The African Road: An Informal Territory?

Special Report: The Road, between Networks and Territories
By Jean-Fabien Steck

The growth of the urban informal economy, especially trading activities, is linked in African cities with an important occupancy of the street. Hawkers are responsible for a part of this occupancy, but many merchants are sedentary and are – or have wanted to be – seated at the same place for a long time. The importance of those informal activities in the street is the result of what the street can be: an open space; a place for land management; a way that supports all urban traffics. The aim of this paper is to describe and try to understand the different forms of occupancy of the street in two west African cities: Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and Lomé (Togo). It will address two main questions: how can the street still support various forms of traffic while being the place of so many commercial activities? What sort of urban policy and urban management can deal with so many different actors?

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