or a cause
of informality. Our results for West Africa confi rm that informal fi rms have lower
productivity than formal fi rms, with an important twist: the diff erential between
formal and informal fi rms is much smaller for large informal fi rms than for
smaller informal fi rms. We also investigate the sources of productivity diff erences
and the direction of causality between productivity and informality.


The Importance of Productivity


In recent years, there has been renewed interest in examining the trends and
determinants of productivity, both in the economic literature and among policy
makers. Krugman (1994) states concisely, “Productivity isn’t everything, but in
the long run, it is almost everything. A country’s ability to improve its standard
of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per
worker.” Indeed, there is no disputing that productivity is central to a country’s
growth and standard of living. Furthermore, productivity aff ects international
competitiveness, employment, and overall well-being.


In the empirical literature on growth accounting, total factor productiv-
ity (TFP) growth is estimated to account for one-third to half of the observed
growth rate of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita (Nehru and Dhareshwar
1994). Th e Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD
2008) estimates that the contribution of TFP to GDP growth averaged somewhere
between 1 and 3 percentage points between 1985 and 2006 for G7 countries and
up to 6 percentage points for other OECD countries. Some economists, such as
Nordhaus (2001) and Krugman (1990), consider productivity to be a good indica-
tor of standard of living. Causa and Cohen (2005) note, “Th e industrial productiv-
ity of a country is one of the key determinants of its prosperity.” Schreyer and Pilat




146 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


(2001) observe that computed productivity refl ects a variety of factors, including
technological progress, competition in product markets, scale economies, and
state of the business cycle, among others. In recent years, a controversy over the
nature of the relationship between productivity and growth has arisen from what
is now commonly referred to as the productivity paradox. Several studies have
found that investment in information and communication technologies (ICTs)
does not, in general, appear to raise productivity (Sharpe 1997). It has become
increasingly clear that the diffi culty of measuring productivity in the service sec-
tor can explain much of this productivity paradox.


Many studies have also focused on the relationship between productivity and
international competitiveness. Mbaye and Golub (2003) defi ne competitiveness
in terms of relative unit labor costs—the ratio of wages to labor productivity in
one country compared to the ratio in others. If productivity grows more rap-
idly than labor compensation, cost competitiveness tends to improve, boosting
exports. Mbaye and Golub confi rm that relative unit labor costs aff ect exports
of manufactured products for Senegal. Golub and Edwards (2004) obtain simi-
lar results for South Africa using the same methodology. Likewise, Causa and
Cohen (2005) fi nd a correlation between low productivity in developing coun-
tries and diffi culties in exporting. Th e OECD (2008) also fi nds that increasing
productivity boosts competitiveness by lowering unit labor costs.


Productivity also largely determines the standard of living, since per capita
income is clearly associated with output per worker. Poverty tends to decline
with increasing output and, therefore, with increasing productivity. For exam-
ple, in Senegal, the elasticity of poverty is much greater with respect to per
capita income than with respect to inequality, as measured by the Gini coef-
fi cient (Mbaye 2006).1


Productivity and Informality in Developing Countries


A large literature shows a strong negative correlation between informality and
productivity of fi rms in developing countries. In their review of factors explain-
ing fi rm growth, Steel and Snodgrass (2008) distinguish between factors exter-
nal to the fi rm (market demand for goods produced by the fi rm, a favorable
business environment, quality of infrastructure, access to resources, fi nancing,
inputs, training and other fi rm development services, and information on the
market) and factors internal to the fi rm (quality of staff , management, and
supervisors). Th ey fi nd that the productivity diff erential between the two cate-
gories of fi rms is due mainly to unequal access to public services. Using a model
of endogenous growth, Loayza (1997) develops a mechanism whereby informal
sector expansion is negatively correlated with overall economic growth. Th e
negative eff ect of informality on growth is due to the fact that the informal
sector creates a sort of congestion in the use of certain public goods. Informal




INFORMALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY 147


actors consume these goods, but do not contribute to their fi nancing through
taxes. He fi nds support for his model with empirical tests on Latin American
data. Gelb et al. (2009) compare the productivity of formal fi rms and informal
fi rms using surveys on the investment climate for several countries in South-
ern and Eastern Africa. Th eir results confi rm that formal sector fi rms are, on
average, more productive than informal ones, but the gap between formal and
informal fi rms is much less for East African countries than for Southern Afri-
can countries. Th ey attribute this to the diff erence in the quality of the business
environment and the enforcement of rules. Th e relative weakness of the state
in East Africa undermines the performance of formal fi rms, thereby lowering
the gap between formal and informal fi rm productivity. Th at is, the benefi ts of
formalization are low in terms of productivity diff erentials if business services
are of poor quality or if informal operators can evade taxes and regulations.


La Porta and Shleifer (2008) obtain related results using World Bank infor-
mal sector surveys covering registered and unregistered fi rms in 13 countries (6
from Africa) and microenterprise surveys covering 14 countries (India and 13
from Africa). Th eir most salient result is that the productivity of formal fi rms is
substantially greater than that of informal fi rms, although most strongly so in
India. However, once they control for expenditure on inputs, human capital of
the top manager, and fi rm size, being unregistered has little additional impact
on productivity. By contrast, Perry et al. (2007) fi nd a residual negative impact
of informality on productivity, even when other characteristics are controlled
for. Dabla-Norris, Gradstein, and Inchauste (2008) also fi nd a fairly strong cor-
relation between informality and productivity of fi rms. None of these studies,
however, considers large informal fi rms.


Perry et al. (2007), using aggregated data, fi nd that the connection between
informality and low productivity is nuanced in Latin America. According to
them, informal entrepreneurs are well aware of their limitations with regard to
access to capital and skilled labor. Th erefore, they tend to operate in sectors where
it is possible to produce more effi ciently on a small scale. Th is is facilitated by the
fact that product demand in sectors where the informal sector thrives tends to
be negatively correlated with per capita income, and those sectors predominate
in most developing countries. Moreover, even in instances where a productivity
diff erential favors formal businesses, informal businesses compete successfully by
evading taxes and other charges levied on formal fi rms. Perry et al. also cast doubt
on the negative eff ect of informality on growth, fi nding that the coeffi cient of
informality is not robust in a regression on per capita income. Th e problem is that
most of the variables used to explain growth are also correlated with the informal
sector. Th us it is quite diffi cult to distinguish their direct impact on growth from
the impact of informality. When they consider the relationship between infor-
mality and productivity using disaggregated data, they fi nd a 29 percent diff er-
ence, on average, in labor productivity between the formal and informal sectors
of seven Latin American and Caribbean countries in their sample. Th ey fi nd that




148 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


the productivity of fi rms that started as informal but later formalized was higher
than that of fi rms that started and remained informal, suggesting that formaliza-
tion may have a positive eff ect on productivity and growth.


Methodology


To compare productivity levels between the formal and informal sectors for our
survey sample, we compute two alternative measures of productivity with our
survey data: labor productivity and total factor productivity (Harrigan 1997;
Mbaye 2003; Mbaye and Golub 2003). Labor productivity, LP, is measured
using the following ratio:


LP
Q
Li


i= , (7.1)


where Q is the value added and L is the number of employees for fi rm i, both
permanent and nonpermanent.


In order to measure total factor productivity, we use the Cobb-Douglas pro-
duction function: Qi = ALiαKiβ, where K is capital stock and α and β are the
respective shares of labor and capital in total factor income:


TFP
Q


L K
Ai i


i i


= =α β . (7.2)


Under the usual assumption of constant returns to scale, we have α + β = 1.
TFP can be estimated using a log-linear version of the Cobb-Douglas produc-
tion function, where ε is a random error:


Log Q = A + α Log L + β Log K + ε. (7.3)


Total factor productivity is usually computed as the constant term in equa-
tion 7.3. Equation 7.3 would then be run separately for each of the three sub-
groups in our sample (formal, large informal, and small informal fi rms). Th is
would provide measures of average TFP for the various fi rms in the three cat-
egories, assuming that the production functions for the individual fi rms are of
the Cobb-Douglas type with constant returns to scale.


LP and TFP are related as follows:


LP AL K
L


TFP K
L


= =
α β β


. (7.4)


ln ln ln
1 1 1


1


LP
LP


TFP
TFP


K
L


K
L


t


t


t


t


t
t


t
t


= +β
− − −




. (7.5)




INFORMALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY 149


Recall that β represents the capital share of income.
Estimations of TFP using equation 7.3-like regressions have given rise to


several criticisms in the literature: (a) TFP is computed under the assumption
of constant returns to scale, which might lead one to attribute to technological
variation the eff ect of scale on input effi cacy, and (b) factor shares in total costs
are assumed to be identical across sectors, which is not necessarily always the
case, since technology may vary across fi rms and industries (Harrigan 1997;
Mbaye 2002). Mbaye (2002) tests the fi rst hypothesis using the Wald test as
well as an alternative specifi cation of the TFP equation and rules out the scale
eff ect in both cases for Senegal. To allow for diff erent production functions and
technologies across fi rms, we calculated factor shares at the fi rm level. Results
presented below are based on this method using fi rm-specifi c parameters.


Equation 7.4 indicates that labor productivity is a function of TFP and capi-
tal intensity, while equation 7.5 shows the same relationship in rates of change.
A rise in capital intensity will lead to a rise in labor productivity, holding A
constant. Th ese equations suggest that productivity diff erentials between sec-
tors could be due either to diff erences in effi ciency or technology (TFP) or to
diff erences in capital-labor ratios. Diff erences in capital-labor ratios could, in
turn, refl ect diff erential access to fi nancing between formal and informal fi rms
or between large and small fi rms. Our results indicate that productivity diff er-
ences between formal and informal fi rms refl ect diff erences in both effi ciency
and capital intensity.


Survey Results


Our results confi rm a signifi cant productivity gap between the formal and
informal sectors of the three cities, but the gap is much smaller for the large
informal sector. Labor productivity and TFP are higher, on average, in formal
fi rms than in large informal fi rms, which, in turn, have higher productivity than
small informal fi rms. Th is is consistent with the literature on labor productivity
cited above. Few other studies, however, have considered TFP. As noted, this is
important because diff erences in labor productivity between fi rms may refl ect
capital intensity rather than diff erential technology. Another improvement over
previous literature is the use of alternative indicators or correlates of informal-
ity. Our estimates proved to be robust with respect to these various measures.


Figure 7.1 displays boxplots of the distribution of productivity levels for the
formal and informal sectors, using the continuous defi nition of informality
described in chapter 1 for the three cities. Informality here is on a 0–5 scale,
where 0 is completely formal and 5 is completely informal, based on the number
of criteria of formality a given fi rm meets.2 Productivity gaps are sizable in all
three cities and are particularly pronounced in Ouagadougou. Th is particularly




150 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Figure 7.1 Productivity of Firms in the Three West African Cities, by Level of Informality


TF
P


Level of informality


0


2.0e+07


4.0e+07


6.0e+07


0 1 2 3 4 5


a. Dakar


0


2.0e+07


4.0e+07


6.0e+07


0 1 2 3 4 5


TF
P


Level of informality


b. Ouagadougou


large discrepancy in Ouagadougou is likely to be related to fi rms’ perception of
the business environment, which is considerably better in Burkina Faso than in
the other countries. Whether one considers access to basic social services, the
amount of time necessary to obtain access to these services, or average duration
of service disruptions, the results of our surveys indicate that the situation is far




INFORMALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY 151


more favorable in Ouagadougou than in the other cities. Th is lends credence
to the hypothesis proposed by Gelb et al. (2009) that the two most important
determinants of the productivity diff erential between the formal and informal
sectors are the quality of the business environment and the ability of the state
to establish and enforce laws and regulations.


Figure 7.2 shows the distribution of productivity for formal, large infor-
mal, and small informal fi rms in the three cities. Formal fi rms account for
the bulk of fi rms with the highest labor productivity, whereas informal fi rms
constitute a large majority of fi rms with low productivity. For example, in
the case of Dakar, among the companies with a productivity level between
CFAF 100 million and CFAF 300 million per worker, 77 percent are in the
formal sector, with 23 percent and 0 percent in the large and small informal
sectors, respectively. Conversely, among fi rms with productivity levels below
CFAF 5 million, only 13 percent are in the formal sector, 8 percent are in the
large informal sector, and the remaining 79 percent are in the small informal
sector (see fi gure 7.3).


We are also interested in the magnitude of absolute productivity gaps
between the three types of fi rms. As it turns out, the productivity diff erential


Figure 7.1 continued


0


2.0e+07


4.0e+07


6.0e+07


0 1 2 3 4 5


TF
P


Level of informality


c. Cotonou


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.
Note: Informality is on a scale of 0–5, where 0 is completely formal and 5 is completely informal.




152 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Figure 7.2 Labor Productivity of Firms in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or
Informal Status (Share of Firms in Each Productivity Range)


80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0


79


14
7


31
23


46


13
8


79


Less than CFAF 5 million


a. Dakar


b. Cotonou


c. Ouagadougou


CFAF 5 to CFAF 30 million CFAF 30 million and more


Less than CFAF 5 million CFAF 5 to CFAF 30 million CFAF 30 million and more


Less than CFAF 5 million CFAF 5 to CFAF 30 million CFAF 30 million and more


100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0


83


17


0


29


52




2018




77


5


50 50


0


38
44


18


7
2


91
100


90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0


Formal Large informal Small informal


%
o


f f
ir


m
s


%
o


f f
ir


m
s


%
o


f f
ir


m
s


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




INFORMALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY 153


Figure 7.3 Firm Distribution according to Informality and the Level of Productivity in Dakar,
Ouagadougou, and Cotonou


80


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0
<5 5–15 15–30 30–50 50–75 75–100 100–300 >300


a. Dakar


Pe
rc


en
t


CFA francs (millions)


90


80


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0
<5 5–15 15–30 30–50 50–75 75–100 100–300


b. Ouagadougou


Pe
rc


en
t


CFA francs (millions)


100


90


80


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0
<5 5–15 15–30 30–50 50–100 100–300 >300


c. Cotonou


Pe
rc


en
t


CFA francs (millions)


Formal Large informal Small informal


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




154 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


is relatively small between the formal and large informal sectors, whereas the
gap between either of those subgroups and the small informal sector is quite
pronounced. For example, in Dakar, 22 percent of the fi rms in the formal sec-
tor and 21 percent of fi rms in the large informal sector achieve productivity
levels higher than CFAF 50 million, but no fi rms in the small informal sector do
so. At higher productivity levels, the diff erences between the formal and large
informal sectors are clearer. For example, in Senegal, 17 percent of formal sector


Figure 7.4 Labor Productivity of Firms in the Three West African Cities, by Formal or
Informal Status and Various Correlates of Informality


90


80


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0


68


57


75
80


73
77


85 85


76


Less than CFAF 5 million CFAF 5 to CFAF 30 million CFAF 30 million and more


Less than CFAF 5 million CFAF 5 to CFAF 30 million CFAF 30 million and more


80


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0


71
64




75


39


60




59


23


37


19


a. Access to bank credit


b. Compliance with social security obligations


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


%
o


f fi
rm


s
%


o
f fi


rm
s




INFORMALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY 155


fi rms have productivity levels that exceed CFAF 100 million, as compared with
only 10 percent of fi rms in the large informal sector.


Th ese productivity diff erences are robust to alternative indicators or cor-
relates of informality such as social insurance contributions for employees
and maintenance of honest accounts (fi gure 7.4). For example, fi rms that off er


Figure 7.4 (continued)


85


80


75


70


65


60


55


50


45


40


53


79


64


81


50


78


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


100


90


80


70


60


50


81


95


84


93


55


67%
o


f fi
rm


s


Less than CFAF 50 million CFAF 50 million or more


Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


c. Honest accounting


d. Registration with authorities


%
o


f fi
rm


s


Below median productivity Above median productivity


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




156 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


their employees social security coverage (that is, mainly formal fi rms) have
markedly higher productivity than fi rms that do not off er such coverage. Th us
among fi rms with productivity levels below CFAF 5 million in Ouagadougou,
81 percent off er no social insurance coverage for employees. Conversely, in the
same country, among fi rms in Ouagadougou that achieve a productivity level
superior to CFAF 30 million, 64 percent have social security coverage, while
the remainder of fi rms belonging to the large informal sector do not.3 Access
to bank credit is an exception, because formal fi rms have only slightly greater
recourse to bank loans than informal fi rms, as shown in chapter 5.


Factors Explaining the Productivity Gap


As mentioned in the previous section, many factors have been identifi ed to
explain the productivity diff erentials between the formal and informal sectors.
Here, we discuss a few of them and then proceed to a multivariate econometric
analysis.


Access to Credit, Capital Intensity, and Total Factor Productivity
Th is section discusses the issue of unequal access to credit and its impact on
capital intensity as a possible explanation for the labor productivity diff erential
between formal and informal fi rms. Firms in the formal and informal sectors
have somewhat diff erent levels of access to funding. While formal fi rms can
obtain bank fi nancing, informal fi rms are fi nanced almost exclusively by equity
capital as well as by various microfi nance institutions or help from friends and
family. Th e question that arises is the extent to which the observed diff erences
in fi nancing explain the productivity gap between the two sectors. Some insight
into this question can be obtained from the breakdown of labor productivity
into total factor productivity and capital intensity in equations 7.4 and 7.5.


Capital intensity is the ratio of capital stock to the number of employees of
the fi rm. Capital stock is calculated as the sum of net investments in the past fi ve
years; employment includes both permanent and seasonal workers. According
to equations 7.4 and 7.5, capital intensity accounts for any diff erences between
labor productivity and TFP. To the extent that capital intensity is larger for for-
mal than for informal forms, this diff erence could be explained by greater access
to fi nancing. We provide partial support for this hypothesis. Access to credit
does diff er between formal and informal fi rms, but not by as much as one might
expect, according to our surveys. Nevertheless, substantial disparities in capital
intensity between formal and informal fi rms may arise partially from diff er-
ences in access to credit but from other sources as well; for example, informal
fi rms are skittish about large capital investments that could be confi scated and
are attracted to endeavors with rapid returns on investment.




INFORMALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY 157


Th e distribution of fi rm-level total factor productivity by formal or informal
status is quite similar to that of labor productivity—that is, formal fi rms tend to
have higher TFP than informal fi rms. Taking the example of Cotonou, 34 per-
cent of small informal fi rms have TFP above the median for Cotonou, whereas
63 percent of formal fi rms have TFP above the median (fi gure 7.5).


TFP is found to be correlated with the age of the fi rm, regardless of formal-
ity status—older fi rms tend to be more productive (table 7.1). For example,
for fi rms over 14 years old in Dakar, the probability that TFP will be above the
sample average is 50 percent for formal fi rms, 30 percent for large informal
fi rms, and only 7 percent for small informal fi rms. Firm size also aff ects TFP
within the formal and informal sectors. Th e probability that small fi rms (fewer
than fi ve employees) in our Dakar sample will have above-average TFP is 25, 20,
and 4 percent for the formal, large informal, and small informal sectors, respec-
tively. However, if we consider fi rms in Dakar with more than 10 employees, the
likelihood of achieving TFP above the sample average is 30, 33, and 0 percent,
respectively, for formal, large informal, and small informal fi rms (table 7.2).


Capital intensity also diff ers between formal and informal fi rms. Formal
fi rms have higher labor productivity, effi ciency (TFP), and capital intensity
than large and small informal fi rms. Th is suggests that diff erences in labor pro-
ductivity refl ect both diff erences in effi ciency (TFP) and diff erences in capital
intensity.


Figure 7.5 Share of Firms in which TFP is above Economy-wide Median TFP Levels, by Formal
or Informal Status


70


60


50


40


30


20


10


0


%
o


f f
ir


m
s


Dakar OuagadougouCotonou


Formal Large informal Small informal


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




158 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Table 7.1 Probability of Reaching Average TFP in the Three West African Cities, by Firm Age
and Formal or Informal Status


Firm age and status Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Formal


Below 10 years 0.14 0.14 0.33


10 to 14 years 0.33 0.60 0.18


Over 14 years 0.50 0.22 0.25


Large informal


Below 10 years 0.17 0.63 0.30


10 to 14 years 0.40 0.40 0.19


Over 14 years 0.30 0.33 0.21


Small informal


Below 10 years 0.00 0.07 0.00


10 to 14 years 0.00 0.04 0.03


Over 14 years 0.07 0.09 0.06


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.


Table 7.2 Probability of Reaching Average TFP in the Three West African Cities, by Firm Size
and Formal or Informal Status


Firm size and status Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Formal


Below 5 employees 0.25 0.29 0.21


5 to 10 employees 0.33 0.25 0.22


Over 10 employees 0.30 0.31 0.27


Large informal


Below 5 employees 0.20 0.45 0.20


5 to 10 employees 0.25 0.25 0.19


Over 10 employees 0.33 0.50 0.21


Small informal


Below 5 employees 0.04 0.03 0.00


5 to 10 employees 0.00 0.07 0.06


Over 10 employees 0.00 0.09 0.11


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.


Firm longevity and size are correlated with capital intensity as well as pro-
ductivity. Among fi rms that have been in operation for less than 10 years, the
probability of reaching the average level of capital intensity is 21 percent for
formal, 11 percent for large informal, and 0 percent for small informal fi rms.
For fi rms in operation for more than 14 years, the probability rises to 33 percent
for formal, 25 percent for large informal, and 5 percent for small informal fi rms




INFORMALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY 159


(table 7.3). When we consider the criterion of size, the same pattern emerges.
For smaller fi rms in our sample (fewer than fi ve employees), the probability
of above-average capital intensity is 37 percent for formal, 18 percent for large
informal, and 3 percent for small informal fi rms. For larger companies (more
than 10 employees), the probability is 36 percent for formal, 25 percent for large
informal, and 20 percent for small informal fi rms (table 7.4).


Table 7.3 Probability of Reaching Average Capital Intensity in the Three West African Cities,
by Firm Age and Formal or Informal Status


Firm age and status Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Formal


Below 10 years 0.21 0.33 0.33


10 to 14 years 0.25 0.60 0.32


Over 14 years 0.33 0.39 0.25


Large informal


Below 10 years 0.11 0.63 0.43


10 to 14 years 0.25 0.50 0.47


Over 14 years 0.25 0.22 0.42


Small informal


Below 10 years 0.00 0.04 0.19


10 to 14 years 0.00 0.08 0.14


Over 14 years 0.05 0.05 0.14


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.


