Social networks: ethnicity and the informal sector in Nairobi
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This paper is part of a larger study entitled "The Role of Social Networks And The State In The Urban Informal Sector: The Case of Nairobi, Kenya." The social dynamics of the informal sector, popularly referred to as "Jua Kali" are considered an important component of this sector. We argue that they should be understood and tapped where possible for the future development of the informal sector. Three aspects of social networks in Nairobi's informal sector are identified. These are: kinship, friendship and ethnicity. In this paper, we discuss ethnicity as it is manifested in the informal sector. We also discuss how it has helped new migrants not only to find shelter in Nairobi but also to find an economic occupation which most of them may not have got in the formal sector. Four subsectors mainly: the metal artisans, the drum sellers, the food sellers and the garment makers all in the Eastlands of Nairobi and the Industrial Area were studied in 1987. We also had a sample of 200 operators of the informal sector representing each of the four subsectors. In the paper a background of ethnicity in Kenya is discussed at a macro-level before presenting our findings on ethnicity at a micro-level —specifically among the subsectors we studied. There is evidence on ethnic specialization/various subsectors. Certain skills for example in the metal artisanry are predominantly ethnic specific. We found such evidence among the metal artisans and the food sellers. Using both participant observation and survey methods in the field, the data places ethnicity prominently in the discussion of Nairobi's informal sector.