Globalization, economic crisis and Africa's informal economy women workers


Ibipo Johnston-Anumonwo (email:


The processes of globalization and debt crisis led to dramatic changes in African countries. In the context of a new economic crisis – now on a global scale – it is useful to revisit debates regarding the impact of earlier policies in response to economic crisis on the poor, with a focus on very low-income informal women workers. In this paper, we adopt a gender analysis framework to examine contending perspectives about the differential impacts of globalization, liberalization and structural adjustment programs on African women and men. We comment on two predominant schools of thought that appear to underlie and define the majority of case studies situated in African countries. While one asserts that globalization and liberalization offer entrepreneurial opportunities for women, an opposing view contends that the neoliberal political and economic reforms connected with structural adjustment policies have been devastating for poor women workers. A review of available empirical research on the responses of informal economy women workers to challenges of increased workload, reduced income and curtailed access to social services, cautions against dogmatic adherence to conceptual perspectives that either assume workers in the informal economy to be dynamic entrepreneurs when they cannot be, or condemn only contemporary policies for conditions that are the product of complex historical processes.