Table 7.4 Probability of Reaching Average Capital Intensity in the Three West African Cities,
by Firm Size and Formal or Informal Status


Firm size and status Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Formal


Below 5 employees 0.37 0.62 0.36


5 to 10 employees 0.33 0.50 0.38


Above 10 employees 0.36 0.23 0.27


Large informal


Below 5 employees 0.18 0.53 0.36


5 to 10 employees 0.25 0.25 0.41


Above 10 employees 0.25 0.20 0.18


Small informal


Below 5 employees 0.03 0.08 0.21


5 to 10 employees 0.06 0.02 0.16


Above 10 employees 0.20 0.09 0.05


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




160 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Gender and Educational Level of the Managers and Employees
Th e factors that explain the productivity gap seem quite varied and are very
similar to factors associated with informality. Th e gender and education level
of top management are other key factors that condition the productivity diff er-
ential between the formal and informal sectors. If the head of a fi rm is male, the
likelihood of reaching the average productivity threshold in Dakar is 34 percent
for formal fi rms, 33 percent for large informal fi rms, and 2 percent for small
informal fi rms. However, if the head is female, then the probability drops to 15,
21, and 2 percent, respectively (table 7.5).


Th e skill level of the fi rm’s staff , which is proxied by average monthly salary,
also matters for labor productivity. When the staff averages a monthly salary
below the minimum wage, the probability that the fi rm will reach average pro-
ductivity levels is 0 percent for the formal sector (probably because the propor-
tion of staff paid minimum wages in the formal sector is negligible), 33 percent
for the large informal sector, and 3 percent for the small informal sector, again
using Dakar data. However, if the head of the fi rm has a monthly salary of more
than CFAF 200,000, the proportion then becomes 34 percent in the formal sec-
tor, 45 percent in the large informal sector, and 8 percent in the small informal
sector (table 7.6).


Th e average education level of a fi rm’s staff is also correlated with productiv-
ity: 44 percent of employees in formal fi rms that perform at an average level
of productivity or higher are university educated, while in the large informal
sector only 20 percent of employees are university educated (table 7.7). In gen-
eral, only 18 percent of fi rms with university-educated staff perform at a pro-
ductivity level below CFAF 5 million. In the case of fi rms with turnover rates


Table 7.5 Probability of Achieving Average Productivity in the Three West African Cities,
by Gender of the Manager and Formal or Informal Status


Gender of the manager
and status Dakar Ouagadougou Cotonou


Formal


Male 0.34 0.52 0.24


Female 0.15 0.75 0.36


Large informal


Male 0.33 0.81 0.46


Female 0.21 0.50 0.50


Small informal


Male 0.02 0.04 0.03


Female 0.02 0.03 0.04


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




INFORMALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY 161


between CFAF 100 million and CFAF 300 million, the proportion of fi rms with
university-educated staff is 38 percent.


Use of Information and Communication Technologies
Th e use of new ICTs is strongly correlated with informal status and productiv-
ity levels. Among fi rms with productivity below CFAF 5 million, 76 percent
do not use e-mail to communicate with customers, as opposed to 38 percent


Table 7.6 Probability of Achieving Average Productivity in the Three West African Cities,
by Average Salary of Employees and Formal or Informal Status


Monthly salary and status Dakar Cotonou Ouagadougou


Formal


Below CFAF 35,000 0.00 0.25 0.13


CFAF 35,000 to CFAF 200,000 0.50 0.56 0.38


Over CFAF 200,000 0.34 0.86 0.55


Large informal


Below CFAF 35,000 0.33 0.38 0.21


CFAF 35,000 to CFAF 200,000 0.33 0.67 0.33


Above CFAF 200,000 0.45 0.80 0.50


Small informal


Below CFAF 35,000 0.03 0.00 0.05


CFAF 35,000 to CFAF 200,000 0.03 0.21 0.06


Over CFAF 200,000 0.08 0.20 0.10


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.


Table 7.7 Share of Firms with Above-Average Productivity in the Three West African Cities,
by Education Level of Employees and Formal or Informal Status
% of firms


City and status None Primary Secondary University Total


Dakar


Formal 0 25 31 44 100


Large informal 10 20 50 20 100


Ouagadougou


Formal 0 33 33 33 100


Large informal 50 0 50 0 100


Coutonou


Formal 0 0 80 20 100


Large informal 0 0 100 0 100


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




162 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


among fi rms with turnover between CFAF 100 million and CFAF 300 million.
Likewise, among fi rms with productivity below CFAF 5 million, 85 percent do
not use websites to interact with customers, as opposed to 77 percent of fi rms
with turnover between CFAF 100 million and CFAF 300 million.


Informal Sector and Productivity: Econometric Modeling
and Testing Causality


In this section, we analyze the relationship between the informal sector and
labor productivity using multivariate regressions. We also analyze causality
between the two variables using the DAG (directed acyclic graphs) method.


An Econometric Analysis of the Relationship
between Informality and Productivity
To test the impact of informal status on productivity more fully, we use a simple
ordinary least squares (OLS) regression. Th e dependent variable is the log of
labor productivity, which is regressed on a variety of explanatory variables such
as informality, the characteristics of corporate managers, the sectors in which
fi rms operate, as well as their perceptions of the business environment and the
labor market. Th ese sets of candidate variables and their expected eff ects are
presented in table 7.8. Using the stepwise backward procedure, we proceed to
eliminate certain variables in order to retain only the most signifi cant.


Th e results obtained with our baseline regression are presented in table 7.9.
Our results indicate that all variables are signifi cant with the expected sign.
Informality is here considered as a categorical variable that takes on the values
1, 2, and 3, respectively, for large informal, formal, and small informal fi rms.
Th e variable for formal fi rms is considered to be the reference variable and is
dropped. Th e variable for small informal fi rms has a negative coeffi cient that is
signifi cant at the 1 percent level, while the large informal variable has a positive
coeffi cient that is signifi cant at the 1 percent level. Other factors involved in
determining labor productivity are capital intensity (positive and signifi cant at
1 percent) and the fi rm’s industry affi liation.


Th ree potential problems could bias the results of our regressions:


1. Most variables are not normally distributed, and many have highly skewed
distributions.


2. A nonlinear specifi cation might yield superior results.
3. While our descriptive statistics, along with the results obtained from our


basic regression, indicate a negative correlation between informality and
productivity, this does not indicate the direction of causation; bidirectional
causality between these two variables could induce endogeneity bias.




INFORMALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY 163


Table 7.8 Explanatory Variables and Their Expected Effects


Variable Expected sign


Household characteristics of head of enterprise or its
employees, aggregated at the enterprise level


Age −/+


Sex −/+


Matrimonial status −/+


Education level +


Illiteracy −


Household position (head of the household, other) −/+


Sectoral characteristics


Capital intensity +


Level of import protection +/−


Exports as a % of total output −/+


Agents’ views of weak regulatory framework and labor market


Perception of the high cost of labor and other nontradable factors −


Perception of the restrictiveness of labor legislation −


Fiscal harassment −


Perception of low effi cacy of government inspection services (security,
quality control)




Perception of fi nancing constraints −


Perception of the credibility of overall economic policy −


Source: Authors.


Table 7.9 Regression of the Log of Labor Productivity (lprod) on Formal or Informal Status
and Other Explanatory Variables


Lprod Coeffi cient
Standard


error T P>|t| [95% Conf. Interval]


Capital labor ratio 0.096 0.027 3.550 0.000 0.43 0.149


Services 0.463 0.218 2.130 0.034 0.035 0.891


Trade 0.836 0.220 3.790 0.000 0.402 1.270


Buildings 0.709 0.425 1.670 0.097 −0.128 1.546


Legal structure 0.606 0.340 1.780 0.076 −0.064 1.275


Small informal −1.401 0.239 −5.860 0.000 −1.872 −0.930


Big informal 0.658 0.295 2.230 0.027 0.077 1.239


Constant 13.054 0.521 25.050 0.000 12.028 14.080


Source: Authors.
Note: Number of observations = 286; F(7, 278) = 22,05; Prob > F = 0; R2 = 0.36.




164 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


To address the fi rst and second problems, we used the CART (classifi ca-
tion and regression trees) method, a nonparametric relational analysis method.
Th e results (obtained with IBM-SPSS decision trees) are presented in fi gure 7.6
(IBM n.d.). Th is method considers several potential independent variables and
examines which one provides the single best split of the dependent variable (log
of labor productivity) into the two most homogeneous groups (that is, those
having the smallest standard deviation). In the three cities, whether or not a
fi rm is informal provides the best split. Th e procedure is then repeated itera-
tively on each of the two groups generated by the previous split. Th e fact that
informal or formal status emerges as the variable that best splits labor produc-
tivity observations into two distinct groups indicates the decisive connection


Figure 7.6 Classification and Regression Trees


a. Dakar


Node 0


LPROD


Informal
Improvement=0.8794


14.2568
1.7453
295
100.00
14.2568


13.5232
1.3343
183
62.03
13.5232


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 1


Number of employees
Improvement=0.1736


15.4555
1.6768
112
37.97
15.4555


16.0849
1.5960
60
20.34
16.0849


14.7291
1.4726
52
17.63
14.7291


13.0314
1.4528
44
14.92
13.0314


13.6788
1.2605
139
47.12
13.6788


12.5925
1.5062
27
9.15
12.5925


13.7285
1.0697
17
5.76
13.7285


12.9251
1.0634
23
7.80
12.9251


13.8283
1.2467
116
39.32
13.8283


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Formal; large informal Small informal


Node 2


Sector
Improvement=0.0475


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Services, Building
and public work


Node 6
Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Industry


Node 5


LVALUEIN
Improvement=0.0531


LIC
Improvement=0.0506


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


>1.4983908863185582


Node 10


<=1.4983908863185582


Node 9
Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


>16.684468298477103


Node 8
Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


<=16.684468298477103


Node 7


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


>11.5


Node 4
Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


<=11.5


Node 3




INFORMALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY 165


Figure 7.6 (continued)


b. Ouagadougou


Node 0


LPROD


Informal
Improvement=1.5269


13.8892
1.9876
299
100.00
13.8892


16.0832
1.5909
72
24.08
16.0832


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 1


number of employees
Improvement=0.3053


13.1933
1.5473
227
75.92
13.1933


13.7216
1.3044
134
44.82
13.7216


12.4320
1.5586
93
31.10
12.4320


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


small informal formal, large informal


Node 2


LIC
Improvement=0.0772


13.9308
1.3149
86
28.76
13.9308


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 6
13.3467
1.2102
48
16.05
13.3467


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 5


14.2844
1.0241
58
19.40
14.2844


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 8
13.1985
1.5505
28
9.36
13.1985


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 7


14.9329
0.8246
15
5.02
14.9329


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 10
14.0581
0.9970
43
14.38
14.0581


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 9


number of employees
Improvement=0.0745


Sector
Improvement =0.0285


<=0.5


Commerce; Indutrie Services merchands non financiers
Batiment; Agriculture; Autres


>0.5


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


>3.5


Node 4
Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


<=3.5


Node 3


<=13.671669521738384 >13.671669521738384




166 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Figure 7.6 (continued)


c. Cotonou


Node 0


LPROD


Informal
Improvement=1.0485


15.0839
1.9847
308
100.00
15.0839


16.3313
1.6470
124
40.26
16.3313


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 1


number of employees
Improvement=0.0999


number of employees
Improvement=0.0944


14.2433
1.7379
184
59.74
14.2433


14.4795
1.5111
138
44.81
14.4795


13.5349
2.1555
46
14.94
13.5349


16.6409
1.5840
88
28.57
16.6409


15.5743
1.5703
36
11.69
15.5743


16.6942
1.4432
68
22.08
16.6942


16.4598
2.0249
20
6.49
16.4598


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


small informal formal, large informal


Node 2


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


>6.5


Node 6
Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


<=6.5


Node 5


ACCREFF
Improvement=0.1516


Sector of activity
Improvement=0.0608


LIC
Improvement=0.0764


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 12Node 11
12.5703
2.0765
24
7.79
12.5703


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 10
14.5873
1.7348
22
7.14
14.5873


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 9
14.9388
1.2494
54
17.53
14.9388


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 8
14.1842
1.5959
84
27.27
14.1842


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 7


13.6587
1.7654
26
8.44
13.6587


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 14
14.4198
1.4694
58
18.83
14.4198


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 13


14.0784
1.4325
41
13.31
14.0784


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 16
15.2433
1.2420
17
5.52
15.2433


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


Node 15


<=0.5


LIC
Improvement = 0.0859


LVALUEIN
Improvement =0.0530


<=15.007593097957509


<=14.162084148994246 >14.16208418994246


>15.007593097957509


>0.5
Industry, services, buildings and


public work, financial services <=15.650220816838905 >15.650220816838905


Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


>4.5


Node 4
Mean
Std. Dev.
n
%
Predicted


<=4.5


Node 3


Source: Based on authors’ firm survey data.




INFORMALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY 167


between informality and fi rm productivity. Moreover, the CART analysis lumps
large informal and formal sectors together into one homogeneous group, while
placing the small informal sector into a separate group. Th e gap in average log
productivity between the grouped formal and large informal sectors relative
to the small informal sector is 2.09, 1.93, and 2.89 for Dakar, Cotonou, and
Ouagadougou, respectively. For further details on the CART methodology and
a discussion of its use in the literature on the analysis of living standards, see
Haughton and Haughton (2011, ch. 4).


In addition to the informal sector classifi cation, other factors also aff ect labor
productivity according to the CART analysis: namely, the sector in which the
fi rm operates, fi rm size, and capital intensity. Th ese fi ndings are quite consistent
with the fi ndings from our regressions and the descriptive statistics. However,
interaction eff ects seem to be strong between certain explanatory variables, par-
ticularly the sector of activity and informality status, implying that the impact of
informality status on productivity is likely to depend on the sector of activity, as
one might expect. We, therefore, interacted these two variables in a second model,
the results of which are presented in table 7.10. Th is new specifi cation improved
the results, while confi rming the main fi ndings. Capital intensity is still signifi cant
at 1 percent, with the expected positive sign. Th e coeffi cient on the variable rep-
resenting the small informal sector remains signifi cant at 1 percent with negative
sign. Industry classifi cation is also signifi cant, most notably affi liation with trade


Table 7.10 Regression of the Log of Labor Productivity (lprod) on Formal or Informal Status
with Interaction of Explanatory Variables


Lprod Coeffi cient
Standard


error T P>|t| [95% Conf. Interval]


Capital labor ratio 0.100 0.027 3.720 0.000 0.047 0.153


Small informal*fi nancial
services


2.362 1.401 1.690 0.093 −0.395 5.119


Buildings 0.706 0.423 1.670 0.096 −0.126 1.538


Big informal*commerce −1.298 0.594 −2.190 0.030 −2.468 −0.129


Small informal −1.090 0.278 −3.920 0.000 −1.638 −0.543


Small informal*commerce −1.056 0.471 −2.240 0.026 −1.984 −0.129


Big informal 1.086 0.364 2.990 0.003 0.371 1.802


Services 0.499 0.216 2.310 0.022 0.073 0.925


Legal structure 0.761 0.342 2.220 0.027 0.087 1.434


Commerce 1.788 0.440 4.070 0.000 0.922 2.654


Constant 12.694 0.530 23.930 0.000 11.650 13.738


Source: Estimation based on authors’ firm survey data.
Note: Number of observations = 286; F(10, 275) = 16,67; Prob > F = 0; R2 = 0.38.
* = significant at 10 percent.




168 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


and service sectors. Th e R2 statistic also improved. In order to address whether
or not the existence of a bidirectional relationship could cause residuals to be
correlated with explanatory variables, most econometrics textbooks recommend
the use of estimation with instrumental variables. However, we refrained from
searching for appropriate instruments in view of recent research that casts doubt
on the validity of instrumental variable procedures and their alleged superiority
over OLS methods (Murray 2006; Larcker and Rusticus 2010).


An Analysis of Causality between Informality and Productivity
DAG is a fairly standard procedure used in the literature on survey data to test
for causality. It is a simple graph that uses arrows and vertices (variables). It is
defi ned as an ordered triplet <V,M,E>, where V is a nonempty set of vertices,
M is a nonempty set of symbols attached to the ends of segments connecting
two variables, and E is a set of ordered pairs (Bessler 2003; Zhang, Bessler, and
Leatham 2006; Awokuse, Chopra, and Bessler 2009; Bessler and Loper 2001;
Awokuse 2006; Canalda, Chatonnay, and Josselin 2004; Haughton, Kamis,
and Scholten 2006). For an introduction to DAGs and a discussion of causal-
ity issues in the context of the analysis of living standards data, see Haughton
and Haughton (2011, ch. 5). Th e DAGs represent the conditional independence
obtained by the following recursive decomposition:


Pr( , , , ..., ) Pr( / )1 2 3
1


v v v v v pan i i
i


n


∏=
=


(7.6)


where Pr denotes the probability of events concerning the variables v1, v2, v3,
. . . , vn, and pai (“parents” of vi) is a subset of the aforementioned variables, with
arrows leading directly to (“causing”) vi.


What determines the direction of causality in a representative DAG is each
extremity of the segment connecting the two variables. For example, given three
vertices A, B, and C, a representation of A ← B → C would indicate that A and
C are simultaneously caused by B. Th e unconditional correlation between A is
C is not zero, because they have a common cause, while the conditional correla-
tion between A and C, given B, is zero.


Th e inferences made on the existence or absence of causal links between
variables are derived from interpreting whether or not diff erent segments con-
nect the vertices and, if so, what is the nature of the extremity of these verti-
ces. In instances where there is a zero correlation between a pair of variables,
no segment connects the two variables. Th e DAG was obtained from our data
using the soft ware Tetrad version 4.3.9-0 (Tetrad Project 2012) and the FCI
(full conditional independence) algorithm (fi gure 7.7). Th e advantage of the
FCI algorithm is that it allows for the (likely) possibility of unrecorded com-
mon causes of pairs of variables in the dataset. Th e DAG displays segments




INFORMALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY 169


connecting variables related to informality with those related to productivity,
indicating the existence of a correlation between the two subsets of variables
(refer to the right-hand-side group of variables in fi gure 7.7). However, the
lack of arrowheads at the ends of these segments indicates that the direction of
causality could not be ascertained, given the algorithm used. As an interesting
by-product, the DAG also reveals which groups of variables tend to be corre-
lated with each other: size of the fi rm (lvalueinvt) and (log of) capital intensity
(lic), the group of three variables that express confi dence in the future of the
fi rm (avenirt, contenfant, gardad), sector variables (secteur), and status (statut)
variables.


Figure 7.7 Analysis of Causality between Informality and Productivity Using Directed Acyclic
Graphs for Cotonou


statut5 avenirt


formel1


lic


formel2


nbempact


lvalueinvt


formel3


Iprod


contenfant


gardact


statut4


statut6


statut3


statut2


secteur4


secteur3


secteur1


secteur2


secteur5 secteur6 sexe statut1


accreff


Source: Authors.
Note: An edge with an arrowhead from X to Y indicates that Y is not a cause of X. Two arrowheads connecting
X and Y indicate the existence of an unrecorded common cause of X and Y. If an edge extremity is marked with
an “o,” the algorithm cannot determine whether an arrowhead should be at that extremity or not. Variables
Secteur1–6 are dummy variables for the different activity sectors. Variables Formel1–3 are dummy variables for
the three formality levels (formal, large informal, small informal). The variable lprod denotes the log of productiv-
ity; lic is the log of capital intensity; nbempact and lvalueinvt are measures of the size of the firm; avenirt, gar-
dact, and contenfant are measures of the interviewee’s confidence in the future of the firm. Variables Status1–6
represent the status of the firm (public, for example).




170 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Conclusion


Consistent with previous literature, this chapter showed a large productivity gap
between formal and informal fi rms. Th is fi nding is robust with respect to alter-
native indicators and correlates of informality and is confi rmed using alterna-
tive multivariate regression specifi cations. Th e correlation between productivity
and informality may refl ect two-way causation. Low productivity may lead to
informal sector status through self-selection of fi rms by quality of management.
Reverse causation running from fi rm status to productivity could be due to the
reduced access to public services that informality entails.


We investigated productivity diff erentials between large and small informal
fi rms. Our results indicate that large informal fi rms also have lower productivity
than formal fi rms, but the diff erential is minor, whereas the productivity gap
between large and small informal fi rms is much greater. Th us with regard to
productivity, large informal fi rms resemble formal fi rms much more than their
smaller informal counterparts. We also examined total factor productivity in
addition to labor productivity. TFP controls for capital intensity, yet we fi nd
the same positive correlation between TFP and formality as we do for labor
productivity. Th is shows that capital intensity alone cannot explain diff erences
in labor productivity.


Notes
1. Th is study fi nds that the elasticity of poverty headcount is –1.38 with respect to per


capita income and 0.89 with respect to the Gini coeffi cient.
2. In chapter 1, six criteria of formality are spelled out. Here, we use fi ve criteria, con-


fl ating tax status and registration, given their close connection since registration
usually entails contact with the fi scal authorities.


3. By defi nition, no small informal fi rm can achieve a level of turnover and thus a level
of productivity above this threshold.


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Chapter


173


8


Informal Trading Networks
in West Africa: The Mourides
of Senegal/The Gambia
and the Yoruba of Benin/Nigeria
By Stephen Golub and Jamie Hansen-Lewis


A theme of this study is that the informal sector in West Africa stems largely
from the institutional environment and the incentives that fi rms face (chap-
ter 6). In particular, weak and corrupt state administrations fail to provide the
foundations of formal markets such as property rights, contract enforcement,
and information dissemination. An additional consideration, however, is that
informal business operations are perpetuated by informal institutions that sub-
stitute for state provision of public goods. Informal institutions are pervasive in
all economies, but they are particularly signifi cant in developing countries (Cas-
son, Guista, and Kambhampati 2009). Ethnic and social kinship groups are an
especially signifi cant informal institution, providing a set of norms of conduct
and enforcement mechanisms that substitute for formal rules and regulations.


Ethnic and social networks are a form of “social capital” (Barron, Field,
and Schuller 2000), which can have positive as well as negative eff ects on eco-
nomic development. On the plus side, social networks create bonds of trust
that enable contract fulfi llment, access to fi nancing, and information exchange
without documentation or offi cial involvement (Putnam 1995; Fafchamps
2004). Kinship groups play a particularly important part in international trade,
helping to overcome transaction costs created by lack of information and dif-
ferences in business practices across countries (Rauch 2001). Kinship networks
have a major role in informal cross-border trading in West Africa, as will be
described further and in the following chapter. On the negative side, however,
social capital in general and informal networks in particular can be exclusion-
ary, accepting or even promoting antisocial behavior and violation of the rules
and norms in the formal economy (for example, Adhikari and Goldey 2009;




174 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Field 2003; Portes 1998). Munshi and Rosenzweig (2006) provide an illustration
of the complex interactions in India between a traditional network—the caste
system—and the modern global economy. Again, this is clearly manifested in
West Africa insofar as kinship networks are heavily involved in illegal activities,
particularly smuggling and tax evasion. Overall, ethnic and religious networks
are particularly signifi cant in West Africa because of the combination of weak
formal institutions and the continuing importance of kinship ties dating from
the precolonial era and the resistance to colonialism.


