Motivations and livelihood dynamics in the urban informal economy: the case of Dire Dawa City, Eastern Ethiopia

Engida Esayas Dube



The widely held view about the participation in street vending in cities of most developing countries has been dominated by survivalist justification. This article assesses the theoretical justifications for participation in street vending and explores livelihood dynamics in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. Data were collected from fixed and itinerant vendors who were vending a variety of goods and services in the city. A descriptive survey design was employed in this study as the aim was to evaluate the competing perspectives on the participation in the informal economy in the context of cities of the global south drawing a case study from Dire Dawa in Ethiopia. To this end, time location sampling procedure, a method of two-stage sampling, was employed to select 198 street vendors. The main tools used to collect data were questionnaire survey, in-depth interviews and observation during 2016 / 2017. As a finding, even though the majority of vendors report that they engaged in street vending for survival; there are growing number of vendors who see vending business as an opportunity for growth and livelihood improvement in the city. For the majority of participants, there has been improvement in their lives and satisfaction since they started vending. This study has also witnessed a strong spatial and economic coexistence between vending and formal markets instead of competition and conflict. Thus, multi-methods and heterogeneous theorisation of participation in street vending could help capture the reality underneath vending livelihood better than a single method or theory.


Informal Economy. Street Vending. Livelihood. Dire Dawa

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