International Development Planning Review

Joint action in Nairobi’s informal handicraft production clusters

International Development Planning Review (2016), 38, (3), 317–337.

Abstract

This article explains the disruption of ‘joint action’ in production clusters caused by informality based on the findings of semi-structured interviews with 102 participants in the handicraft industry of Nairobi, Kenya. In particular, three diseconomies of informality are examined which disrupt ongoing collective action efforts by firms in the industry: (1) the impact of pernicious informal competition; (2) the informal institutional context; and (3) forms of opportunistic social organisation. The literature has previously identified many of these problems, but more nuanced attention needs to be paid to causal relationships in informal economic production. This article explains how joint action breaks down production relationships and traces them through the associations to which the firms belong and concludes with a brief discussion of policy implications.

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1John Harris is Assistant Professor of Regional and City Planning, University of Oklahoma, 830 Van Vleet Oval, Norman, OK 73019, USA; email: johncharris@ou.edu