North’s (1989) concept of institutions also provides a helpful conceptual
framework for understanding the informal sector. North distinguishes between
formal institutions (“rules”) and informal institutions (“norms”) and argues that
both are important in shaping the possibilities for economic development. In
both modern and traditional societies, formal and informal institutions have
evolved to mitigate opportunistic behavior, but modern arm’s-length capital-
ism involves a very diff erent set of institutions than traditional village society.
In chapter 6, we focus on formal institutions involving the protection of prop-
erty rights and the functioning of state institutions. Th is chapter completes the
picture by analyzing some of the informal institutions, particularly kinship ties,
that shape informal sector behavior in West Africa.


In this chapter, we analyze these issues by reviewing the history, function-
ing, and consequences of two informal networks in West Africa—the Mourides
and the Yoruba. Th e Mourides are a Muslim brotherhood that originated in the
nineteenth century, while the Yoruba are an ethnic group predating the colonial
era. Th ese networks retain important economic functions. Th e bonds of soli-
darity among members of the group provide a social foundation for informal
markets in West Africa, particularly in cross-border trade, both fi lling the void
left by defi cient offi cial institutions as well as contributing to the weakness of
these institutions.


The Mourides in Senegal and The Gambia


Th e Mouride Islamic brotherhood plays a major role in the informal sector in
Senegal and Th e Gambia and has developed an extensive global trading network
spanning West Africa, Europe, and the United States.1 Th e Mourides’ strong
group solidarity and unsurpassed work ethic have enabled their remarkable
transition from rural groundnut farmers to one of the most dynamic urban
trading groups in Africa.


Historical Background
Th e Mouride movement arose in the aft ermath of the defeat of the Wolof nation
by the French colonial army in the late nineteenth century (O’Brien 1971).




INFORMAL TRADING NETWORKS IN WEST AFRICA 175


Wolof society was in a state of political and social disarray. In this context,
Islam, which had been implanted in Senegal in the eleventh century, assumed
increasing importance, with religious leaders known as marabouts providing
spiritual and organizational guidance to their followers, the talibés. One of these
marabouts, Cheikh Amadou Bamba, attracted a growing number of talibés,
due to his charismatic personality, his personal virtue, and his close association
with Wolof leaders of the resistance to French rule. His growing following and
increasingly militant behavior led the French authorities to exile him to Gabon
and Mauritania, which only served to boost his reputation and the devotion of
his followers. Aft er repeated entreaties by his disciples, Cheikh Amadou Bamba
was released and returned to Senegal in 1912.


Following his return, the French established a strategic partnership with
the Mourides. Cheikh Amadou Bamba moved to Diourbel in the region of
Baol, and his principal disciples were granted large tracts of land for agricul-
tural development. With backing from the French, the Mourides specialized in
groundnuts, which became the dominant cash crop in Senegal and Th e Gambia
for the remainder of the century. Meanwhile, Cheikh Amadou Bamba founded
the village of Touba, where he was buried and which became the spiritual capital
of the Mourides.


Cheikh Amadou Bamba created a tradition of submission by the talibés to
the leading marabouts and, in turn, an obligation of the marabouts to assist
their talibés, leading to both a clear hierarchy and a sense of group solidarity
within the Mourides. Th e Mourides continue to revere him as a saint, provid-
ing an enduring and powerful symbol of authority and legitimacy to the group.
Th eir shared devotion to his memory is the spiritual foundation for cohesive-
ness of the group. Th is allegiance was transferred to his successors.


A monarchic system of succession has been established, with a pyramid hier-
archical structure in which the caliph-general is the supreme leader. Th e caliph-
general is the closest living descendant of Cheikh Amadou Bamba. Below the
caliph-general are the other caliphs, also descendants of Cheikh Amadou
Bamba or of his leading associates. Under the caliphs are sheikhs (marabouts
with disciples), with varying degrees of prestige and number of disciples. A cer-
tain fragmentation of authority and rivalry among them has diluted the power
of the sheikhs, but the basic structure has proven very robust.


A central tenet of Mouride faith is to express devotion to the sheikhs through
hard work and self-deprivation. Cheikh Amadou Bamba exhorted his follow-
ers to “Go and Work” (O’Brien 1971, 57). A well-known Mouride aphorism
refl ects the confl ation of work and faith: “Pray as if you will die tomorrow and
work as if you will live forever” (Bava 2002). In a feudal-like system, the talibés
contribute produce or money to their sheikhs, which has enabled substantial
accumulations of wealth. Mourides donate much greater amounts to their lead-
ers than other Islamic sects. In exchange, the talibés, who tend to come mostly




176 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


from the poor and disenfranchised elements of the population, obtain access to
an extended social safety net, in addition to a strong sense of belonging and the
promise of paradise. Th e sheikhs are expected to be generous toward their fol-
lowers, particularly those who are unable to work due to age or illness. Sheikhs
may also provide credit at more favorable terms than traders. Th e extent of
devotion of followers as well as the generosity of the sheikhs varies consider-
ably, but these traditions of mutual obligation are nonetheless pervasive and
enduring.


Th e tight solidarity of the Mourides and their faith enabled them to resist
colonial infl uences and to maintain their group identity, even while engaged in
strategic cooperation with the French colonial authorities (Diouf 2000).


Membership in the Mouride brotherhood expanded continually in the
twentieth century, with the city of Touba becoming the second largest in Sen-
egal, aft er Dakar. Touba now has 500,000 inhabitants, up from 5,000 in 1960.
Mourides view Touba as their spiritual home no matter where they live. Th e
Great Mosque in Touba, the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa, is the destination
of an annual pilgrimage (magal) to honor Cheikh Amadou Bamba, attracting
hundreds of thousands of Mourides every year. Touba has become a de facto
separate city-state within Senegal and is essentially off -limits to the political
authorities. In addition to the Great Mosque, contributions by the faithful have
fi nanced the construction of a US$10 million hospital, a Mouride cultural cen-
ter and library, and other monuments and institutes.


Mourides and the Groundnut Economy
Th e strategic allegiance with the French revolved around groundnut production
and trade, with the Mourides increasingly dominating the sector, accounting for
two-thirds of production during the colonial era (O’Brien 1971). Until the late
1970s, Mourides remained overwhelmingly rural, continuing to grow ground-
nuts, which are well suited to Senegal’s climate and soils.


Following Senegal’s independence in 1960, the Mourides maintained their
political infl uence, transitioning from their close ties to the French to strong
connections to the ruling Parti Socialiste. Mourides translated these political
connections into economic gains, benefi ting from easy access to farm credit
(oft en not reimbursed) for planting groundnuts and substantial de facto control
of the groundnut trade and transport, in theory in the hands of the government
(Lambert 1996). Th e clientelistic operation of the groundnut industry contrib-
uted to the Senegalese fi nancial crisis of the 1980s and the subsequent period of
structural adjustment and trade liberalization.


Mourides developed distinctive forms of social organization around the
groundnut trade. Mouride young men are organized into daras, which are farm-
ing brigades accompanying their religious education.2 Mouride daras were at
fi rst isolated and worked under arduous conditions, with no nearby access to




INFORMAL TRADING NETWORKS IN WEST AFRICA 177


water. Th ey served the function of colonizing unoccupied land, thereby extend-
ing the domain of the Mourides. Conditions have improved over time, with
daras now mostly consisting of parcels of a sheikh’s estate, but life as a worker
on a dara remains one of deprivation and hard work in service of the sheikh,
with minimal remuneration. Aft er many years on a dara, a worker may receive
a plot of land of his own (O’Brien 1971; Copans 1980).


Most Mouride peasants are now independent smallholders, but some con-
tinue to work on the large estates controlled by sheikhs. Even when not in a
dara, however, the Mourides benefi t from the advantages of membership in
a close-knit group, while also meeting their obligation to provide substantial
off erings to their leaders. Usually, one day a week is designated to work on
the sheikh’s fi elds, called “Wednesday fi elds” (O’Brien 1971, 210). Th eir cohe-
siveness, sense of purpose, and political backing enabled the Mourides to dis-
place other groups and take control of increasing swaths of land for groundnut
cultivation.


Mouride farming techniques are not geared toward preserving Senegal’s
fragile ecosystem, however. Unsustainable cultivation techniques, deforesta-
tion, growing population, and droughts have contributed to deteriorating land
quality and desertifi cation, reducing the incomes of groundnut farmers. Declin-
ing groundnut prices and reduced subsidies to farmers associated with struc-
tural adjustment policies have also contributed to lower farmer incomes. Th ese
trends spurred an increasing migration of Mourides toward urban areas in the
1970s (O’Brien 1988; Babou 2007).


From Groundnut Farmers to Urban Traders
Mouride migration to the cities occurred in several phases in the twentieth
century, with the largest movement beginning in the 1970s. Mourides have long
been groundnut traders in the cities of the groundnut region. It was, therefore,
natural that Mourides gravitated toward the informal sector and commerce in
particular, as they moved to the cities. Th e fourth caliph-general, Abdou Lahat
Mbacke (1968–88), actively promoted the establishment of the Mourides in
the cities, unlike his predecessors (Babou 2007). Th e sprawling open-air infor-
mal market of Sandaga in Dakar has become the Mourides’ center for informal
commerce, paralleling that of Touba for the Mourides’ spiritual life. Th e Okass
market in Touba is also a very important distribution center.


Th e Mourides’ rural traditions were adapted with remarkable fl exibility and
eff ectiveness to their new urban settings. With family ties and traditional beliefs
holding the group together, the Mourides were able to generate a new set of
urban connections and economic activities. Th ey congregate in neighborhoods
wherever they go, which they rename “Touba” (Diouf 2000).


Th e dahira became the central institution of urban life for the Mourides, in
some respects replacing the role of rural daras in providing spiritual nurturing




178 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


and promoting economic success. Th e dahira consists of a weekly reunion of
local Mourides for religious singing and discussion, as well as collection of
dues. Th ese fees support the local branch of the group as well as the traditional
donations sent back to Touba for the general support of the organization. Th e
dahira also serves as an informal meeting place for exchanging information and
assistance about business opportunities and government relations. Newcomers
to the cities are assisted by the more established members of the group, much
as the talibés are helped by the sheikhs in the countryside (O’Brien 1988). Th e
dahira is emblematic of the mixture of central structure and informal collabora-
tion that has proved to be remarkably eff ective. While the Mourides are linked
by their common faith and devotion to the leadership in Touba, there is very
little overt central direction, and the dahiras function autonomously and com-
pete for infl uence. Dahiras themselves provide umbrellas for individual initia-
tive and networking rather than prescribed relationships.


Th e peanut farmers’ emphasis on hard work and saving has carried over to
the cities, with commerce replacing agriculture. Th e cohesiveness of the Mou-
rides and their deep relations of trust have proven to be extremely valuable in
fostering their informal commercial network. Group solidarity and belief in the
higher purpose of the brotherhood support the fulfi llment of promises and obli-
gations without any formal contracts. Mourides almost never default on loans
or commitments to other Mourides, as to do so would be viewed as a breach of
religious as well as commercial bonds.


Mourides coming to the cities are oft en provided with work as street vendors
by successful Mouride businessmen. Th ese businessmen mentor young street
vendors—oft en, but not exclusively, Mourides—by providing goods on credit
and assistance with housing and food. Th e street traders work long and ardu-
ous hours in the heat and grime of Dakar and other cities, much as the peas-
ants toil on the peanut farms. Aft er a long apprenticeship as a street trader, the
more successful and enterprising workers can rise in the hierarchy of trading
activities and perhaps start a business of their own, just as workers on daras are
sometimes allotted plots of land aft er years of work with minimal remuneration.
In their hard work and deprivation, the street traders are sustained by the hope
of advancement as well as their faith that honoring Cheikh Amadou Bamba
will entitle them to enter paradise. At the same time, the abundant supply of
reliable and low-cost workers has enabled urban traders to accumulate sub-
stantial fortunes; it also has supported the leadership and central organization
of the brotherhood in Touba and, in turn, its ability to assist members, thereby
providing funding for a social safety net and information distribution system.


Sandaga market is the center of the Mouride trading activities in Senegal
and, indeed, the world. Large wholesalers are at the top of the operation of the
mazelike trading networks, with a varied assortment of goods for sale. Ebin
(1992) describes the functioning of Sandaga market through an ethnographic




INFORMAL TRADING NETWORKS IN WEST AFRICA 179


study of the Fall family, originally cloth traders from Kaolack who had close ties
with a former caliph-general. Cheikh Fall, one of the fi ve Fall brothers, heads
the enterprise, due to his business and entrepreneurial acumen. A former street
trader, he moved to New York, where he purchased African American cosmet-
ics, which he then sold in Senegal. Aft er eight years in New York, he returned to
Senegal and started a factory producing hair extensions, which was highly suc-
cessful. His brothers then left Kaolack to assist him in his business ventures. Th e
Fall headquarters are in Sandaga, where at the time of Ebin’s report, they had
three large stores. In addition to the ubiquitous street vendors, major wholesal-
ers such as Fall employ a variety of other intermediaries, including resellers
who purchase in bulk, nyoro who locate clients and bring them to the store in
exchange for a small commission, scouts who fi nd other retailers who might
want to purchase merchandise from wholesalers, and spotters who announce
the impending arrival of a potential client. Wholesalers are able to diversify risk,
lower transaction times, and expand their scale of operations by increasing the
number of clients and suppliers, so making contacts and developing relation-
ships are of central importance. Ebin’s stories show how successful merchants
mentor other traders who go on to start their own businesses and, in turn,
become clients and suppliers of their mentor.


In addition to domestic commerce and international trade, Mourides have
increasingly dominated other important sectors in the cities of Senegal, notably
transport and real estate, all of which operate informally despite their large size.
For example, the minivans that serve as the major mode of public transport
(cars rapides) are oft en owned by Mourides and frequently colorfully decorated
with references to Touba.


Th e increasing economic role of the Mourides has not been achieved with-
out confl icts, however, and has created tension with other groups. Th ere are
also tensions within the Mourides between traders and intellectuals (O’Brien
1988). Nevertheless, the group remains very powerful and eff ective, thanks to
the nearly fanatical devotion, work ethic, group solidarity, and political clout
of its members.


Globalization of the Mouride Trading Network
Th e infl ux of the Mourides to the urban centers of Senegal and Th e Gambia was
accompanied and fostered by the international migration of Mourides to major
cities in Europe and then to the United States, with the brotherhood becoming a
highly eff ective international trading group. Th e Mourides’ global network and
business practices have been chronicled by many researchers, including Salem
(1981), Fassin (1985), Ebin (1992, 1993), Diouf (2000), Babou (2002), and Tall
(2004). Th e story of the Mourides is one of amazing commercial reach.


In various cities around the world, Mourides congregate in Senegalese neigh-
borhoods and dahiras, sharing information and providing mutual support and a




180 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


springboard to commercial success. Th e cities are linked by family and kinship
networks, headed by a wholesaler usually located in Sandaga. Sheikhs based in
Senegal coordinate the travels of their talibés, as part of the services they ren-
der in exchange for the off erings they receive. Th e young Senegalese emigrant
Mourides live together in cramped quarters, oft en in dangerous neighborhoods,
facing harassment from the authorities and not seeing their families for long
periods of time—reminiscent of the hardships of life on the rural daras. Ebin
(1992) quotes a wholesaler dealing in electronics: “We are used to sleeping on
the ground, not eating much, and working until exhaustion. It’s what we have
always done.”


Starting in the 1960s, Mourides migrated to cities in France, where they
became street traders. Th ey operated throughout France, particularly in Stras-
bourg in the north (Salem 1981) and Marseilles in the south (Ebin 1992). Th eir
focus has been on selling trinkets and simple consumer goods to tourists dur-
ing the summer season, oft en returning to Senegal in the winter. Th e Mourides
were able to outcompete French merchants through hard work and lower prices,
even learning German in Strasbourg to communicate with German tourists, for
example. As French immigration policies became more restrictive, the Mourides
spread around Europe, in particular to Italy. In the mid-1980s, New York emerged
as a major destination, where they also became successful street traders.


Experienced traders travel to New York, Jeddah, and Hong Kong SAR,
China, where they purchase large volumes of a wide variety of electronic and
cosmetic products, which they sell in Senegal and in other countries. Mouride
shipping and fi nancial agents in New York are also in contact with Asian trad-
ers, who supply some of the goods such as watches, sunglasses, and cosmetics
that are the mainstays of the Mouride value chain. Th e goods are imported
into Senegal through informal mechanisms and end up at Sandaga or other
urban markets. In some cases, traders bring back the goods themselves in large
trunks and suitcases. Sandaga and other markets are also supplied by contra-
band imports shipped through Th e Gambia. As described in more detail in
the following chapter, low import duties in Th e Gambia have provided a major
incentive to import offi cially into Th e Gambia and then smuggle the goods into
Senegal. Goods may also be shipped through the port of Dakar, where customs
practices are notoriously discretionary and Mouride traders use their political
connections to evade the statutory duties.


Fassin (1985) details how Mourides smuggle and illegally sell pharmaceutical
products in Senegal, as also noted in chapter 4. Th e favored route is through Th e
Gambia; products are brought to Touba via Kaolack, hidden in trucks fi lled with
hay. In addition, unoffi cial supplies of drugs are obtained from hospitals and the
national pharmaceutical importer, Pharmacie Nationale D’Approvisionnement,
and sold openly in well-known locations, with the tacit acquiescence of the
government.




INFORMAL TRADING NETWORKS IN WEST AFRICA 181


Ebin (1993) provides a vivid description of a Mouride trading group’s oper-
ations in Marseilles. Almost all of the members of the group originate from
a Mouride town in Senegal, Darou Mousty. Mustapha Sow, the leader of the
group, supervises and assists younger traders newly arrived from Senegal, who
have been put in contact with him by their sheikhs. Mustapha Sow’s operations
extend all along the Mediterranean coast, starting from his base in Marseilles.
Sow sources from Mouride runners who steadily arrive in Marseilles with prod-
ucts from Spain, Italy, North Africa, and Asia. One of his main suppliers is
also from Darou Mousty. Sow himself goes to Paris every Monday morning to
replenish his supplies following the weekend sales to tourists. His main supplier
in Paris is a Moroccan who employs a Senegalese Mouride, Mamadou Ndiaye,
known to the Mourides as the focal point for all information about merchandise
and contacts in the Paris region. Ndiaye can supply traders such as Moustapha
Sow with a large variety of merchandise or tell him where to obtain it. Sow
returns to Marseilles Monday aft ernoons with his newly purchased stock of
goods, which he distributes through a large number of street vendors who oper-
ate all around the region, runners who supply other traders, as well as wholesal-
ers heading to Senegal to sell at Sandaga and elsewhere. In short, the Mourides
operate in Marseilles much as they do in Dakar.


By the early 1990s, Senegalese Mourides controlled most street trading in
New York, selling watches, umbrellas, T-shirts, and hats (Babou 2002). Over
time, they invested their savings in other services, mainly shipping, travel, and
money transfer services for Senegalese and other African immigrants in the
United States. New York increasingly developed into a major hub in the Mou-
ride trading networks. Ebin (1993) describes how Pape Faye, another Mouride
from Darou Mousty, served as Moustapha Sow’s emissary to New York City.
Faye started as a trader in Dakar but left Senegal in 1979 and now travels all
around Europe, buying and selling. Ebin (1993) describes Faye’s fi rst visit to
New York, which was organized by his sheikh. At that time, Senegalese from
Darou Mousty lived and congregated in an apartment in the Bronx and gath-
ered in the Flatbush neighborhood in a place called the House of Serigne Touba.
Currently, Senegalese Mourides are concentrated in Little Senegal, a section of
Harlem around West 116th Street (Ebin 2008; Babou 2002). Many Mourides
who started as street vendors now own stores in that area. Th e stores sell a
variety of products, including cosmetics, religious objects, compact discs, and
digital video discs, and phone cards. Th e House of Islam is the center for Mou-
rides in the neighborhood, a building purchased under the guidance of one
of the grandsons of Cheikh Amadou Bamba. Several loosely cooperating and
competing dahiras operate in New York City.


Mouride wholesalers such as Cheikh Fall and Mustapha Sow have con-
tacts around the world with whom they can be in instant communication
by telephone or Internet. Mouride traders use modern communication and




182 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


information technologies to advance their commercial transactions, in particu-
lar fi nancial transfers (Tall 2004). Th ey know whom to contact when they want
to buy or sell particular types of merchandise at the lowest prices and are very
nimble in adapting to changing supply and demand. For example, prior to the
African Cup of Nations soccer tournament, wholesalers such as Cheikh Fall,
anticipating the rise in demand for televisions, may contact a Mouride working
in New York who has contacts in China (Ebin 1992). For other products, such
as jewelry, wholesalers turn to their networks in Italy.


Th e strong bonds of solidarity among Mourides enable sophisticated inter-
national fi nancial transactions without any contracts or collateral, minimizing
transaction costs and detection by the authorities (Tall 2004). Merchants in San-
daga serve as fi nancial intermediaries for fund transfers to and from Senegal. A
Mouride residing in the United States or Europe wishing to repatriate funds can
remit the funds to a correspondent of a large merchant in Senegal, who, in turn,
distributes them to the emigrant’s family. Th ese funds are an important source
of working capital for traders. Alternatively, an itinerant trader may make trans-
fers home as an advance: the merchant provides funds to the emigrant’s family
in Senegal, and, on his next trip home, the emigrant repays the merchant with
proceeds from the goods he took back for sale in Senegal.


Th e Kara international money exchange was started in 1991 by a Mouride
trader in New York, providing a sophisticated, yet informal, money transfer
mechanism for use by merchants traveling between New York and Dakar, allow-
ing them to travel without carrying large sums of money (Tall 2004). Illiterate
traders can avail themselves of this system, as little or no documentation is
required. Merchants traveling to New York deposit funds with the Kara offi ce
in Dakar before they leave Senegal and then have access to the funds when they
arrive in the United States. Likewise, a trader in New York transfers money
home by bringing cash to the Kara offi ce on Broadway, which remits the funds
to the designated benefi ciary in Senegal, who can obtain the money without any
paperwork. Communication between the Kara offi ces in New York and Dakar
is by fax, and transmission of funds to the recipient is nearly instantaneous and
highly secure, despite the lack of formalities. Mouride connections are suffi cient
to guarantee fulfi llment of obligations and deter embezzlement, because a viola-
tion would betray the values of the brotherhood and also lead to cutoff of credit.


