The Voice of Informal Sector Entrepreneurs: a Case Study of Jua Kali Associations of Homa Bay Town, Kenya.
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This thesis is about the role of voice in advancing the needs and interests of informal sector entrepreneurs. It investigates how and when women and men working in the informal sector generate and use voice to change a situation that directly affects their lives. In particular, it examines how collective action in business associations has led to advancing their voice. The study builds on the voice literature and in particular on Hirschman’s (1970) work on exit and voice. The study observes that voice in the informal sector is a topic that has been insufficiently discussed and conceptualized in the literature. Consequently, the study argues that voice in the informal sector needs to be better understood and recognized. To this end, the study identifies, analyses and documents concrete instances in which jua kalis made efforts to change a situation, rather than to remain quiet or to exit. The focus of the study is on the organised jua kali voice embodied in jua kali associations. It addresses the research question of how collective action in business associations has led to advancing the voice of informal sector entrepreneurs. The study recognises that the organised voice comprises the voices of individual jua kalis. Therefore, individual voices are analysed to the extent that they contribute to the organised jua kali voice. The study employs a qualitative approach of inquiry examining five jua kali associations of Homa Bay Town in Kenya as a case study to apply Hirschman’s (1970) work on voice and exit to the informal sector and to explore in detail specific aspects of voice in a particular setting. In-depth interviewing of jua kalis and key actors of the local and national jua kali scene were utilized as primary data generation method complemented by observation and secondary data (mainly documents). The resulting interview data was analysed using elements of content analysis and examining discursive dimensions. Data from observation and secondary sources were used to complement and verify interview data. The findings confirm that the jua kali voice can be identified in the jua kali associations. The study also finds that different voice issues are of importance to specific groups of vi informal workers because of the great heterogeneity among jua kalis. This also leads to different options of the voicers to articulate voice including when or on what occasion voice is being employed, why, by whom, triggered by what event or experience, in what domain, vis-à-vis what audience and at what scale. The study further finds that voice is pursued by jua kalis individually and/or collectively through different avenues including business associations and other associations as well as social groupings. The study concludes that potential voice forums, and in particular business associations, are actually utilized by informal sector entrepreneurs to advance their political voice. The study further concludes that voice is likely to be a permanent feature of the informal sector. The study also concludes that while many informal sector entrepreneurs use voice and exit, some informal sector entrepreneurs are neither pro-actively utilizing voice nor fully exiting their business associations but are ‘stuck’ between exit and voice practising ‘open exit’. The study recommends that the political voice of informal sector entrepreneurs needs to be strengthened to enable informal sector workers to further advance their interests and influence critical decision-making processes affecting their lives.
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