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Turning hustlers into entrepreneurs, and social needs into market demands: Corporate-community encounters in Nairobi, Kenya

Thieme, TA; (2015) Turning hustlers into entrepreneurs, and social needs into market demands: Corporate-community encounters in Nairobi, Kenya. Geoforum , 59 pp. 228-239. 10.1016/j.geoforum.2014.11.010. Green open access

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Abstract

This article contributes an empirically rich account of a social enterprise project embedded in local urban economies of Nairobi, Kenya. The confluence of rapid, unplanned urbanisation and economic liberalisation has led to growing formations of informal settlements and a vibrant informal sector across post-colonial cities. These “slum“ neighbourhoods, housing the majority of the urban population on a fraction of the city's land, are often ignored and marginalized by the state and municipal authorities, particularly with regards to basic service provision. At the same time, slum economies provide entry-points for various enterprise-led development schemes seeking to commercially engage both entrepreneurial individuals and their existing customer base in order to scale access to unmet needs. The discussion is based on an ethnographic study in one of Nairobi's largest informal settlements, which focused on the everyday practices of a local micro-franchise called “Community Cleaning Services“. The article illustrates how waste workers and self-proclaimed “hustlers“ were turned into micro-franchisee entrepreneurs providing a sanitation service to residential customers, through their engagement with Community Cleaning Services. This ethnographic account raises two potentially contradictory but inter-related debates that are rarely considered alongside one another in the existing literature on corporate involvement in low-income markets. First, it reframes the critiques of enterprise-led initiatives to “poverty alleviation“ by focusing on the implications of commercialising “basic“ services and on the logistical and cultural challenges of turning social needs into market demands. Second, it emphasises the often-invisible role of grassroots informal economies in enabling access to vital services in the absence of an adequately resourced and responsive municipality. The article concludes with a broader reflection on the effects and limitations of corporate-led development schemes targeting the urban poor and points to the contrasting logics of grassroots entrepreneurial urbanism and corporate-albeit “socially responsible“-parameters of success.

Type: Article
Title: Turning hustlers into entrepreneurs, and social needs into market demands: Corporate-community encounters in Nairobi, Kenya
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2014.11.010
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2014.11.010
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Corporate–community encounters; Hustle economy; Urban sanitation; Youth; Entrepreneurship; Informality
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1549773
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