The Yoruba in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo


Historical Background
Th e Yoruba are among the most populous and urbanized ethnic groups in Sub-
Saharan Africa. Most Yoruba speak a common language, also called Yoruba.
Yorubaland, the traditional region of the Yoruba ethnic group, encompasses the




INFORMAL TRADING NETWORKS IN WEST AFRICA 183


central areas of Benin and Togo and the southwestern states of Nigeria, includ-
ing Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, and Kwara. Historically, Yorubaland
was a mix of loosely connected kingdoms. While each kingdom was indepen-
dent, they all regarded the city of Ile Ife, located in the Nigerian state of Osun, as
the common place of origin, orirun. Th e kingdoms operated autonomously but
maintained political and economic ties to each other. Th e hierarchical organiza-
tion of the group around chiefs is in some ways similar to that of the Mourides
and their marabouts.


Barter was likely the earliest form of trade among the Yoruba. One advan-
tage of Yorubaland’s fertile soil was that each kingdom was capable of produc-
ing slightly more food than required for subsistence. As a result, the minimal
surpluses could be bartered among kingdoms to supplement other basic needs,
such as clothing and shelter. An extensive societal division of labor, includ-
ing ruling elites, manufacturers, herbalists, priests, historians, entertainers, and
farmers, facilitated barter in a range of goods-for-goods and goods-for-services
transactions. Furthermore, as the Yoruba became increasingly sophisticated,
they demanded more exotic goods to maintain the elite’s extravagant lifestyles
and to use in ritual festivals (Falola and Adebayo 2000).


Th ere are many notable examples of barter in the early Yoruba economy.
In the agriculture sector, farmers openly traded with each other. For instance,
farmers who grew mostly yams tended to exchange yams for millet with farm-
ers who grew primarily millet. Also, farmers exchanged produce for tools with
blacksmiths. Priests and herbalists accepted valuable and edible items, oft en
animals and palm oil, for their services. Entertainers were paid with left over
food, expensive costumes, horses, or slaves. Imported goods such as natron (a
cleaning substance) and salt were bartered through long-distance trade. It is
estimated that, around the fi ft eenth century, the barter exchanges evolved into
monetized trade using cowry shells as currency.


Th e Yoruba economy eventually expanded into a regional trade network,
notably through the trans-Saharan caravan trade (Falola 1991). Extensive long-
distance trade routes through West Africa were well established before the
arrival of Europeans on the continent. Th e caravan trade developed systems of
credit, transport, information exchange, settlement of business disputes, and
insurance among separate peoples without modern institutions to perform
these services (Cohen 1969), promoting economic integration among ethnic
groups.


Regional trade fostered the Yoruba’s interaction with their northern neigh-
bors: the Nupe and the Hausa. Th e lack of geographic barriers separating these
ethnic groups facilitated their cooperation in connecting the region’s goods to
the major trans-Saharan trade routes (Perani and Wolff 1999). Th e Hausa, in
particular, had long participated in regional trade. Th e Yoruba provided live-
stock to the network and received skilled Hausa slaves. Th ey also provided




184 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


luxury goods, such as salt and natron, to the Egba and Egbado groups to the
south. Th e most northern kingdom of Yorubaland, Oyo, came to dominate
regional trade, even operating a cavalry, because of its strategic location. Th e
Oyo controlled trade in Yorubaland and some surrounding areas until the end
of the nineteenth century, with a major market at Apomu (Falola and Adebayo
2000; Eades 1993). Th is lucrative trade was a major source of political power.


Beginning in the sixteenth century, European involvement in the Yoruba
economy shift ed the focus of regional trade toward the coastal areas, where
the Europeans initially operated. Th e Ijebu increasingly controlled the lucrative
trade with the Europeans along the Atlantic coast. While the Oyo lost commer-
cial stature to the Ijebu, the European involvement did not aff ect the historic
inland trade network as much as it did the coastal routes. Europeans sold the
Ijebu cowries and manufactured goods in exchange for slaves and cloth. Th e
Yoruba were advantageously located to transport the European goods north.
Th e slave trade made Benin, then called Dahomey, a key location in the inter-
national triangle trade and introduced new goods such as tobacco into the
regional market.


Many Yoruba traders operated out of Porto Novo and Ouidah in Dahomey at
the end of the nineteenth century (Igué and Soule 1992), working with repatri-
ated slaves of Yoruba origin from Brazil. Some traders became very wealthy and
famous in the region. France’s colonization of Dahomey in 1894 had a profound
eff ect on the Yoruba networks. While the repatriated Brazilian slaves cooperated
with the French, local Yoruba people converted to Islam and developed clan-
destine networks with Nigeria to escape colonial controls and trade barriers.


Th e Rural Markets System
As of the mid-twentieth century, the Yoruba’s historical trade relations remained
important despite the eff ects of colonization and European involvement (Cohen
1969). Trade in Yorubaland and the surrounding region was supported by
daily and periodic markets in urban and rural areas, servicing local and long-
distance trade routes (Eades 1980). In addition to the markets in rural towns,
“rings” were organized outside the larger towns. Th e “ring” markets operated on
four- or eight-day cycles. Th ese markets operated with considerable sophistica-
tion. For instance, “forestallers” would wait in the trails a few miles before the
markets in an eff ort to buy the traders’ goods for slightly less than the market
price and then resell them in the market for a small profi t (Hodder 1961).


Th e Yoruba traded locally produced and imported manufactured goods,
notably textiles, as well as local foods and food products (Eades 1980). Manu-
factured goods were exchanged outward from the major urban centers to rural
areas for agricultural goods that moved inward from the rural areas to the
urban centers. Women supplied farm produce at the rural markets, including
maize, cassava, yams, bananas, kola nuts, tomatoes, okra, and other vegetables,




INFORMAL TRADING NETWORKS IN WEST AFRICA 185


in addition to producing and selling pots, calabashes, palm oil, palm wine,
fi rewood, bundles of leaves, and yam fl our (Hodder 1961). Since each woman
dealt with only a small quantity of goods, bulking was a central component of
the agricultural trade as goods moved toward the cities. In the urban markets,
large expatriate and Lebanese fi rms in Lagos and Ibadan supplied manufactured
goods to the system. Since urban Yoruba wholesalers oft en bought the goods
in bulk and distributed them in smaller quantities to retailers, bulk breaking
characterized this side of the trade. Nonetheless, the erratic supply of manufac-
tured goods underscored the importance of well-established connections in the
trade routes. Raw material shortages, import delays in ports, and price controls
all contributed to the unreliable supply of manufactured goods (Eades 1980).


Th e markets were highly competitive and dominated by large amounts of
low-volume transactions, so profi tability was low. Th e numerous middlemen
who moved goods from town to town drove profi ts down to almost nothing for
most transactions (Hodder 1961).


Women dominated the low-margin Yoruba retail trade. Eades (1980) esti-
mates that in 1950 women constituted 84 percent of traders in Ibadan and
70 percent in Lagos, refl ecting the traditional division of labor in Yoruba society.
Men were mostly involved in agriculture, while women were more likely to be
involved in processing and selling their husband’s produce. If a husband felt that
his wife did not trade his produce at a fair price, he was free to sell it to another
woman. Many women even sought capital from their husbands to expand their
personal enterprises. Hodder (1961, 154) asserts, “To Yoruba women, moreover,
marketing, petty trading, or at least attending a market, forms part of their way
of life; and their rewards lie as much in the social life off ered by the markets as in
their cash profi ts.” Despite women’s active participation in petty trading, social
barriers frequently prevented them from ascending the trade hierarchy. Men
could accumulate capital for several years before marriage, enabling them to
enter into more lucrative wholesale trade. Meanwhile, women married and had
children at younger ages, so their domestic responsibilities signifi cantly limited
their trading enterprises. As a result, even though the majority of Yoruba traders
were women, the upper echelons were dominated by men (Eades 1980).


Migration
Th e rural market system and long-distance trade fostered a Yoruba diaspora
across West Africa in the twentieth century (Eades 1980). Yoruba migration
and trade expanded for several reasons. First, Yoruba laborers and artisans who
amassed suffi cient capital tended to migrate to impoverished savannah towns
to become traders (Eades 1980). Second, in nearby countries, particularly in
Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, large plantations and mining projects created oppor-
tunities for migrants as laborers and traders. Th ird, regional demand for con-
sumer goods increased along with incomes. Yoruba traders sold cloth made in




186 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


western Nigeria in regions further east, bringing back kola nuts from Ghana to
Nigeria (Sudarkasa 1985). Yoruba migrants were particularly active in north-
ern Ghana. Th is east-west trade increasingly came to include slaves, leather
goods, cattle, and Ghanaian textiles. Fourth, the British brought many Yoruba
to Accra to fi ght against the Ashanti. Many of the Yoruba established themselves
in Ghana. Fift h, cash crop failures in tobacco and cotton in Nigeria, in conjunc-
tion with construction of the Lagos-Kano rail line, increased Yoruba’s interest in
moving to francophone West Africa (Igué 2003).


By the latter half of the twentieth century, the Yoruba had spread across West
Africa into Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Senegal, although the gov-
ernment of Ghana expelled many Yoruba in 1968. Solidarity among the Yoruba
contributed to their successful migration in a wide geographic area. Successful
traders brought relatives to assist them with their enterprises, who eventually
established their own businesses. Th is organization was central to the Yoruba’s
success in international trade, much like the Mourides’.


Modern Trade Networks
Th e Yoruba remain at the center of a large, informal sector international trade
network in West Africa, facilitated by kinship ties, varied market tactics, and
hierarchical organizational structure, although the group is less clearly struc-
tured than the Mourides (Igué and Soule 1992; Igué 2003). Yoruba tend to
transact with other Yoruba traders because of trust, common language, and
similar business styles (Sudarkasa 1985). Th e belief in Islam is a source of soli-
darity and motivation, as it is for the Mourides. A well-developed informal sys-
tem of tontines is limited to members of the Yoruba group, fostering economic
ties among the group members. Th e operation of Yoruba supply chains is not
well understood, however, due to the secretive nature of smuggling and high
illiteracy rates of traders, resulting in poor recordkeeping (Igué 2003).


Th e Yoruba deal in a large variety of products and sources in various desti-
nations, which have changed over time. Th ey have been particularly dominant
in the sales of plastics and medicines. When Ghana restricted imports from
Europe in the 1960s, Yoruba traders collected products from Nigeria, Côte
d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, and Burkina Faso to transport clandestinely to Ghana.
Starting in the 1970s, Yoruba traders have distributed plastics produced in Côte
d’Ivoire throughout the region. Generic medicines are oft en imported from
English-speaking countries of the region where regulations are less stringent.
Registered companies in Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and Ghana import certain other
goods, such as enamel and cosmetics, from China, which the Yoruba smuggle
across the region (Igué 2003). For goods sold in Ghana, Yoruba traders obtain
the products wholesale in Kumasi and Accra from Yoruba supply centers.


Th e structure of migrant trading families is similar to the gender roles in
Yorubaland. Th e head of the family, who is traditionally male, negotiates the




INFORMAL TRADING NETWORKS IN WEST AFRICA 187


supply of a range of goods with domestic and international suppliers. Mean-
while, the wife manages the products and supervises their sale. She may, in turn,
redistribute the goods to young female street traders. Th is structure underscores
the importance of migrating in groups. Women constitute the majority of trad-
ers and play a key role in the success of Yoruba enterprises. Yoruba women are
well known for their resilience and patience at trade. Moreover, the hierarchical
organization enables apprentices and other beginner traders to learn the prac-
tice before starting their own enterprises (Igué 2003).


Th e Yoruba have long played a leading role in smuggling between Nige-
ria and Benin, going back to the colonial era (Flynn 1997). Th e oil boom in
Nigeria and Nigerian protectionism in the 1970s provided a major stimulus
to the Yoruba smuggling activities. Th e Yoruba have been the dominant play-
ers in the reexport trade between Nigeria and Benin in most products, aside
from rice and wheat (Igué and Soule 1992, 100), as described in detail in the
following chapter.


Yoruba traders reach their customers through an array of transactions on
the streets and exchanges in market stalls and shops. Street trading is the most
informal of the Yoruba’s activities. One technique is for groups of young traders
to carry products to several villages during a day trip. Th e groups bring their
goods to a village where they display, publicize, and sell them before circulating
to another village, reaching many per day. Th ey oft en operate in open, public
spaces so as to attract the attention of the villagers. Another informal technique
is for some Yoruba traders, mostly young women, to go through neighboring
towns, selling at people’s doorsteps. Th ey display their products in small mobile
shops and persistently encourage buyers to make a purchase. Igué (2003) out-
lines specifi c benefi ts that the Yoruba obtain from these strategies. First, by not
having a permanent shop, traders save the expense and taxes of owning one.
Second, they can access remote areas. Th ird, they can better understand the
preferences of their customers and where to distribute each product.


Besides working in the streets, Yoruba traders also occupy a range of posi-
tions in urban markets. Like the informality of street trading, stalls in markets
also help traders to understand their buyers’ tastes. Stalls are small tables that
are set up early in the day to display a trader’s products and taken down at the
end of the day. Since the stalls have low start-up costs, apprentices oft en main-
tain them. Th ey are most common in Côte d’Ivoire, where they off er clothing,
plastic shoes, watches, and underwear. Profi ts from stalls are fairly low, limited
to around CFAF 1,000 per stall per day (Igué 2003).


Yoruba traders also use market shops for their enterprises. Yoruba shops are
known for the plastic goods commonly displayed at the entrance, which are a
sign of their monopoly in the plastic trade. Th e products are oft en organized
so that only the shopkeeper is capable of locating them. Th e shops also have
some advantages for Yoruba traders. Th e larger the shop, the more the owner




188 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


can purchase in bulk and store the products. Shops also allow the owners to
meet more sophisticated customers who appreciate posted prices, in addition
to uneducated customers they reach in village markets (Igué 2003).


Th e activities of Yoruba shops vary somewhat across countries. In the 1970s,
Niger had a small number of Yoruba shops, possibly fewer than 30, all of which
were unregistered with the Niger government. Th ese shops fi t into three cat-
egories: food, clothes, and general. Th e shops were operated by the owners and
their family members and did not employ local people. Th e value of the trans-
actions at that time was estimated at CFAF 50,000–CFAF 100,000 per shop per
day, and the owners were the wealthiest migrants; some even owned nice cars
to park in front of their shops. Alternatively, in Côte d’Ivoire, Yoruba shops
were more widespread, despite the immigrant expulsion in 1968. Before 1968,
the Yoruba accounted for about 70 percent of shops in the country; in 1978,
the Yoruba share fell to a still-large 60 percent. Aft er 1968, most shops became
much smaller. In addition to making Yoruba traders in Abidjan more cautious,
competition from other migrant groups increased aft er the 1968 expulsions
(Igué 2003).


In general, the Yoruba traders are skilled at fi lling gaps in regional mar-
kets. If another ethnic group has a monopoly of supplying a certain good, the
Yoruba will not attempt to sell it in that area. As a result, the traders’ techniques
and choice of products greatly depend on the region in which they are trading.
For instance, in Burkina Faso, Yoruba sell cosmetics and spare bike parts. In
Niamey, Niger, where people from Gao monopolize cosmetics and the Zarma
and Gourmanche control bike parts, the Yoruba sell enamelware, plastics, and
ironware. Instead of locating themselves in the central buildings of urban mar-
kets, where other groups operate and space is expensive, the Yoruba frequently
operate in sheds on the periphery of urban markets (Igué 2003).


In the Dantokpa market of Cotonou, the largest open-air market in West
Africa, Yoruba traders are important participants, along with other ethnic
groups (Prag 2010). Dantokpa is a center for the regional cross-border trade
described in chapters 4 and 9. Large and small informal operators are both
prevalent. Dantokpa is similar to Sandaga in Dakar and other sprawling infor-
mal markets in West Africa, but no single ethnic group dominates in the ways in
which the Mourides dominate in Sandaga. Th e Chamber of Commerce is domi-
nated by Yoruba traders from Porto Novo. Other ethnic groups with historical
trading relations with the Yoruba, such as the Adja and Mina, also play a major
role in Dantokpa. Prag (2010) describes the shift ing competition and coopera-
tion among various interest groups in Dantokpa and their ethnic dimensions.
Th e government has attempted to assert control over the market and modern-
ize it, with the backing of some market participants, but these eff orts have been
blocked by an alliance of large and small informal traders.




INFORMAL TRADING NETWORKS IN WEST AFRICA 189


Traditional Social Networks and the Modern
Informal Sector


Th is section synthesizes the central features of the two groups (Mourides and
Yoruba) and relates them to contemporaneous informal sector practices as they
emerge from previous chapters of this study.


Th e social background of informal actors places them in opposition to many
Western-style norms. Lack of education is a crucial feature. Most informal entre-
preneurs have little or no modern education. Instead, they were trained in daras
or similar types of apprenticeships. Th e Mouride daras have a strong religious
component as well, but this is not always so. Even today, very few young people go
through the formal education system imported from the former Western colonial
powers. In fact, traditional education remains a strong competitor to modern
education (Mbaye 2002; Gérard 1995; Meunier 1995). Surveys in Mali show that
36 percent of parents prefer informal education. Meunier (1995) fi nds that enroll-
ment in informal schools is growing almost twice as fast as in formal schools.
Th ere are a number of key diff erences between the French education system in
francophone Africa and the traditional forms of schooling. Th e French system
was and still is oriented toward preparing students for white-collar jobs, particu-
larly in the civil service. In contrast, African traditional education is much more
practical and is well suited for developing entrepreneurial skills. Consequently,
many parents and students are more drawn to traditional forms of education, in
part explaining the low levels of participation in offi cial schools (Mbaye 2002).


Th ere are many similarities between long-standing traditional practices in
African society and informal sector behavior. Th e role of women in the infor-
mal sector parallels that in African villages. Th is is particularly evident among
the Yoruba, where the traditional gender-based division of labor in agriculture
extends to informal trading. In agriculture, women do not own land, and men
are responsible for cultivation; women’s role is to sell the produce in small stalls
in the markets. Th us women constitute the majority of traders, but men usually
control the business and the capital. Likewise, in the informal sector, women
tend to operate small-scale shops and are concentrated in trading activities. Th e
family-centeredness of informal businesses also parallels traditional societies.
Large and small informal fi rms, as discussed in chapters 4 and 5, rely heavily
on family ties for loans, staffi ng, and more, although this tends to diminish as
a business grows (Lyons, Dankoco, and Snoxell 2008). Moreover, the sectors in
which the informal sector dominates, such as commerce and handicraft s, cor-
respond to the main activities in traditional African economies.


Allegiance to traditional sources of authority, such as the Yoruba chiefs and
the Mouride marabouts, is far more binding than the authority of the modern
state.




190 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Th ere are both similarities and diff erences between the Mourides and the
Yoruba organization. Th e Yoruba are an ethnic group based on family, whereas
the Mourides are bound together by a form of Islam that encompasses several
ethnic groups but is heavily infl uenced by the traditional Wolof ethnic group.
Th e hierarchical structure is similar. Both groups are supported by belief in the
mystical power of their leaders. Th e chief is the repository of the entire lineage’s
mystical power and instills both fear and respect such that no one will chal-
lenge him. Politicians seek his electoral favor as well as his blessing. Th e story of
Khadim Bousso in chapter 4 illustrates the power of the caliph of the Mourides.


Conclusion


Th e Mourides’ and the Yoruba’s trading activities illustrate the continuing
importance of informal trading networks operated by kinship networks. Th ese
groups originated many centuries prior to European colonization and have
adapted to the colonial and postcolonial economic environments. Th e social
and religious bonds linking members of the groups enable complex and fl ex-
ible trading strategies with property rights and contract enforcement provided
by group solidarity rather than formal rules. Adherence to Islam plays a major
role in the solidarity of both groups. Th e Yoruba and Mourides both have hier-
archical organizations, although this is much more pronounced and formalized
among the Mourides.


Th e descriptions of the Mourides and the Yoruba presented here bring out
the close connection between the informal sector in general and trading in
particular. Indeed, to this day, trading is the foremost activity of the informal
sector, as seen in chapter 3, involving both domestic and cross-border dimen-
sions. Th e trading networks of the Mourides extend to Europe, Asia, and North
America in addition to Africa. Th e trading sphere of the Yoruba is confi ned
largely to West Africa. Th e interplay of historical, cultural, and economic factors
is important in understanding the central role of informal trading activities in
West African economies.


Th e structure and operation of these informal networks grow out of tra-
ditional African societies. Th e norms and institutions of the informal sector
exert a powerful infl uence on West African economies, notably how markets are
organized, the continued prevalence of traditional forms of education, the role
of women, and so forth. Allegiance to religious leaders and traditional chiefs is
oft en much more powerful than allegiance to the modern state.


While group solidarity and mutual trust enable the expansion of commercial
activities, the political and economic infl uence of these groups is not entirely
benign. Th eir main markets, such as Touba and Sandaga in Senegal and Dan-




INFORMAL TRADING NETWORKS IN WEST AFRICA 191


tokpa in Benin, are largely off -limits to the government, enabling these groups
to engage in smuggling and tax evasion in plain view of the authorities.


Notes
1. Lisa Cabral of Swarthmore College assisted in preparing this section, which is par-


tially based on a visit to Touba in October 2007.
2. Th ese groups are unlike daras in other sects, which focus exclusively on religious


education.


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Chapter


195


9


Government Policies, Smuggling,
and the Informal Sector
By Stephen Golub


Th e informal sector in West Africa has become increasingly internationalized
in the last few decades. Th is chapter explores informal cross-border trade—
that is, smuggling—in West Africa, focusing on Senegal and Benin. According
to offi cial trade data, regional trade fl ows are minimal despite the West Afri-
can Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and Economic Community of
West African States (ECOWAS) regional trading agreements. In fact, however,
smuggling is fl ourishing in West Africa, refl ecting artifi cial national boundar-
ies imposed in the colonial period, the strong ethnic ties transcending these
borders, which are described in chapter 8, the inability to police entry and exit
points, and diff ering economic policies in neighboring countries that create
incentives to engage in smuggling.


Th is chapter illustrates the complex interplay between formal and informal
aspects of international trade in West Africa. Much of regional trade is con-
ducted by the large informal fi rms described in chapter 4. Indeed one of the
most important industries controlled by the informal sector, as pointed out in
chapter 3, is commerce, which includes cross-border transactions. Th e demar-
cation between domestic and foreign trading is very fl uid in Africa. Regional
exchange in traditional local food staples such as millet predates present
national borders. Other bulk foodstuff s consumed in West Africa, such as rice,
sugar, and wheat, are largely imported from Asia, Europe, and North America
and then distributed around the region. Large informal enterprises are inti-
mately involved throughout the distribution process and interact in complex
ways with formal importers and shipping companies such as Balloré, Maersk,
and Grimaldi. Cash crops and petroleum extracted in Nigeria are also distrib-
uted in West Africa through informal circuits. In short, there are numerous
connections between smuggling (illegal trade) and the informal sector (actors


Th is chapter draws on Golub and Mbaye (2009) and Golub (2008).




196 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


operating illegally). Th is chapter highlights weaknesses in the institutional envi-
ronment that contribute to the fl ourishing of informal trade, notably trade poli-
cies and customs management. Chapter 6 reviews the institutional weaknesses
that foster informality, highlighting the central role of customs. Corruption and
bureaucracy at customs open the door to smuggling activities of large infor-
mal fi rms (chapter 4) and kinship networks (chapter 8). Smuggling, in turn,
exacerbates the informalization of West African economies directly by serving
as an important avenue for entrepreneurship, employment, and income and
indirectly by promoting a culture of corruption and tax evasion.


Historical Background


Intra-African trade has been shaped by a long history. Traditional long- and
short-distance trading routes predated the colonial era. Th e colonial powers
created artifi cial borders within regions with long-standing ethnic and cultural
ties. Upon independence in the 1950s and 1960s, the new governments oft en
pursued erratic and widely divergent trade and exchange rate policies. Large
diff erences in rates of protection between countries provided an impetus for
smuggling, which was facilitated by the weak enforcement abilities of African
governments, the cultural and ethnic connections among people in these arbi-
trarily defi ned countries, and the trading traditions among them (Berg 1985;
Egg and Herrera 1998), as also discussed in chapter 8 of this volume.


Th e study of smuggling in Africa has focused mostly on whether or not this
trade is benefi cial. Azam (2007) provides an overview of the literature on the
welfare eff ects of smuggling. In an early contribution, Bhagwati and Hansen
(1973) emphasize the waste of resources associated with smuggling activi-
ties, but Deardorff and Stolper (1990) point out that smuggling is a response
to severe policy distortions and can alleviate those distortions. Relatively few
studies have attempted to document the magnitude and determinants of smug-
gling in Africa.


Prior to the colonial era, states in Africa were not characterized by hard
geographic borders, with rulers having only weak control over the territory and
movements of people (Herbst 2000, ch. 2). At the Berlin conference of 1884–85,
the colonial powers divided up Africa among themselves, creating territorial
borders based on their de facto zones of control. Th ese boundaries arbitrarily
separated regions with long-standing ethnic ties and oft en without clear geo-
graphic separators (Young 1994).


As illogical and porous as colonial borders were, they remained the basis
for national boundaries following the end of colonialism in the early 1960s.
Initiatives to consolidate countries into regional unions, including between Th e




GOVERNMENT POLICIES, SMUGGLING, AND THE INFORMAL SECTOR 197


Gambia and Senegal, have failed due to the unwillingness of national political
elites to cede authority (Herbst 2000).


Moreover, the newly independent postcolonial nation-states developed their
own national economic policies, including monetary and fi scal policies, but,
more oft en than not, these policies were wielded irresponsibly in the fi rst few
decades of independence. Trade policies were of particular importance, as they
served both to protect local industries and to generate government revenues
(Berg 1985). Taxes on international trade have historically provided an unusu-
ally large portion of government revenues in Africa, dating back to the colonial
period and continuing to the present day. Direct taxes on income and wealth
are diffi cult to enforce in Africa due to lack of state control over much of the
population (Herbst 2000, 116). Th e prevalence of the informal sector also limits
the scope for direct taxation, as discussed in chapter 3. In addition, many coun-
tries, particularly those pursuing import substitution strategies most vigorously,
have adopted very high import barriers, including tariff s and import prohibi-
tions. Th e high levels of protection have impeded legal trade within Africa and
provided large incentives for smuggling.


Regional integration has so far done little to promote legal trade within
Africa or to staunch smuggling. Th ere are some 30 regional blocs in Africa, and,
on average, each of the 53 countries on the continent is a member of four oft en-
overlapping groups (Yang and Gupta 2005). Yet offi cial intra-African trade fl ows
remain very low. Excluding South Africa, intra-African trade accounts for less
than 10  percent of total African exports and imports. Regional integration
has failed to promote offi cial trade for several reasons. First, in many regional
groups, notably the ECOWAS, eff ective harmonization of policies has been very
limited. Nigeria, in particular, has fl outed ECOWAS agreements on harmoniz-
ing external tariff s and removing barriers to trade within the group. Second,
regional integration has been asymmetric between francophone and anglo-
phone countries. Francophone countries have achieved much deeper integra-
tion. Th e WAEMU countries have formed a customs union, but this agreement
is confi ned to the francophone countries of West Africa, leaving out contiguous
anglophone countries, including Th e Gambia and Nigeria, which are members
of ECOWAS but not WAEMU. Consequently, large disparities in trade policies
remain the rule between countries sharing porous borders and weak enforce-
ment capabilities. Th e Gambia—a tiny anglophone country of 1.5 million peo-
ple completely surrounded by francophone Senegal except for a 60-kilometer
border on the Atlantic Ocean—is a case in point. Despite the geographic and
cultural ties that link them, political and economic cooperation between Sen-
egal and Th e Gambia has been minimal. Likewise, Benin and Nigeria have made
no eff orts to harmonize economic policies despite their long-shared border and
long-standing ethnic ties between their people.




198 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Overview of The Gambia-Senegal and Benin-Nigeria
Informal Trading


Informal trade activities involve three types of fl ows (INSAE 2001): smuggling
of imports from other continents, usually entering through the port without
being recorded, exports and imports of locally produced products within the
region, and unoffi cial reexports of legally imported products. In Th e Gambia,
reexports are the dominant activity, whereas in Benin, informal trade takes all
three forms. Th e focus here is mostly on reexports.


Reexporting involves importing goods and subsequently shipping them to
other countries with no additional processing or packaging, except for trans-
port services. Th e Gambia’s reexport activities to Senegal are similar to those
of Benin to Nigeria. In the 1960s and 1970s, Senegal and Nigeria developed
ineffi cient import-substituting manufacturing industries behind high import
barriers. Th e Gambia and Benin have never developed a signifi cant industrial
base and have evolved into entrepôt economies with development strategies
designed to undercut the trade policies of their more protectionist neighbors.
Th e only other signifi cant export industries aside from smuggling in these two
countries are declining primary products (groundnuts in Th e Gambia and cot-
ton in Benin) and tourism. In both countries since the early 1970s, the authori-
ties have sought to maintain trade taxes below those of neighboring countries
in a deliberate attempt to foster reexports to their larger neighbors. Th e Gambia
and Benin have become highly dependent on their entrepôt services, especially
for government revenues. In both cases, the relationship involves a francophone
member and an anglophone nonmember of WAEMU, but the roles are reversed
in the two cases (francophone Senegal and anglophone Nigeria are protection-
ist, while anglophone Th e Gambia and francophone Benin are more liberal).


Th e reexport trade straddles the formal and informal sectors in a highly
complex and well-organized system that operates quite similarly in diff erent
countries. Reexports involve large formal enterprises that import goods through
offi cial channels and a sophisticated distribution chain that engages in trans-
shipment through informal mechanisms. Reexports are a major contributor to
government revenues in Th e Gambia and Benin, because imported goods des-
tined for reexport generally pay duties when entering the country before being
smuggled out. Consequently, trade taxes are even more important for these two
countries than for most other African countries, accounting for about half of
both countries’ tax revenues.


Th e commodities involved in reexportation are highly diverse and vary over
time, but consist predominantly of imports of basic consumer goods originat-
ing from Asia, Europe, or the United States and sold to average African low-
or middle-income households. Goods enter through the port of Banjul in Th e
Gambia and Cotonou in Benin before being reexported to Senegal and Nigeria,




GOVERNMENT POLICIES, SMUGGLING, AND THE INFORMAL SECTOR 199


respectively, as well as to other countries in the region, to a lesser extent. Th e
main products are bulk food items such as rice, sugar, and fl our; processed
foods such as tomato paste, cooking oil, condensed and canned milk, tea, and
soft drinks; fabric of various sorts; used cars; and other basic household items
such as batteries, candles, and matches.


Cross-border trade of locally produced goods is also important, especially
for Benin. A very large proportion of many agricultural and manufactured
goods consumed in Benin are imported from Nigeria, according to fi eldwork
done by the research institute LARES and reported in INSAE (2001). Petroleum
products in particular are imported almost entirely from Nigeria, motivated by
the subsidized prices in that country. In some cases, manufactured goods pro-
duced in Nigeria are more competitive in neighboring countries such as Benin
than imports from Asia, especially since they escape duties when smuggled
into Benin. According to our interviewees, however, imports of manufactured
products from Nigeria have declined in recent years. Th ere is also substantial
unrecorded trade in locally produced agricultural commodities in Benin.


Th e overall structure of merchandise trade for Th e Gambia and Benin is
shown in table 9.1, which combines offi cial data with estimates of unoffi cial
trade fl ows, all as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). In both coun-
tries, offi cial merchandise exports are very small relative to imports, having
dropped steadily since the 1970s. Th ese declines in merchandise exports are


Table 9.1 Official Imports, Exports, Reexports, and Transit in The Gambia and Benin, 2004–07
% of GDP


Country and type of trade 2004 2005 2006 2007


The Gambia


Offi cial exports 2.5 1.7 2.2 2.0


Offi cial reexports 1.6 0.1 — —


Goods in transit 2.3 1.4 — —


Offi cial imports 57.1 51.4 50.8 47.4


Estimated unoffi cial imports for reexport 24.1 18.3 17.1 14.3


Estimated unoffi cial reexports 32.6 24.7 23.1 19.4


Benin


Offi cial exports 7.4 5.1 5.0 6.0


Offi cial reexports 0.3 0.5 0.4 0.6


Goods in transit 26.0 30.9 44.3 49.3


Offi cial imports 22.0 20.6 21.3 26.2


Estimated unoffi cial imports for reexport 22.4 23.6 26.6 32.4


Estimated unoffi cial reexports 30.2 31.9 35.9 43.7


Sources: Customs and trade statistics for Benin and The Gambia; World Bank 2010.
Note: — = Not available.




200 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


partially off set by increases in service exports (not shown in the table), but they
also refl ect the growth of unrecorded reexports. Offi cial imports as a share of
GDP are very high in Th e Gambia, at more than 50 percent, but are only about
half of that in Benin. Benin’s offi cial imports as a share of GDP are also far
below those of other coastal West African economies such as Senegal, Ghana,
and Togo.1 Benin’s low import ratio is inconsistent with its acknowledged role
as a regional entrepôt. Th is contradiction is explained by the failure of offi cial
statistics to capture two important dimensions of Benin’s trade: (a) a large vol-
ume of Benin’s imports, particularly petroleum products, are smuggled in from
Nigeria, and (b) a large volume of imports are classifi ed as in transit, but in fact
much of these goods in transit, mainly used cars, are not substantially diff erent
from ordinary imports, insofar as both are diverted to Nigeria and yield signifi -
cant revenues in the process. Overall, a very large portion of imports in both
Th e Gambia and Benin are not used for domestic consumption but instead are
transshipped, mostly to Senegal and Nigeria, respectively.


Operation of Smuggling Networks


A complex and opaque reexport distribution chain operates in both sets of
countries in broadly similar ways. Goods are brought into Benin or Th e Gam-
bia by large importers, in some cases operating in the formal sector, and are
then smuggled across the border through various mechanisms. Th e reexport
trade has developed a sophisticated infrastructure, in some respects organized
much more effi ciently than public infrastructure. Observers in both countries
allege that high government offi cials are aware of these activities and are oft en
involved in organizing and protecting smuggling networks, as they are in much
of Africa (Egg and Herrera 1998). As such, these networks operate quite openly
and without fear of government crackdowns.


Th e Gambia and Senegal
Goods are brought into Th e Gambia by a handful of large wholesale importers,
many of whom are Lebanese.2 Th e wholesalers then sell much of their merchan-
dise to other traders, oft en Mauritanians, who have shops all along the border
and who, in turn, sell to small-scale traders, typically “market women,” from
countries in the region—mainly Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mali, and, of course,
Senegal. Th ese petty traders then smuggle the goods into Senegal either by
going through the bush or by paying off customs offi cials at the offi cial border
posts. Alternatively, the wholesalers in Banjul sell directly to Senegalese busi-
nessmen who then transport the goods to the frontier in large trucks. Most of
the truckers are Senegalese nationals. At the border, the trucks are unloaded,
and the goods are smuggled through in smaller quantities, as described above.




GOVERNMENT POLICIES, SMUGGLING, AND THE INFORMAL SECTOR 201


Sometimes, the truck crosses the border with the connivance of Senegalese cus-
toms offi cials. Social, religious, and cultural ties among the participants, nota-
bly through their frequent affi liation with Mouride Muslim brotherhoods, as
described in chapter 8, greatly facilitate these transactions. Goods can also be
brought into Senegal by sea using pirogues operating at night. Th e sprawling
informal markets in Dakar, notably Sandaga, and in other cities, are substan-
tially supplied by contraband, much of it fl owing from Th e Gambia, with the
tacit acquiescence of the Senegalese authorities.


Traders estimate that about half of the reexports passing through Th e Gam-
bia are destined for Senegal, with the other half continuing on to Guinea—the
destination of about one-quarter of all Gambian reexports—Mali, Guinea-
Bissau, and sometimes even Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone.


Benin and Nigeria
Th e modalities of importation of products intended for reexport to Nigeria
vary by the nature of the commodity.3 Cross-border trade is controlled largely
by sophisticated and well-organized networks and the large informal fi rms
described in chapter 4, with many small operators involved on the margins.
Th e trust and connections provided by these informal networks, oft en ethnic
or religious in nature, facilitate market transactions spanning the continents
and enable the provision of credit and transfer of funds, as seen in chapter 8.


For bulk items such as rice, wheat, and sugar, importers purchase directly
from international brokers with whom they are in regular contact. For some
products such as cigarettes, the foreign companies have local representatives in
Benin. Importers of second-hand goods such as used cars oft en travel abroad or
have foreign correspondents, providing information about sourcing opportuni-
ties. A few large wholesalers dominate the imports of frozen poultry; COMON
Company has about 60 percent of the market, employing 470 full-time workers,
and CDPA-Agrisatch has some 20 percent of the market, with 150 full-time
workers and another 300 part-time workers. Overall, traders display a remark-
able fl exibility in adapting to changing market opportunities.


A variety of trading networks linked by cultural, ethnic, or commercial ties
operate in the reexport trade. Th ese include the Yoruba ethnic group, discussed in
the previous chapter, centered in Porto Novo, which operates with a high degree
of cohesion, thanks to ethnic and religious affi nities, groups of women importers,
and middlemen operating in the markets, again mostly women. Foreign traders
are also engaged in the reexport business. Most of the descendants of the European
trading houses have exited the scene, replaced by Lebanese and other Arabs, some
of whom came from Nigeria along with Ibo refugees during the Biafra war, and
Indians who began arriving from Ghana and Nigeria starting around 1970.


Unoffi cial reexports can cross the border by land or water. By land, traders
use numerous and ever-changing tracks along the long border with Nigeria.




202 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Th ey also use a complex network of canals, with new canals being dug when
customs agents patrol existing routes. Specialized warehouses for various goods
destined for reexport are located in Cotonou and along the border. For example,
warehouses specializing in wheat, rice, and other products are built and oper-
ated by brokers or private traders operating individually or in groups for their
own use or are rented out to other traders. A network of markets dots both sides
of the Benin-Nigeria border, with sister markets on either side of the frontier.


Th e parallel trade also runs from Nigeria to Benin. Nigeria has long been a
supplier to its francophone neighbors of a large variety of agricultural and manu-
factured goods, imported from Asia, in the case of items facing low import bar-
riers in Nigeria, or produced locally in Nigeria. Th e largest unoffi cial export by
far from Nigeria to Benin is petroleum products, which are heavily subsidized in
Nigeria, described in detail below. Imports from Nigeria have also been an impor-
tant source of capital and consumer goods in Benin and other CFA franc zone
countries in the region. Products include fertilizer, machinery of various kinds,
foodstuff s (corn and millet), plastic goods, spare parts, miscellaneous consumer
goods such as dishes, cookware, soaps, school supplies, cosmetics, hardware, toys,
scooters, and medicines (Galtier and Tassou 1998). Generic and low-cost phar-
maceuticals are produced in Nigeria with minimal regulation, so parallel imports
from Nigeria are the source of cheap generic medicines in Benin for people who
cannot aff ord to go to a licensed pharmacy. Some goods move in both directions
at diff erent times and places, including bulk food items and textiles, depending
on market conditions and Nigeria’s trade barriers.


Smuggling from Nigeria into Benin is intricately organized. Transport of goods
by truck convoy is permitted under agreements between Beninese importers and
high-level customs offi cials in Nigeria, with a prearranged lump-sum payment
per truck estimated to be equivalent to an ad valorem rate of 9–24 percent prior
to 1997—well below the statutory import duties and other import taxes (Le Faou
2001). Goods are also shipped to Benin illegally by boats using the complex sys-
tem of canals described earlier as well as by taxis hired for this purpose on both
sides of the border. In February 1997, however, the Beninese authorities abruptly
raised the lump-sum charge on trucks by 50 percent, resulting in a sharp reduc-
tion in the legal entry of goods in favor of illegal modes of entry.


In recent years, imports of manufactured products into Benin from Nigeria
have declined, supplanted by imports into Benin directly from China or indi-
rectly via Dubai. Petroleum imports are also down somewhat, as Nigeria has
raised retail prices closer to those in Benin.


Th e unoffi cial reexport trade operates in thinly disguised collusion with high
government offi cials in Nigeria. Th e highly lucrative reexport trade in cigarettes,
for example, has been carried out by Nigerian trading groups under the protec-
tion of the Nigerian secret service (Hashim and Meagher 1999). In fact, in the
case of used clothing and cigarettes, the dominant trading groups can deploy




GOVERNMENT POLICIES, SMUGGLING, AND THE INFORMAL SECTOR 203


the authorities to crack down on new entrants, preserving their control. Nige-
rian government involvement is also alleged to be profound in the all-important
smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria.


More detailed descriptions of cross-border trade in used cars and petroleum
products illustrate these mechanisms.


Trade in Used Cars Used cars have been Benin’s most signifi cant reexport
since about 2000.4 Chapter 4 describes the involvement of the large infor-
mal sector in this industry in Benin, as it is one of the most important arenas
for these fi rms. Imports of vehicles have risen steeply from 50,000 in 1996 to
200,000 in 2000 and to 250,000 in 2002 and 2003; aft er a dip in 2004–05 to
about 150,000, they rose again to 200,000 in 2006, reaching an all-time high of
300,000 in 2007. Perret (2002) estimates that used cars accounted for as much
as 43 percent of all trade fl ows in 2001, up from 37 percent in 1999. Th is is con-
fi rmed by the fact that in 2001 used cars represented an astounding 45 percent
of revenues (fees and taxes) for the port of Cotonou. Indeed the used car trade
has become one of Benin’s major industries. Huge car parks on the outskirts of
Cotonou employ an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people directly in importing,
selling, storing, and driving and several thousand more indirectly. Th e value
added generated by the distribution and handling of used cars was an estimated
9 percent of Benin’s GDP in 2001, roughly the same as for cotton.


About 90 percent of used cars imported into Benin are destined for Nigeria,
with 5 percent for Niger and 5 percent for the domestic market. Th e bulk of used
cars enter Benin in transit status, offi cially manifested for Niger or other land-
locked countries. For instance, of 230,000 cars declared for shipment to Niger in
2001, only 15,000 ended up there. Almost all the rest wound up in Nigeria. Th e
fact that cars manifested for Niger and other landlocked countries are diverted
to Nigeria is not concealed in Benin. Th ere is a well-established set of proce-
dures for obtaining documents from customs authorizing the diversion of cars
to Nigeria. Th e fees and taxes for obtaining the authorizations amount to about
CFAF 400,000 per car. Th is includes a fee for a customs escort to accompany the
car to the Nigerian border. With the average cost, insurance, and freight value
of a used car of about CFAF 1.0 million to CFAF 1.5 million, the taxes and fees
for customs clearance alone amount to about 30 percent of the value of the car.


Used car imports follow an elaborate and well-organized circuit. Import-
ers with connections in developed countries locate, purchase, and arrange for
transportation of the cars. In 2001, 65 percent of the cars imported originated
in Germany, with most of the rest coming from other European countries. Th e
location of Beninese correspondents and the ease of port operations aff ect
the preferred port of embarkation. Th e North American share has increased
recently, but Europe remains the main source. Some of the importers own their
own boats and are affi liated with international shipping companies such as




204 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Grimaldi. Others rent the boats. Customs clearance agents handle all of the
paperwork and authorizations. As discussed in chapter 4, there is close coopera-
tion between formal and informal customs clearance agents. Other intermedi-
aries play a role in matching buyers and sellers of cars. Aft er the cars clear the
port, they are stored in car parks in Cotonou before being driven to their des-
tination by companies specializing in the delivery of cars to the border, under
escort from customs and with police permission. Th e cars are driven at night
in convoys of about 100 cars. Th ey cross the border to Nigeria aft er paying
bribes to both Beninese and Nigerian customs inspectors. Th e magnitude of
the bribes is largely set by precedent, according to the custom clearance agents
interviewed. Th e cars then receive valid license plates in Nigeria. In short, gov-
ernment offi cials—from the highest to the lowest levels—on both sides of the
border facilitate and benefi t from this trade.


Competition from Togo is increasing, with Togo charging lower fees for
speedier service to off set Benin’s geographic advantage. In Togo, the paperwork
takes only one day, and Togolese customs charges CFAF 200,000–CFAF 300,000
per car. Competition from Togo was particularly acute around 2003–04, due to
problems at the port of Cotonou. Nevertheless, these problems appear to have
lessened, and Beninese traders do not seem overly worried about Togo, as the
importation of used cars into Benin has picked up strongly since 2005.


Th e ample supply of aging vehicles in Europe and low incomes in West
Africa provide a natural basis for trade in used cars. Imported cars averaged
about 16 years of use upon arrival in Benin in 2001, with 95 percent more than
10 years old. Toyota, Mercedes, and Peugeot cars have predominated, but the
vehicles of other Japanese and European companies are increasingly prevalent.
An accompanying market in spare parts has also fl ourished.


Nigeria’s ineff ective attempts to protect its own struggling car industry have
diverted this trade to the parallel market. At the end of the 1970s, Nigeria assem-
bled 100,000 cars compared with a mere 10,000 today. In 1994, Nigeria banned
imports of vehicles more than eight years old. In 2002, the law was further tight-
ened to ban all cars more than fi ve years old. In 2004, the ban was eased to
apply again to cars more than eight years old. Moreover, any imports of cars by
land routes, notably from Benin, are banned altogether. Th ese bans have, until
recently, proved impervious to the porous border between the two countries, the
strong demand for cheap vehicles, and the ambiguous attitudes of the authori-
ties in Nigeria. If Nigeria were either to liberalize its car market or to enforce the
ban, as it has sporadically done, most recently in March 2008, this lucrative trade
could suff er greatly or even collapse.


Petroleum Product Imports from Nigeria Like the reexport trade from Benin to
Nigeria, smuggling of petroleum products into Benin refl ects diff erential policies
combined with the ease of slipping goods across the border and the complicity




GOVERNMENT POLICIES, SMUGGLING, AND THE INFORMAL SECTOR 205


of the two countries’ offi cials. In this case, however, the main factors are the very
large subsidies in Nigeria and partial deregulation of pricing in Benin, which
together result in much lower consumer prices in Nigeria than in Benin (Moril-
lon and Afouda 2005). Smuggling of oil products into Benin began around 1980
and increased dramatically in 2000. High-level offi cials in both Nigeria and
Benin are said to be intimately involved.


Nigeria, of course, is one of the world’s largest producers of crude oil, with
export revenues highly dependent on world market prices, but its domestic
consumer prices are largely delinked from world market trends. Nigerian refi n-
eries are provided with crude oil at prices far below those of the world mar-
ket, amounting to a subsidy of 20–30 percent. Due to the poor condition of
its refi neries, Nigeria imports gasoline, which is also sold at controlled prices.
Moreover, Nigeria’s taxation of gasoline and diesel fuel is far below that of Benin
and other countries in the region. In 2005, the cumulative taxation of gasoline in
Benin approached 100 percent, counting import duties, excise taxes, and value
added taxes, while taxes on oil products in Nigeria are low.


Benin partially liberalized its petrol sector in 1995 as part of its structural
adjustment policies. In 2000, retail prices of gasoline, diesel fuel, and kerosene
were raised by about 75 percent and have subsequently been adjusted in line
with world oil prices. Th e 2000 price increase dramatically widened the gap
between the offi cial prices of these products in Benin and Nigeria, with prices
in Benin more than double those in Nigeria between August 2000 and May
2004, measured at the parallel exchange rate. In the last few years, Nigeria has
raised its domestic prices, narrowing the diff erential between the offi cial prices
in Benin and Nigeria. In April 2008, Benin’s offi cial price for unleaded gasoline
was CFAF 470 per liter, about 50 percent above the price of 80 in Nigeria, or
about CFAF 300 at the parallel exchange rate. Th e black market price of gasoline
in Cotonou dropped sharply relative to the offi cial price of gasoline following
the June 2000 offi cial price increases, whereas in 1997–99 the black market price
tended to exceed the offi cial price, refl ecting the scarcity of the product in the
face of the controlled price. Th e black market prices of gasoline in Nigeria and
Benin are nearly identical, at about 30 percent above Nigeria’s offi cial price. In
short, black market prices in Benin appear to be determined by a markup on
Nigeria’s offi cial price and have little connection to Benin’s offi cial price. Th us
the 2000 offi cial price increases in Benin have had no sustained eff ect on black
market prices (Morillon and Afouda 2005).


Not coincidentally, offi cial imports of gasoline and other petroleum products
have dropped dramatically in Benin since 2000, despite continuing increases in
the stock of vehicles in use in the country. Morillon and Afouda (2005) conse-
quently estimate that the share of gasoline supplied by informal imports from
Nigeria rose from about 10 percent in 1998 and 1999 to about 50 percent in 2000
and 83 percent in 2001 and 2002, tapering off slightly to 72 percent in 2003–04.




206 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


In recent years, the share of smuggled petroleum products has declined slightly
due to price increases in Nigeria. Th e share of smuggled gasoline has remained
around 60–70 percent of Benin’s domestic consumption, but parallel imports of
diesel and kerosene have dropped sharply.


Although well above Nigeria’s offi cial prices, Benin’s offi cial retail petroleum
prices are nonetheless considerably below those of other francophone countries
in the region. For example, in March 2005, Benin’s price for regular gasoline
was CFAF 360 per liter, compared to CFAF 415 in Togo, CFAF 470 in Niger,
CFAF 522 in Burkina Faso, and CFAF 580 in Mali. Benin consequently also
reexports a considerable portion of the gasoline and other petroleum products
it imports from Nigeria, with unoffi cial imports exceeding domestic usage by
an undetermined magnitude.


Th e burgeoning informal market in Benin has been boosted further by
the lack of offi cial gas stations, which, in turn, refl ects the dominance of the
informal market, with the zones bordering Nigeria, in particular, witnessing a
decline in the number of operating service stations. In contrast, Nigeria has a
very dense network of service stations, which readily supply the informal trad-
ers who smuggle gasoline into Benin.


Th e distribution network in Nigeria includes large wholesalers who have
storage depots along the border holding up to 1,000 liters of gasoline. Th ese
wholesalers have close political ties to high-level offi cials in Nigeria. Wholesal-
ers sell to various intermediary distributors of various sizes who sneak gasoline
across the border by pirogue, in cars whose gas tanks have been expanded, in
small quantities on scooters, or on foot.


Th e net eff ect of this massive trade in petroleum products on Benin’s econ-
omy is complex. It entails a large loss of fi scal revenues but also constitutes a
source of employment and income for traders and distributors, accounting in
2005 for 1–2 percent of GDP and 15,000–40,000 jobs, depending on the method
of estimation.


Causes of Smuggling: Differences in Import Protection
and Other Distortions


Golub and Mbaye (2009) and Oyejide et al. (2008) fi nd large and variable dif-
ferentials in retail product prices between Th e Gambia and Senegal and between
Benin and Nigeria, confi rming the incentive to smuggle. For example, sugar
prices are much higher in Senegal than in Th e Gambia. Diff erential shipping
costs from Europe, North America, or Asia cannot be an explanatory factor,
since the distance of shipping to Banjul versus Dakar or Contonou versus Lagos
from any point of origin is virtually identical. If anything, shipping to Dakar




GOVERNMENT POLICIES, SMUGGLING, AND THE INFORMAL SECTOR 207


is cheaper, insofar as Dakar serves as a regional hub for some of the major
shippers, and Lagos should benefi t from scale economies due to the size of the
Nigerian economy.


Diff erences in national trade policies are widely recognized as a signifi cant
factor (Egg and Herrera 1998). Th e effi ciency and probity of trade facilitation,
particularly port and customs operations, and the extent of border enforcement
are also relevant.


Trade Policies
Th e Gambia and Senegal As noted above, Th e Gambia’s relatively liberal trade
policies in comparison to those of neighboring countries have undoubtedly
contributed to Th e Gambia’s special role as a regional trading hub. Th e Gambia
liberalized earlier and more aggressively than other countries of the region,
most notably Senegal. Taxes on international trade in Th e Gambia and Senegal
include customs duties, sales taxes, value added tax (VAT), fees, and special
taxes on a few goods such as cigarettes. Th e import tax diff erential in the 1970s
through the early 1990s between Senegal and Th e Gambia was very large, with
Senegalese import duties alone as high as 100 percent for goods such as textiles,
while Gambian duties averaged around 30 percent.


Senegal’s Trade Policies Senegal followed highly restrictive trade and pricing
policies during the fi rst decades following its independence in 1960s, with very
high tariff s and opaque nontariff barriers. As in much of Africa, Senegal moved
toward more market-oriented economic policies as part of its structural adjust-
ment agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the late 1980s
and in the 1990s, following serious fi scal and fi nancial crises. Import barriers were
liberalized somewhat starting in the late 1980s. Following the 1994 devaluation,
import restrictions were signifi cantly lowered and simplifi ed, in particular with
the elimination of variable levies (valeurs mercuriales) and quantitative restric-
tions, except for a few products, notably sugar. As also discussed in the case stud-
ies in chapter 4, the political clout of the Mimran family has resulted in sugar
retaining extraordinarily high levels of protection, despite the general liberaliza-
tion of import barriers in Senegal since the 1980s. Th e downfall of several of the
most powerful large informal entrepreneurs was linked to their alleged smug-
gling of sugar, a highly lucrative but risky venture. Implementation of the com-
mon external tariff (CET) in WAEMU countries in 1998–2000 entailed further
declines in trade taxes in Senegal, posing a new challenge for Th e Gambia’s role as
an entrepôt and contributing to the impetus for substantial further liberalization.
Th e CET dramatically reduced the infamous complexity and lack of transparency
of Senegal’s tariff structure by consolidating tariff s into four categories, with the
top import duty rate, applicable to consumer goods, being 20 percent.




208 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Gambian Trade Policies Up to the late 1990s, Th e Gambia’s trade regime was
deliberately more liberal than those of its neighbors, particularly Senegal, but still
involved considerable complexity and tariff peaks, with rates of up to 90 percent
and 27 tariff bands (WTO 2004). In 2000, in response to the implementation of
the WAEMU CET, Th e Gambia simplifi ed its customs duties to fi ve bands, with
the highest carrying a rate of 20 percent, the same as the top rate in WAEMU. In
2001, the number of bands was further reduced to four, and the top rate dropped
to 18  percent (WTO 2004). In January 2006, Gambian customs duties were
aligned with the ECOWAS common external tariff , resulting in an increase in
some rates. Th e maximum rate, applicable to most consumer goods, was raised
from 18 to 20 percent. At the same time, the sales tax on imports was increased
from 10 to 15 percent, aligning it with the tax rate on domestic goods.


Comparison Table 9.2 compares import taxes in Th e Gambia and Senegal as
of end-2006 for some of the key goods said to be involved in the reexport trade,
aggregating the various taxes listed above. In all cases, Senegal’s taxes are higher
and sometimes much higher. Not surprising, the greatest diff erential is for sugar,
where the Senegalese composite tax rate is about 80 percent above the Gambian


Table 9.2 Trade Taxes in Senegal and The Gambia, 2007a
tax rate (%)


Product Gambia, The Senegal Difference


Flour 22.5 56.6 34.1


Sugar 22.5 103.8 81.3


Rice 16.8 22.7 5.9


Tomato paste 28.3 56.6 28.3


Cigarettes 58.0 97.7 39.7


Soft drinks 39.8 48.2 8.4


Milk (canned liquid) 22.5 44.8 22.3


Condensed milk 22.5 27.1 4.6


Cooking oil 22.5 56.6 34.1


Mayonnaise 39.8 44.8 5.0


Toilet soap 39.8 44.8 5.0


Candles 39.8 44.8 5.0


Matches 39.8 44.8 5.0


Tea 28.3 37.3 9.0


Canned sardines 39.8 44.8 5.0


Shoes 39.8 44.8 5.0


Fabric 39.8 44.8 5.0


Source: Customs data for The Gambia and Senegal; authors’ computations.
a. Includes sales taxes, fees, and other special taxes.




GOVERNMENT POLICIES, SMUGGLING, AND THE INFORMAL SECTOR 209


tax rate. For fl our, tomato paste, cooking oil, and cigarettes, the diff erential is
also quite high (25 to 40 percent). Th ese tax rate diff erences accord generally
well with the price diff erences for these same items (Golub and Mbaye 2009).


Benin and Nigeria Diff erential trade and taxation policies and practices are
also the main cause of reexports between Benin and Nigeria, according to the
available literature (Igué and Soulé 1992; Soulé 2004; Perret 2002; Morillon and
Afouda 2005) and our interviews in the fi eld.


Benin’s Trade Policies As in Th e Gambia, government revenues in Benin still
depend heavily on taxation of international trade to a much greater extent
than in other countries in Africa. Trade taxes account for more than half of
tax receipts and about half of all government revenue. In 1973, Benin offi cially
adopted trade policies to foster the reexport trade, with the goal of maintaining
lower import barriers than Nigeria. Like those of Senegal, Benin’s duties and
taxes are largely set by WAEMU. Unlike in other WAEMU countries, the CET
actually raised tariff rates on average in Benin. Prior to the CET, Benin’s tariff s
on consumer goods averaged 13.4 percent, far below the 30.0 percent plus rates
of most other WAEMU countries, with only Togo somewhat closer to Benin,
at 19.0 percent. With implementation of the CET, Benin’s overall average tar-
iff s rose slightly from 11.4 to 12.2 percent, whereas average tariff s for all other
WAEMU countries fell substantially (World Bank 2005). Th e CET did little to
diminish Benin’s reexports, however, given the continued very large diff erential
with Nigeria.


Nigeria’s Trade Policies Nigeria’s trade policies have varied widely over time.
Nigeria heavily protects some products, particularly those facing strong import
competition, while subsidizing others, notably gasoline and other petroleum
products. Nigeria’s import barriers have been among the highest in the world,
as shown in table 9.3, with applied tariff s averaging nearly 30.0 percent in 2003
and a signifi cant number of import prohibitions (IMF 2005; WTO 2005). Th e
Nigerian manufacturing sector is unusually diversifi ed for Africa, but highly
ineffi cient, with capacity utilization rates usually well below 50 percent (IMF
2005). Th e Nigerian government has sought to protect its struggling, but politi-
cally connected, domestic industrial and agricultural industries behind high
import barriers.5 ECOWAS has been moving toward adoption of a common
external tariff with the same four-category structure of rates as WAEMU, but
Nigeria has so far refused to accept this regime in its entirety. Nigeria also
violates ECOWAS’s provisions on free trade within West Africa. All imports
from West Africa are required to enter Nigeria through the port of Calabar,
and there are numerous checkpoints on the roads from Benin into southern
Nigeria toward Lagos, 120 kilometers from the border. Nigeria’s import bans
are applied to imports from Benin, even if the products are produced in Benin.




210 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Table 9.3 presents the recent evolution of Nigeria’s trade barriers on some of
the key products involved in the reexport trade, illustrating the very high levels
and variability of restrictions on imports. A long list of banned products varies
from year to year. Th e extent to which these bans are enforced, however, also
varies, and exemptions can be granted with the approval of the president. In
short, Nigerian trade policy operates with an enormous complexity and opacity
above and beyond the very high import barriers.


Trade Facilitation and Other Factors
Trade barriers can explain much, but not all, of the diff erences observed in
wholesale prices. Th is section considers other factors, including trade facilita-
tion, enforcement of border crossings, and currency exchange.


Th e Gambia and Senegal


Port Effi ciency and Customs Practices Customs practices are as important as
statutory customs duties. Th ese practices include customs valuation procedures
and the speed and ease at which goods are cleared through the port and beyond.
In Senegal, customs is said to engage in highly discretionary valuation prac-
tices. Senegalese customs apparently still applies reference pricing mechanisms
to protect “sensitive goods,” such as matches, that are produced domestically,


Table 9.3 Selected Import Barriers in Nigeria, 1995–2007
tariff rates (%) or bans


Product 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007


Edible oil Banned Banned 55 40 Banned Banned Banned


Poultry meat Banned Banned 55 75 Banned Banned Banned


Beer Banned Banned 100 100 100 Banned Banned


Wine 100 100 100 100 100 20 20


Milk products 55 55 50 50 100 20 20


Tomato preserves 45 45 45 45 45 20 20


Used clothes Banned Banned Banned Banned Banned Banned Banned


Tires Banned Banned Banned Banned Banned Banned Banned


Wheat dough Banned Banned Banned Banned Banned Banned Banned


Used carsa Banned Banned Banned Banned Banned Banned Banned


Sugar 10 10 10 40 100 50 50


Cloth and apparel Banned 50 65 55 100 Banned Banned


Tobacco and cigarettes 90 90 80 80 100 50 50


Rice 100 50 50 75 110 50 50


Source: Soulé 2004; Nigerian customs data provided by the World Bank.
a. Defined as more than eight years old in 1994–2002, more than five years old in 2002–04, and more than
eight years old since 2004.




GOVERNMENT POLICIES, SMUGGLING, AND THE INFORMAL SECTOR 211


similar to, but less blatant than, the reference price maintained though the vari-
able levy on sugar. Th e Gambia’s customs services are relatively effi cient in com-
parison to the more complex and bureaucratic procedures in Senegal.


Another factor is the unusually effi cient port of Banjul. Unlike other Afri-
can countries, including Senegal, the port of Banjul is known for its rapid and
effi cient clearance of goods. While merchandise can languish for days or even
weeks in most African ports, including Dakar, clearance usually occurs within
24 hours in Banjul.


Th e Overall Business Climate Both Senegal and Th e Gambia benefi t from
social harmony and relative political stability. But while Senegal suff ers from
the legacy of a French-style highly bureaucratized system, Th e Gambia’s more
laissez-faire tradition has contributed to the development of trading establish-
ments in Banjul. Ease of access to foreign exchange through the banking system
in particular is a plus for Th e Gambia. In all of these areas, however, other coun-
tries are narrowing the gap with Th e Gambia. In some cases, Th e Gambia is at a
disadvantage. For example, the tax rate on profi ts is 35 percent in Th e Gambia,
while it has been lowered to 25 percent in Senegal.


Relations with Senegal Senegal inevitably looms large in the Gambian reexport
business, given the country’s near-total enclosure within Senegal. For the same
reason, economic relations with Senegal are critical. Yet relations with Senegal
have not always been smooth, as noted in the introduction. Border disputes
with Senegal can severely disrupt reexport trade. According to wholesalers,
every signifi cant border confl ict with Senegal leads to a substantial drop in
reexports, and the subsequent recovery is always incomplete. Th e border dis-
pute following an increase in Gambian ferry fees in August 2005, when Senega-
lese truckers blockaded the border crossings in retaliation, contributed to the
decline in reexports in 2006–07. While traders are, to some extent, able to avoid
the offi cial border crossings and slip across the frontier through the bush, the
reexport trade was severely disrupted until the issue was resolved in October
2005, when Th e Gambia rescinded the fee increases.


Currency Movements Depreciation of the Gambian dalasi vis-à-vis the CFA
franc also aff ects the attractiveness of reexporting. Although the prices of
imported goods are set in euros or U.S. dollars, and, therefore, free on board
import prices are unaff ected by fl uctuations in the bilateral dalasi-CFA franc,
the competitiveness of the transport services sector in Th e Gambia improves
when the dalasi depreciates. Th e real depreciation of the dalasi in 2001–03 may
explain some of the increase in reexports since 2001. According to traders, sub-
stantial exchange rate volatility is inimical to the reexport trade, as it makes
arbitraging between markets more risky.




212 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Benin and Nigeria


Business Climate and Trade Facilitation Although far from perfect, Benin
off ers a much friendlier climate for business and trade than Nigeria, where
insecurity and crime are rampant, including at the ports. Th e port of Cotonou
suff ers from signifi cant problems of corruption and weak infrastructure, but is
superior to the ports in Nigeria. Clearance of goods is much faster, cheaper, and
easier in Cotonou than in Nigerian ports. According to shippers, however, ports
in Nigeria are improving, so this factor may become less signifi cant.


Border Enforcement Benin has long had complex economic and political
ties to Nigeria. Nigeria has made sporadic eff orts and threats to close down
cross-border trade with Benin and has occasionally done so. Th e borders have
sometimes been closed due to other political tensions between the two coun-
tries. From February 1984 to February 1986, Nigeria shut down the border with
Benin in an eff ort to curb smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria. Dur-
ing this time, Nigeria closed down all service stations within 10 kilometers of
the border with Benin in a futile attempt to curb smuggling. In 1996, President
Abacha of Nigeria closed the border in a political dispute with Benin’s President
Soglo related to the latter’s military cooperation with the United States, which
Abacha viewed as a threat. Th e resulting dislocations in Benin, notably gaso-
line shortages, contributed to Soglo’s defeat in the 1996 presidential elections.
In August 2003, the border was closed for a week following a confrontation
between the Nigerian and Beninese government precipitated by the harboring
of a Nigerian suspected criminal in Cotonou.6 Another brief, but disruptive,
border closing occurred in 2005. In March 2008, Nigeria reportedly initiated a
crackdown on imports of used cars, holding up car convoys at the usual crossing
points such a Krake and Igolo.7


Notwithstanding these occasional border closings and frequent threats from
Nigeria, the reexport trade has always recovered as the enforcement of border
controls reverts to its normal laxity. Nevertheless, Benin clearly is highly vul-
nerable to the vagaries of economic policy in Nigeria and could face serious
diffi culties if Nigeria adopts less-restrictive trade barriers or makes a serious
eff ort to crack down on parallel trade.


Exchange Rates and Convertibility Exchange rate changes themselves should
not much alter the relative prices of importable goods from Asia or Europe in
Benin versus Nigeria, since these prices are set in world markets and a change in
the CFA franc–naira exchange rate should be refl ected in corresponding move-
ments of local currency prices in Benin and Nigeria. It can, however, aff ect the
competitiveness of locally produced goods. In any event, the devaluation of
the CFA franc in 1994 had little eff ect on the reexport trade beyond the short-
run disruptions it entailed. For a few months immediately following the 1994




GOVERNMENT POLICIES, SMUGGLING, AND THE INFORMAL SECTOR 213


devaluation, reexports dropped, but they recovered rapidly, and no clear change
in the volume of reexports occurred between 1993 and 1994 (Galtier and Tas-
sou 1998, 129; Hashim and Meagher 1999). Th e eff ect of the devaluation of the
CFA franc may also have been obscured by the subsequent sharp depreciation
of the naira in the parallel market and the rapid increase of Nigerian infl ation.


Th e greater stability and liquidity of the CFA franc relative to the Nigerian
naira has played a role in boosting Benin’s role as a trading center. Unlike the
CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro and freely convertible into foreign cur-
rency within the CFA zone, the naira is highly volatile and subject to strict
exchange controls, with a large black market. In 1993, however, when the CFA
franc was made temporarily inconvertible outside of the franc zone, it had no
lasting negative eff ect on the reexport trade.


Estimates of Unoffi cial Cross-Border Trade


Offi cial bilateral trade statistics from both Th e Gambia and Senegal report a
tiny volume of bilateral trade between the two countries. According to these
offi cial statistics, Th e Gambia’s bilateral exports and imports with Senegal each
accounted for only about 3.5 percent of Th e Gambia’s total exports and imports,
respectively, over 2002–05, with Senegal having a bilateral surplus. Likewise,
Benin’s trade data indicate that only about 15 percent of Benin’s exports and
imports in recent years are with other members of the regional groups WAEMU
and ECOWAS. In particular, Benin’s recorded exports to, and imports from,
Nigeria are very low, averaging about 5 percent of its total offi cial exports and
imports between 2000 and 2005.


Th e offi cial statistics, therefore, seem at variance with reality. By all accounts,
there is a very large volume of reexports from Th e Gambia to Senegal and from
Benin to Nigeria. But there are no reliable estimates of the volume of this trade.
Th is situation is consistent with the fi ndings of Berg (1985), who concludes that
the anomalies of African trade statistics are due mostly to smuggling.


Although there are no available data on unoffi cial trade, estimates of the
magnitude of reexports can be garnered by examining the pattern of imports
of goods subject to large price distortions, under the assumption that these
imports are recorded correctly at the port. One strategy is to compare imports
to domestic consumption, but it is diffi cult to estimate the latter.


Th e IMF estimates of reexports in Th e Gambia amount to about four times
the domestically produced exports or 80 percent of total exports, fi gures that are
in line with the estimates of knowledgeable observers interviewed and Elhadj’s
(2000) qualitative discussion. Golub and Mbaye’s (2009) fi ndings are similar for
average levels of reexports, but show greater variation than the IMF estimates.




214 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


Reexport products from Benin to Nigeria are dominated by a limited num-
ber of goods that are highly protected or banned in Nigeria, including those
listed in table 9.4: bulk food items (rice, wheat, sugar), processed foods (tomato
paste, condensed milk), frozen poultry, cigarettes, textiles and clothing, and
used goods (cars, tires, and clothes). Most of these products have been main-
stays of the reexport trade since at least the 1970s, although variations have
occurred in their relative importance in response to fl uctuations in the severity
of Nigeria’s import restrictions.


Table 9.4 presents the values of imports over 2004–07 on 14 of the most
important goods of Benin’s reexport trade. Importers in Benin estimate that
70–90 percent of these goods are reexported illegally to Nigeria. Overall, table
9.4 suggests that the reexport trade is very signifi cant relative to recorded
imports, GDP, and government revenues. Imports of these 14 goods alone are
greater than all offi cially recorded imports reported in IMF and World Bank
databases, largely because these databases exclude imported goods labeled as
in transit. Duties collected on these 14 goods alone amounted to about 30 per-
cent of total government tax revenues over 2004–07. Th ese fi gures are consider-
ably above those suggested in much of the previous literature, such Galtier and


Table 9.4 Imports in Benin, by Selected Reexport Items, 2004–07a


CFAF, billions


Product 2004 2005 2006 2007


Used cars 150.5 178.7 264.2 327.7


Rice 50.4 90.9 104.4 151.7


Textiles 44.7 60.1 57.0 82.9


Used clothes 27.8 32.7 41.9 48.9


Palm oil 9.1 9.0 27.1 44.4


Frozen poultry 29.7 26.0 23.6 38.5


Batteries 20.4 23.5 29.6 34.5


Furniture 4.7 6.6 14.5 28.6


Sugar 8.0 9.8 13.2 13.4


Clothing 4.1 10.7 2.3 8.8


Cigarettes 1.9 3.8 5.7 8.8


Prepared tomatoes 0.7 0.7 2.4 4.6


Used tires 3.5 4.2 4.2 4.5


Cardboard 4.3 4.2 3.7 3.1


Subtotal 359.7 460.9 593.9 800.2


Share of GDP (%) 22.4 23.6 26.6 32.4


Source: Customs data for Benin; authors’ calculations.
a. Includes goods imported in transit status.




GOVERNMENT POLICIES, SMUGGLING, AND THE INFORMAL SECTOR 215


Tassou (1998). According to Igué and Soulé (1992), however, reexports have
at various earlier times amounted to more than half of recorded imports, for
example, in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


Signifi cance of Informal Cross-Border Trade


Th e contribution of the reexport trade to the economies of Benin and Th e
Gambia is diffi cult to measure, but is certainly large. Reexports account for
about 80 percent of total exports for Th e Gambia. Net reexports (aft er deducting
imports intended for reexport) contribute about 20 percent of foreign exchange
earnings and 7 percent of GDP, below the contribution of tourism, but above
that of groundnuts.8 Large numbers of people are employed in the handling,
storage, and transport of goods.


In Benin, reexports may be even more important. Perret (2002) estimates
that trade in used cars alone accounts for 9 percent of Benin’s GDP—the same
magnitude as for cotton. Given that used cars contribute about half of total
unoffi cial reexports, unoffi cial trade generates perhaps 20 percent of Benin’s
GDP. Its contribution to employment is less than its contribution to GDP, given
that much of the latter consists of profi ts of importers and tax revenues, but it is
still substantial, involving perhaps 50,000 people directly, of which about 15,000
are in the used car market (Perret 2002).


Th e most important contribution of the reexport trade is to government
revenues. Indeed, as noted earlier, Benin’s and Th e Gambia’s trade policies have
revolved around maximizing the income from reexports by taxing goods when
they enter Benin at a rate well below those of their more protectionist neigh-
bors. Taxes on international trade represent about half of government revenues
in both countries, with taxes on imports intended for reexport accounting for
half or more of trade tax revenues.


Harmonization of trade policies within WAEMU and ECOWAS poses a
threat to the reexport business. Th e eff ect of the WAEMU CET in raising tariff s
on consumer goods reduced Benin’s competitive advantage vis-à-vis Togo, and
the prospect of Nigeria’s agreeing to lower its trade barriers is a major threat
to the continued viability of smuggling. To counter the disincentive eff ects of
trade liberalization by their neighbors, it is alleged that Beninese and Gambian
customs offi cials have at times endeavored to off set the rate increases by lower-
ing the declared taxable value of some merchandise. Essentially, a preferential
regime is in eff ect for reexports relative to goods for local use.


While Benin and Th e Gambia reap substantial revenue gains from reexports,
a lot of smuggling almost completely escapes taxation. Moreover, these benefi ts
are fragile, because reexports are subject to the vagaries of neighbors’ trade poli-
cies and the eff ectiveness of border controls.




216 THE INFORMAL SECTOR IN FRANCOPHONE AFRICA


It could be argued that smuggling serves a positive social function by under-
mining and circumventing distortions. Th e sustainability of trade strategies
that prey on the distorted policies of neighbors is highly questionable, however.
More generally, smuggling contributes to an acceptance of and even admiration
for tax evasion and corruption in West Africa.


Conclusion


Th is chapter has examined cross-border smuggling between Senegal and
Th e Gambia and between Benin and Nigeria. Th e volume of unrecorded and
untaxed trade between neighboring countries in West Africa is very large. Th e
causes of this trade are varied, but the main drivers are policy distortions that
create price diff erentials across borders, combined with long-standing ethnic
and religious ties that transcend national borders, as described in chapter 8,
long porous borders, weak enforcement, and the involvement of infl uential
political actors. Th e large informal fi rms described in chapter 4 are actively
involved in cross-border trade.


As in other areas relating to the informal sector covered in chapter 6, reduc-
ing smuggling requires policy reforms that diminish the incentives promoting
illegal behavior (in this case, further tariff harmonization in the region), along
with stronger state institutions (in particular, customs administration) that
deter opportunistic behavior.


Notes
1. Togo also engages in reexport to Nigeria.
2. Th is description is based on Lambert (1994), Boone (1989), and Rice (1967) as well


as our interviews with traders and customs offi cials in both Th e Gambia and Senegal
in 2005.


3. Th is description is based on Igué and Soulé (1992) as well as interviews in Benin.
4. Th is discussion of the used car market is based on Perret (2002) and interviews with


traders and businesses involved in the import and sale of used cars.
5. For example, it is alleged that the ban on poultry imports is related to former presi-


dent Obasanjo’s chicken farming business.
6. Th e case involved the killing of one of the nieces of then Nigerian president Obasanjo


in a carjacking in Lagos. Th e carjacking ring stole cars in Nigeria and took them to
Cotonou. Th e head of the carjacking ring, Tidjani Hamani, a Niger national, was
based in Cotonou, where he was arrested and later released by the Benin judiciary.


7. “Diffi cultés commerciales entre le Bénin et Le Nigeria: Embargo sur les véhicules
d’occasion venues de Cotonou,” Le Matinal (Benin), March 14, 2008.


8. IMF (2005). Th e contribution to GDP is based on the IMF’s estimate of “the margins
added to the cost of imports to account for services provided by enterprises based in
Th e Gambia.”




GOVERNMENT POLICIES, SMUGGLING, AND THE INFORMAL SECTOR 217


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219


A
accounting, 76–78


in construction sector, 87–88
fraud in, 131, 132
See also honest accounting


accreditation, 113
Africa, informal sector compared to Latin


America, 2
agriculture, 44–46, 47


ban on poultry imports, 216n5
division of labor in, 189
and trade between Nigeria and Benin,


202–3
trade in locally produced goods, 199


apprenticeships, 124, 178


B
Bamba, Cheikh Amadou, 175–76, 178,


181
banking services, 24–25, 26, 56, 57–58,


92–93, 211
See also fi nancial services


Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP), 92–93
baolbaol, 141
barriers to trade, 207, 209–10, 216n5
barter, 183
basic necessities approach measure, 69
BCEAO. See Central Bank of West


African States (BCEAO)


Benin, 41, 197
agriculture, 44–45
business climate, 212
economy and economic indicators,


42t3.1, 43–45
employment in, 44, 58, 58t3.4, 65
exchange rates, 212–13
exports as share of sales, 98–99
GDP, 36t2.1, 42, 43, 44, 45, 50,


52f 3.4
imports, 45, 86–87, 204–6, 213–15
nonagricultural fi rms in, 37t2.2
per capita expenditures, 66–68
poverty, 66–70
primary sector, 44, 52, 53f 3.7
retail trade, 44–45, 86–87
secondary sector in, 44, 52, 55f 3.10
smuggling operations in, 44, 86,


201–6
street vendors, 49
taxation, 86, 87, 108–10, 111f 5.7, 209


business tax regime, 129
collection, 58–59, 61–62, 71n2
coordination of tax and customs,


134
lump-sum tax regime, 130–32
revenues loss due to tax evasion,


62–64
tertiary sector, 44, 52, 57f 3.13


Index


Boxes, fi gures, maps, notes, and tables are indicated by b, f, m, n, and t, respectively, fol-
lowing the page numbers.




220 INDEX


Benin (continued)
trade, 212


with Nigeria, 44–45, 198–200, 213
policies for, 209
signifi cance of cross-border trade


for, 215–16, 216n8
trucking sector, 85–86
used vehicle market, 83–85, 203–4
Yoruba in, 182–88
See also Cotonou


BICIS Bank, 92
BNP. See Banque Nationale de Paris


(BNP)
border disputes, 211
Botswana, 49, 115
Bousso, Marabout Serigne Khadim, 76,


91–93
bribes, 138
Burkina Faso, 41


agriculture, 45–46
business climate in, 150–51
construction sector, 87–88
economy and economic indicators,


42t3.1, 45–46
employment in, 46, 49, 58, 58t3.4, 65
exports as share of sales, 46, 98–99
GDP, 36t2.1, 42, 43, 45–46, 50, 51f 3.2,


52f 3.4
nonagricultural fi rms in, 37t2.2
poverty, 66–70
primary sector, 45–46, 52, 53f 3.6
secondary sector in, 52, 54f 3.9
support for SMEs, 135
survival activities in, 18
taxation, 108–10, 111f 5.7, 131


business tax regime, 87–88, 129
collection, 58–59, 62, 71n2
coordination of tax and customs,


134
lump-sum tax regime, 130–32
presumptive tax in, 22
revenue loss due to tax evasion,


62–64
transition from informal to formal


fi rms, 88


Yoruba traders in, 188
See also Ouagadougou


business environment, 6, 137–39, 211,
212


Burkina Faso, 150–51
business support agencies, 135–36
business strategies, 113–14
constraints in, 125
indicators of, 7
and productivity, 147
relations with customs, 89–97
taxation issues, 108–11


business income taxes, 16, 21, 97, 129
Burkina Faso, 87–88, 129
and fi nancial statements, 23
Senegal, 60–61, 129
vs. presumptive tax, 78–79, 95
See also taxation


business law, 7
business licenses, 131, 132, 136


C
Cabral, Lisa, 191n1
capabilities approach measures, 69
capacity utilization rates, 209
capital intensity, 149, 156–59, 167
capital-labor ratios, 149
caravan trade, 183
carjacking rings, 212, 216n6
car parks, 83–85, 203
CART. See classifi cation and regression


trees (CART)
causality, of relationship between


informal sector and
productivity, 162–69


CDPA-Agrisatch, 201
Central Bank of West African States


(BCEAO), 98
centres de gestion agréés, 135
CET. See common external tariff (CET)
CGU. See contribution générale unique


(CGU)
characteristics of fi rms, 4–6


exports, 97–100
fi nancing and investments, 100–103




INDEX 221


infrastructure, 102–8
institutional environment, 112–14
market structure, 97–100
size, 18–20, 25f 1.1, 26–27, 95–97
workforce, 115–19
See also productivity; taxation


classifi cation and regression trees
(CART), 164–67


clientele, in formal vs. informal fi rms,
98, 100


Cobb-Douglas production function, 148
collateral requirements, 24
commercial sector, 37t2.2


registration procedures, 136
Senegal, 92–93


common external tariff (CET), 59, 62,
207, 208


COMON Company, 201
competition and competitiveness, 11, 12,


97, 99
for car trade, 204
and exchange rates, 212–13
formal vs. informal sectors, 81–83
relationship to productivity, 146


confl ict resolution, 112
construction sector, 16–17, 53, 56


Burkina Faso, 87–88
cooperation between formal and


informal fi rms in, 81–82
Senegal, 47


consumption spending, 33, 40n2
contribution générale unique (CGU),


60–61
cooking fuel, 70
cooperation, between formal and


informal sectors, 81–83
correlation coeffi cients, between criteria


of informality, 26–27
corruption, 7, 88, 110, 138, 141
costs


of importing permits, 86
of registration procedures, 136
relationship to formal vs. informal


fi rms, 125–26, 127
Côte d’Ivoire, 185–86, 187, 188


Cotonou, 102, 188, 202
capital intensity in, 158–59
carjacking ring in, 212, 216n6
car parks, 84, 203
characteristics of fi rms in


exports as share of sales, 98–99
and infrastructure, 102–8
institutional environment, 112–14
size, 96t5.1
sources of fi nancing and invest-


ments in, 100–102
workforce, 116–19


interest rates on loans, 101–2
productivity


gaps in, 151–56, 160–61, 170nn2–3
TFP in, 157–58


share of fi rms with informality
criteria, 25f 1.1


taxation, 108–11, 111f 5.7, 130–32
wages in, 66–67
See also Benin


cotton industry, 44–45
credit


access to, 24–25, 26, 57–58, 100–102,
140


as factor in productivity gaps,
156–59


and labor productivity, 154–56
relationship to tax compliance, 127


cross-border trade, 8, 195
between Nigeria and Benin, 212
role of networks in, 173–74, 201
signifi cance of, 215–16, 216n8
and support of social and religious


groups, 141
trade statistics, 213–15
by Yoruba, 188


currencies, and reexporting, 211
customs, 6, 59


business relations with, 89–97
coordination with tax agencies,


134–35
corruption in, 88
customs clearance process, 81
customs laws, 76




222 INDEX


customs (continued)
data compared to reported sales,


78–80
fraud in, 80, 81–83, 86, 132–34
Th e Gambia, 208, 210–11
institutional framework for, 132–35
and reexport operations, 200–201
Senegal, 210–11
and used cars, 203–4
WAEMU Credit Union, 128


customs clearance agents, 81, 87, 88
and business climate, 138
as importers, 133
and used car trade, 204


D
DAGs. See directed acyclic graphs


(DAGs)
dahira, 177–79, 181
Dahomey, 184
Dakar, 82, 112


capital intensity in, 158–59
characteristics of fi rms in


fi nancing and investments of,
100–103


infrastructure, 102–8
institutional environment, 112–14
market structure and exports,


97–100
size, 96, 98–99
workforce, 115–19


exports as share of sales, 98–99
Mouride trading activities in, 177,


178–79
productivity


gaps in, 150–56, 160–61, 170nn2–3
TFP, 157–58


share of fi rms with informality
criteria, 25f 1.1


taxation issues, 108–11, 111f 5.7
wages in, 66–67
See also Senegal


daras, 176–77, 180, 189, 191n2
data collection


on customs revenues, 59


customs statistics compared to
reported sales, 78–80


diffi culty of, 31
methods for in informal sector, 31–33,


40n1
strategy for, 33–37, 40n3


data sources, 3, 19–20
directories, 35
informal fi rms as target for, 34–35
qualitative data from interviews,


37–39
secondary data, 39


debt
Benin, 45
Burkina Faso, 46


defi nitions
formal fi rms, 95
informality, 2, 3, 15, 18–27, 29n2,


31–32, 49–50
large informal fi rms, 3, 95
small informal fi rms, 95


demand, 147
demographics, 41, 42t3.1, 45


See also specif ic demographic
deprivation of goods, 69
developing countries, relationship


between productivity and
informality in, 146–48


Développement, Institutions et
Ajustement à Long Terme
(DIAL), 21, 32, 93n2


DGE. See Division des Grandes
Entreprises (DGE)


DIAL. See Développement, Institutions
et Ajustement à Long Terme
(DIAL)


Dieye, Bocar Samba, 76, 91
Diop, Ibrahima Th ione, 123
Dioum, Cheikh Tall, 76, 90–91
directed acyclic graphs (DAGs),


168–69
directories, as data source, 35
Division des Grandes Entreprises (DGE),


22, 29n1, 76, 129, 131
division of labor, 183, 189




INDEX 223


E
earnings, 66–67, 115, 160–61
econometric modeling, of causality


between informal sector and
productivity, 162–68


Economic Community of West African
States (ECOWAS), 44, 195, 209,
215


economic growth, relationship to
informality, 146–47


economic relations, Senegal with Th e
Gambia, 211


economies
Benin, 41–42, 43–45
Burkina Faso, 41–42, 45–46
groundnut economy, 176–77, 191n2
Senegal, 41–42, 47–48


ecosystems, 177
ECOWAS. See Economic Community of


West African States (ECOWAS)
education


focus on, 139–40
formal vs. informal sectors, 88, 115–


17, 124, 160–61, 189
link to adherence to regulations, 127
of owners of small informal fi rms, 77
parking lot workers, 84
and productivity gaps, 160–61


electrical power, 69, 88, 102–8
employees


gender and educational level of,
160–61


number of in fi rms in sample, 95–96
in small fi rms, 18–20, 77–78
syndicates for, 92


employment, 2, 18
Benin, 44, 58, 58t3.4, 65
Burkina Faso, 46, 49, 58, 58t3.4, 65
employment-based vs. fi rm-based


sampling strategies, 32–33,
40nn1–2


formal vs. informal sectors, 58, 58t3.4,
64


minimum age threshold for, 32
self-employed, 115, 117


Senegal, 58, 58t3.4, 65
See also informal employment


enforcement
of border between Benin and Nigeria,


212
of regulations, 126–27
in Senegal, 139
state’s capacity for, 125
of trade policies, 196, 197


entrepôt economies, 198, 200, 207
Ethiopia, 48–49
ethnic networks, 8, 173–74, 201
Europe, as source of cars, 203–4
exchange rates, 211, 212–13
exports


Benin, 45, 98–99, 199–200, 213–15
Burkina Faso, 46, 98–99
in formal vs. informal sector, 98–99
relationship to productivity, 146
Senegal, 48, 98–99
transit in Th e Gambia and Benin,


199–200, 213–15


F
family enterprises, 18
farming, 177–79
Faye, Pape, 181
fi nancial services, 56, 57–58, 140


in formal vs. informal sector, 100–103
lack of, 10
See also banking services


fi nancial statements, 23–24
fi shing, Senegal, 47
food products


imports of in Senegal, 4
reexport of, 195, 199, 201, 214
taxes on, 208–9


formal sector, 10, 87, 98, 112
access to bank credit, 24–25
access to public services, 123, 124–25,


139–41
business climate in, 137–39
capital intensity in, 158–59
compared to informal sector, 81–83,


123–27, 148–56, 170n2




224 INDEX


formal sector (continued)
criteria for formality of, 28, 29n3
employment, 58, 58t3.4, 64
fi nancing for, 100–103
growth rate in, 50–51
infrastructure issues, 102–8
labor force, 115–19
legal and regulatory framework of,


7–8, 126–27
management of, 9–10
market structure of, 97–99
nonmonetary approach to measure of


poverty in, 69–70
and productivity, 147, 148–56, 156–62,


170n2
registration of fi rms, 20–21
Senegal, 91–93
taxation in, 58–59, 108–10, 111f 5.7,


128–32, 134–35
transition to, 78, 88
See also specif ic country


fraud
in accounting, 131, 132
in customs, 80, 81–83, 86, 132–34
in real estate market, 132


free trade zones, 140–41


G
Th e Gambia, 41, 197, 211


Mourides in, 174–82
port effi ciency and customs practices,


210–11
signifi cance of cross-border trade for,


215–16, 216n8
smuggling networks in, 200–201
trade, 198–200, 208–9, 213–15


GDP. See gross domestic product (GDP)
gender


and labor force, 115, 117–18, 119t5.14,
160–61


and productivity gaps, 160–61
women as traders, 184–85, 186–87,


189
geography


Benin, 43–44


Burkina Faso, 45
Senegal, 47


Ghana, 49, 185–86, 200, 201
GIE. See groupements d’intérêts


économiques (GIE)
globalization, of Mouride trading


network, 179–82
Golub, Stephen, 173, 195
goods and services, quality of, 99
governance, 12
government agencies, 7


coordination of tax and customs
administration, 134–35


as data source, 35
and procurement issues, 77
See also registration of fi rms


government relations, 108–11, 111f 5.7,
114


governments
and business climate, 137–38
business support agencies, 135–36
coordination of tax and customs


administration, 134–35
corruption in, 141
and enforcement of regulations, 125–27
policies and institutions relationship


to informal sector, 136–41
and public services, 123, 124–25,


139–41
and reexport trade, 202–3
and smuggling networks, 200
tax environment, 125–26
weaknesses and failures of, 7–8,


23–24, 123–27
See also customs; taxation


gross domestic product (GDP), 10, 39,
59, 145, 214


Benin, 36t2.1, 42, 43, 44, 45, 50, 52f 3.4
Burkina Faso, 36t2.1, 45–46, 50,


51f 3.2, 52f 3.4
informal sector as share of, 2, 50,


52f 3.4
reexports as share of, 215, 216n8
and revenue loss due to tax evasion,


63–64




INDEX 225


Senegal, 36t2.1, 42, 43, 47, 50, 51f 3.3,
52f 3.4


Sub-Saharan countries, 41, 43
and trade fl ow, 199–200
and trade in petroleum products, 206
and used vehicle market, 83
WAEMU countries, 41–43, 48, 50


gross domestic product (GDP) per capita,
126


groundnuts, 175, 176–79, 191n2, 215
groupements d’intérêts économiques (GIE),


56
Guinea, 200, 201
Guinea-Bissau, 200, 201


H
Hansen-Lewis, Jamie, 173
harassment, fi scal, 108, 109f 5.5
harmonization of trade policies, 215
Haughton, Dominique, 145
HDI. See Human Development Indicator


(HDI)
hierarchical organization, 190


the Morides, 175–76
Yoruba, 183, 187
See also organizational structure


Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC)
Initiative, 45


home energy sources, as measure of
poverty, 70


honest accounting
as criterion for informality, 23–24,


25f 1.1, 26–27
and government relations, 111f 5.7
and productivity gaps, 155–56
See also accounting


horticulture, Senegal, 48
household data, 19
household surveys, 33, 34
Human Development Indicator (HDI),


45, 46


I
ICA. See Investment Climate Assessment


(ICA) data


ice cream market, 90–91
ICTs. See information and


communication technologies
(ICTs)


identifi cation cards, 86–87
illegality vs. informality, 15–17
illiteracy, 77
ILO. See International Labour


Organization (ILO)
IMF. See International Monetary Fund


(IMF)
importers, 91, 133
imports, 5


Benin, 45, 86–87, 204–6, 213–15
causes of smuggling of, 206–10, 216n5
customs statistics compared to


reported sales, 78–80
food products, 4, 201
importing permits, 86, 136
inspections of, 132
Nigeria, 209–10
of petroleum products, 204–6
poultry, 216n5
as share of GDP, 199–200
used vehicle market, 83–85, 203
See also customs


incomes
in formal vs. formal sector, 10
honest declaration of, 111f 5.7
as measure of poverty, 66–69
per capita income, 146, 147
underreporting of, 7


India, 21, 147, 174
industrial sector, 37t2.2


Benin, 44, 52f 3.4, 65
Burkina Faso, 46, 52f 3.4
employment in, 65
Senegal, 47, 52f 3.4
share of formal and informal fi rms


in, 98
infl ation, Benin, 45
informal employment, 48


distinguished from informal fi rms, 33
by sector, 65t3.12
See also employment




226 INDEX


informality
as a continuum, 25–28, 29n3
costs and benefi ts of, 9–10
and data collection approach to


analysis of, 31
defi nition, 2, 3, 15


access to bank credit as criterion
for, 24–25, 26


honest accounting as criterion for,
23–24, 25f 1.1, 26–27


mobility of workplace as criterion
for, 24, 25f 1.1, 26–27


registration as criterion of, 20–22,
25–26, 27t1.1, 29n1


size as criterion, 18–20, 25f 1.1, 26–27
tax status as criterion, 22–23,


25f 1.1, 26–27, 29n2
and market structure, 97–100
overview, 1–2
and productivity, 146–48, 149–56,


162–69, 170n2
relationship to employment and living


standards, 64–70
sectoral analysis of based on national


accounts data, 49–58
signifi cance of, 48–49, 71n1
vs. illegality, 15–17
See also characteristics of fi rms; formal


sector; large informal fi rms;
small informal fi rms; specif ic
country


information
on current regulations, 113
provided by interviews, 38


information and communication
technologies (ICTs), 112


and productivity, 146, 161–62
used by formal vs. informal sector, 5,


160–61
infrastructure, 6, 102–8
input markets, 112
institutional framework, 112


business support agencies, 135–36
formal vs. informal, 174
overview, 6–9
and professional associations, 112–14


regional institutions, 128
registration procedures, 136
taxation and customs, 128–35


insurance sector, 98
interest rates, 101–2, 124–25
International Conference of Labor


Statisticians, 32
International Labour Organization (ILO),


2, 15, 18, 48
International Monetary Fund (IMF), 207,


213–14
international trade, 195, 207–10


See also trade
interviews, as data source, 37–39
intra-African trade, 196
Investment Climate Assessment (ICA)


data, 2–3
investments, 44, 100–103, 140–41, 147


J
jewelry sector, 90–91
judicial systems, 141


K
Kenya, 19, 48–49, 64, 115
Keur Serigne Bi (KSB), 82
Khadim Bousso aff air, 91–93
kinship groups, 8, 11, 173–74
KSB. See Keur Serigne Bi (KSB)


L
labor force


gender of, 115, 117–18, 119t5.14,
160–61


informal sector, 115–19
regulations for, 125
as sampling group, 32–33
women traders, 184–87, 189


labor productivity, 147–48
See also productivity


large informal sector, 2–3, 20, 98, 189
analysis of in selected sectors, 83–88,


93n2
business climate for, 137–38
business tax regime, 129
capital intensity in, 158–59




INDEX 227


characteristics of, 4–6, 75–77, 95–97
and corruption, 141
criteria for formality of, 27–28, 29n3
fi nancing for, 100–103
infrastructure issues, 102–8
productivity of, 10, 149–56, 157–62
Senegal, 88–93
survival rate of, 80
transition from small informal sector,


77–78
underreporting of sales by, 78–80
use of ICT, 112
wages in, 66–69


Latin America, 125–26
impact of informality on growth in,


146–47
informal sector in, 2, 19
productivity in, 147–48


legal framework, informal sector, 6–9
lighting source, 69–70
living standards, 9–10, 66–70
loans, repayment of, 102
lump-sum tax regime, 129, 130–32


M
macroeconomics, Benin, 45
Malawi, 115
Mali, 200, 201
management, 76


car parks, 85
educational level of, 160–61
gender of, 115, 119t5.14
informal vs. formal sector, 9–10
and taxation issues, 108–11, 111f 5.7


manufactured goods, 199, 202
manufacturing sector, 47, 56, 65, 209
marabouts, 76, 91–93, 175, 189
market shops, 187
market structure, informal vs. formal


sectors, 97–99
Mbacke, Abdou Lahat, 177
medicines. See pharmaceutical sector
migration


of the Mourides, 177, 180–81
of the Yoruba, 185–86, 187


mining, 53


mobility of workplace, 24, 25f 1.1, 26–27,
131


modeling, of causality between informal
sector and productivity, 162–68


money transfer mechanisms, 182
monopolies, 56
Mourides, 8, 47–48, 91, 141, 189–90, 201


globalization of trading network,
179–82


and the groundnut economy, 176–77,
191n2


historical background, 174–76
Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, 45


N
national accounts, 39, 49–58
Ndiaye, Mamadou, 181
networks, 200–206


globalization of Mouride trading
network, 179–82


Yoruba trade network, 183–84, 186–
88, 201


See also Mourides; Yoruba
Niang, Birahim Bouna, 123
Niger, 188, 203
Nigeria, 41, 197


business climate, 212
exchange rates, 212–13
petroleum products imports from,


204–6
smuggling operations in, 201–6
trade


with Benin, 44–45, 198–200, 213
facilitation of, 212
policies for, 209–10, 216n5
statistics, 213–15
in used cars, 203–4


Yoruba in, 182–88
notaries, 132


O
OECD. See Organisation for Economic


Co-operation and Development
(OECD)


Offi ce National des Télécommunications
(ONATEL), 56




228 INDEX


OHADA. See Organization for the
Harmonization of Business Law
(OHADA)


OLS. See ordinary least squares (OLS)
regression


ONATEL. See Offi ce National des
Télécommunications (ONATEL)


ordinary least squares (OLS) regression,
162–63


Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD), 16,
19, 145


organizational structure
of importing fi rms, 84–85
of large informal fi rms, 5
of small informal fi rms, 4–5
See also hierarchical organization


Organization for the Harmonization of
Business Law (OHADA), 7, 128,
129


orirun, 183
Ouagadougou


capital intensity in, 158–59
characteristics of fi rms in


fi nancing and investments of,
100–102


infrastructure, 102–8
institutional environment, 112–14
market structure and exports,


97–100
size, 96, 98–99
workforce, 116–19


productivity, 150–56, 157–58, 160–61,
170nn2–3


share of fi rms with informality
criteria, 25f 1.1


survival rate of fi rms in, 80
taxation issues, 108–11, 111f 5.7
wages in, 66–67
See also Burkina Faso


P
per capita expenditures, 66–67
per capita income, 146, 147
Peru, 124


petroleum products, 199, 200, 202, 204–6
pharmaceutical sector, 82, 180, 186, 202
plastics, 186, 187
policies, 11


historical perspective of trade policies,
196–97


to promote private sector
development, 139


relationship to informal sector,
136–41


trade, 207–10, 215, 216n5
See also governments


politics, and informal sector fi rms in
Senegal, 91–92


ports, effi ciency of, 210–11
poverty


Benin, 45
Burkina Faso, 46
income as measure of, 66–69
nonmonetary approach to measure of,


69–70
reduction in, 11, 13
relationship to productivity, 146


presumptive tax, 16–17, 21
and lump-sum tax regime, 130
for small informal fi rms, 77
threshold for, 22, 29n2
vs. regular business tax, 78–79, 95


prices
as factor in smuggling, 206–7
of petroleum products, 205–6
of sensitive goods, 210–11


primary sectors
Benin, 44, 52, 53f 3.7
Burkina Faso, 45–46, 52, 53f 3.6
GDP attributed to, 50, 52f 3.4
Senegal, 47, 52
and share of value added by informal


fi rms, 52–53
See also specif ic sector


procurement, 77
production units, 32, 33
productivity, 12


causality relationship with informal
sector, 162–69




INDEX 229


gaps between formal vs. informal
sectors, 149–56, 170nn2–3


factors explaining, 156–62
importance of, 145–46, 170n1
informal sector, 9–10, 146–48, 170n2
methodology to compare formal vs.


informal sector productivity,
148–56, 170n2


See also total factor productivity (TFP)
products, quality of, 99, 100
professional associations, 112–14
public sector contracts, 98
public services


access to, 6, 123, 124–25, 146
inadequacy of, 139–41
provision of, 126–27
utility services, 102–8


purchasing power, 66, 67


R
Rassemblement des Opérateurs


Economiques du Sénégal
(ROES), 92


real estate markets, 132
reexports, 198–200


food products, 195, 199, 201, 214
and GDP, 215, 216n8
petroleum products, 204–6
Senegal, 200–201
signifi cance of, 215–16, 216n8
Th e Gambia, 200–201
and trade policies, 207–10, 216n5
and trade statistics, 213–15
used cars, 203–4


regional trade, 183–84, 188, 197
See also trade


registration of fi rms, 18, 21–22
institutional framework for, 136
knowledge of, 127
and lump-sum tax regime, 130
and productivity gaps, 155–56
and regulatory framework, 125


regulatory framework, 125–26
enforcement of regulations, 126–27
informal sector, 6–9


information on, 113
in WAEMU countries, 57–58


religious networks, 8
retail trade, 49, 98


Benin, 44–45, 86–87
and business climate, 138
women as traders, 185


revenues, 9–10
Benin, 209
estimates of loss due to tax evasion,


62–64
from petroleum products, 206
and reexports, 198, 215
as share of GDP, 59
use of, 139
See also taxation


rice, 4, 89, 91
road transport tax, 86, 130
ROES. See Rassemblement des


Opérateurs Economiques du
Sénégal (ROES)


rural economy, 48–49, 184–85, 189


S
salaries. See incomes; wages
sales


and business tax regime, 129
compared to import statistics, 78–80
and lump-sum tax regime, 130–32
and presumptive tax, 16–17
underreporting of, 3, 4, 78–80


sampling
employment-based vs. fi rm-based


strategies for, 32–33, 40nn1–2
stratifi ed sampling strategy, 35–37,


40n3
Sandaga market, Senegal, 177, 178–79, 182
secondary sectors


Benin, 44, 52, 55f 3.10
Burkina Faso, 52, 54f 3.9
GDP attributed to, 50, 52f 3.4
Senegal, 52, 54f 3.8
share of value added by informal


fi rms, 54–55
See also specif ic sector




230 INDEX


sectoral analysis
based on national accounts data,


49–58
of informal employment in, 65t3.12
of large informal sector, 83–88, 93n2
See also specif ic sector


self-employment, 115, 117
Senegal, 4, 7, 41, 47


business climate, 211
comparison of imports and sales data,


78–80
and customs, 210–11
economy and economic indicators, 41,


42t3.1, 47–48
employment in, 58, 58t3.4, 65
enforcement of regulations in, 139
exports as share of sales, 98–99
GDP in, 36t2.1, 42, 43, 50, 51f 3.3,


52ff 3.4
and groundnut economy, 176–77,


191n2
informal trade with Th e Gambia,


198–200
jewelry sector, 90–91
Khadim Bousso aff air, 91–93
large informal fi rms in, 88–93
Mourides in, 174–82
nonagricultural fi rms in, 37t2.2
per capita expenditures, 66–68
pharmaceutical sector, 82
poverty, 66–70, 146
primary sector, 47, 52
provision of public services, 139–40
relations with Th e Gambia, 211
rice industry, 89, 91
secondary sector, 52, 54f 3.8
smuggling networks in, 200–201
sugar industry, 89
support for SMEs, 135, 136
taxation, 108–10, 111f 5.7


business tax regime, 60–61, 129
collection of, 58–61
coordination of tax and customs,


134
lump-sum tax regime, 130–32


presumptive tax in, 22
revenues loss due to tax evasion,


62–64
tertiary sector, 52, 55f 3.11
trade policies in, 207–9
trade statistics for, 213–15
See also Dakar


services sector, 37t2.2
Benin, 44–45
Burkina Faso, 46
quality of, 137
Senegal, 47–48
in WAEMU countries, 56, 57–58


service stations, 206, 212
sheikhs, Cheikh Amadou Bamba, 175–


76, 178, 181
size


as criterion for informality, 18–20,
25f 1.1, 26–27


and data collection, 32
distribution of in fi rms in sample,


95–97
small and medium enterprises (SMEs),


24
policies to develop link to tax


revenues, 139
tax support for, 135–36


small formal fi rms, criteria for formality
of, 27–28, 29n3


small informal sector, 98, 112, 129, 138,
189


capital intensity in, 158–59
characteristics of, 4–6, 95–97
fi nancing for, 100–103
infrastructure issues, 102–8
organizational structure of, 4–5
productivity, 10, 149–56, 156–62
tax incentives for, 140–41
transition to large informal fi rms,


77–78
wages in, 66–69


SMEs. See small and medium enterprises
(SMEs)


smuggling, 6, 8–9
acceptance of, 216




INDEX 231


Benin, 44, 86, 201–6
causes of, 206–10, 216n5
historical background, 196–97
network operations


in Benin and Nigeria, 201–6
in Th e Gambia and Senegal,


200–201
prevalence of, 132–33
sugar industry, 89–90
Yoruba traders role in, 187


SOBOA, 91
social capital, 8
social networks, 8


and informal sector, 189–90
role in trade, 173–74
See also networks


social safety net, 18
social security, 111f 5.7, 118, 119f 5.12,


154–56, 170n3
Société d’Outillage de Precision et


d’Accessoires Mécaniques
(SOPAM), 88


Société National d’Electricité du Burkina
(SONABEL), 88


Société Nationale des
Télécommunications
(SONATEL), 56


sociocultural environment, 6–9, 77–78
soft drink producers, 91
SONABEL. See Société National


d’Electricité du Burkina
(SONABEL)


SONATEL. See Société Nationale
des Télécommunications
(SONATEL)


SOPAM. See Société d’Outillage de
Precision et d’Accessoires
Mécaniques (SOPAM)


Sow, Mustapha, 181
spending, in formal vs. informal sectors,


68–69
standard of living, productivity as


indicator of, 145–46
state


and business climate, 137–39


business support agencies, 135–36
coordination of tax and customs


administration, 134–35
corruption in, 141
and enforcement of regulations,


126–27
and public services, 123, 124–25,


139–41
and reexport trade, 202–3
regulatory and tax environment in,


125–26
and smuggling networks, 200
tax environment, 125–26
weaknesses and failures of, 7–8,


23–24, 123–27
stratifi ed sampling strategy, 35–37, 40n3
street traders, 47, 49, 178, 181, 187
subcontracting, 16–17, 81–82
Sub-Saharan countries, 41, 43, 48


See also specif ic country, 48
sugar industry, 89–90, 207, 211
support agencies, 135–36
surveys, 3, 4


employment-based vs. fi rm-based
sampling, 32–33, 40nn1–2


household, 33, 34
See also data collection; data sources


survival strategies, 18–19, 34, 125


T
talibés, 175–76, 178, 180
Tall, Moustapha, 76, 89–90
Tanzania, 115
tariff s


Benin, 207, 208, 209–10
See also taxation


taxation, 11, 198
compliance with, 12–13, 127
coordination with customs, 134–35
food products, 208–9
in formal vs. informal sectors, 108–10,


111f 5.7, 124, 125–26, 128–32,
134–35


Th e Gambia, 208–9, 211
incentives for, 140–41




232 INDEX


informal sector, 16–17, 58–64, 76, 77
institutional framework for, 128–32,


134–35
Nigeria, 209
of petroleum products, 205
road transport tax, 86
and SMEs, 135
tax status, 22–23, 25f 1.1, 26–27, 29n2
on trade, 207–10, 215
use of TIN, 21
views of, 139
See also business income taxes;


presumptive tax; taxation under
Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal


tax collection, 7
Benin, 58–59, 61–62, 71n2
Burkina Faso, 58–59, 62, 71n2
Senegal, 58–61


taxe unique sur le transport routier
(TUTR), 86, 130


tax evasion, 10, 108, 130–32
determined by comparison of imports


vs. reported sales, 78–80
estimates of revenue loss due to, 62–64
reduction of, 130


tax identifi cation number (TIN), 21, 87,
134


telecommunications, 48, 56–57
See also information and


telecommunication technologies
(ITCs)


telephone service, availability of in formal
vs. informal sectors, 102–8


tertiary sectors
Benin, 44, 52, 57f 3.13
Burkina Faso, 52, 56f 3.12
GDP attributed to, 50, 52f 3.4
Senegal, 52, 55f 3.11
share of value added by informal


fi rms, 52, 55f 3.11
See also specif ic sector


TFP. See total factor productivity (TFP)
TIN. See tax identifi cation number


(TIN)
Togo, 85, 86, 134–35, 200, 216n1


tariff s in, 209


used car trade, 204
Yoruba in, 182–88


total factor productivity (TFP), 10
factors in productivity gaps, 156–59
methodology to compare formal vs.


informal sector, 148–56, 170n2
as share of GDP, 145
survey results, 149–51
See also productivity


Touba village, 82, 175–76, 177–79
tourism, 46, 215
trade, 8, 64–65


Benin, 44–45, 198–200, 213
Burkina Faso, 46
caravan trade, 183
facilitation of, 210–13, 216n5
globalization of Mouride trading


network, 179–82
historical background, 196–97
migration of traders, 177, 180–81,


185–86, 187
regional trade, 183–84
retail, 44–45, 47, 49, 86–87, 98, 138,


185
role of groundnuts in, 176–77, 191n2
role of networks in, 173–74, 183–84,


186–88
Senegal, 47–48
strategies for, 187, 213
street traders, 47, 178, 181, 187
urban traders, 177–79
in used cars, 203–4
women as traders, 184–85, 186–87,


189
See also cross-border trade; exports;


imports; reexports; smuggling
trade associations, 127
trade policies


as cause of smuggling, 207–10, 216n5
harmonization of, 215


traditional practices, 189
training


focus on, 139–40
in formal vs. informal sector, 124
lack of link to adherence to


regulations, 127




INDEX 233


See also education
transport sector, 56, 202
trucking sector, 85–86, 200–201, 202
TUTR. See taxe unique sur le transport


routier (TUTR)


U
Uganda, 49, 115
UNACOIS, 127
United Nations Development Program


(UNDP), 45, 46
urban markets and traders, 177–79, 187
U.S. Agency for International


Development (USAID), 49
used cars. See vehicles
utilities, 56, 69–70, 102–8


V
value added, 52–56
value added tax (VAT), 59, 62, 134


collected but not submitted, 81
in formal vs. informal fi rms, 129
reimbursement for, 140


value chain, used vehicle market, 83
variables, for analysis of informal sector


and productivity, 162–68
VAT. See value added tax (VAT)
vehicles


carjacking rings, 212, 216n6
car parks, 83–85, 203
trucking sector, 85–86, 200–201, 202
used vehicle market, 83–85, 200,


203–4, 215


W
WAEMU. See West African Economic


and Monetary Union
(WAEMU) countries


wages, 66–67, 160–61
Wald test, 149
water, 70, 103
West African Economic and Monetary


Union (WAEMU) countries, 22,
23, 128, 195


and CET, 207, 208, 209
and coordination of tax and customs,


134
Customs Union, 128
GDP in, 41–43, 48, 50
and harmonization of trade policies,


215
and interviews for data sources, 38
regulatory framework in, 57–58
tax systems of, 129–32
and Togolese customs, 85, 86
trade agreements, 197


wholesale trade, 98
women


in business, 115, 117–18, 119t5.4
role in informal sector, 189
in rural market systems, 184–85, 189
as traders, 184–85, 186–87, 189


workforce. See labor force
workplace, mobility of, 24, 25f 1.1, 26–27,


131


Y
Yoruba, 8, 189–90


historical background, 182–84
migration of, 185–86, 187
modern trade networks of, 186–88
rural markets system, 184–85, 189


Yorubaland, 182–84


Z
Zimbabwe, 115




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ECO-AUDIT


Environmental Benefits Statement






“The dynamism of the informal sector in Africa is obvious to the casual observer. Yet
the sector is neglected in the policy discourse. One reason is that we have insuffi -
cient systematic information and analysis of the informal sector—its contribution to
the economy and the constraints it faces. This is particularly the case for Franco-
phone Africa. This volume fi lls this important gap in the literature. Using primary
data from original fi rm surveys and a range of other information sources, the study
tells about the characteristics of actors, tax collections and the informal sector, the
productivity of informal fi rms, and more. It will be useful to researchers and policy
makers alike as they consider policy interventions to improve the integration of this
vital sector into the economy as a whole.”


—Ravi Kanbur, T.H. Lee Professor of World Affairs, International Professor of Applied
Economics, Cornell University


“An excellent and in-depth work on a complex subject that UEMOA deems vital to
economic progress and fi scal reforms. It will unquestionably help guide both policy
makers and the fi nancial sector in its dealings with the informal private sector.”


—Cheikhe Hadjibou Soumaré, Président de la Commission de l’UEMOA


“The informal sector plays a major role in Africa’s development. This book gives an
excellent analysis of this sector. The study uses an innovative methodology to better
understand the informal sector, a key driver of development in West Africa.”


—Hakim Ben Hammouda, Special Adviser to the President, African Development Bank


“The originality and strength of the present work by Benjamin and Mbaye is not
only to approach informality as a continuum of characteristics, but also to encom-
pass the role of large informal fi rms, religious networks, and cross-border trade
networks, with empirically based methods of enterprise surveys.”


—Jacques CHARMES, Emeritus Research Director, Institut de Recherches pour le
Développement (France)


“The analysis of large informal fi rms is a signifi cant innovation. The analysis also
bridges economics and sociology as it explores the linkages between socio-cultural
traditions and informal networks. It offers thoughtful policy recommendations to
improve competitiveness and raise productivity.”


—Alan Gelb, Senior fellow, Center for Global Development


ISBN 978-0-8213-9537-0


SKU 19537




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