Rethinking the Kibera ‘Slum’: The Role of Social Networks as a Mechanism for Coping with the Increased Demand for Job Opportunities

Yuka SHIMAMURA, Jiaqi YANG, Gideon BAFFOE, Jacob DODOO, Irene MWAKESI, Hirotaka MATSUDA, Karatu KIEMO, Jane MUTUNE, Emmanuel MUTISYA, David MUNGAI, Chiashin CHEN, Masafumi NAGAO, Takashi MINO, Izumi IKEDA


Rural-urban migration is a livelihood strategy used to increase income at the household level. This study proposes four stages of livelihood enhancement in the urban informal sector: (1) Migration from rural to urban areas, (2) Entering an informal sector, (3) Formation of self-help groups and local enterprises and (4) Expansion of stable income-generating activities. At these different stages, social networks play critical roles in connecting new migrants to the assets and networks that they need to increase and stabilize their income. At the forth stage, migrants who operate local enterprises start creating ties with their business partners in the formal sector. Yet, they tend to choose to remain in the informal sector because of the better access to income, assets and networks. The traditional dualistic view of labour market, which is segmented into the formal and informal sectors, is not applicable to the cases observed in Kibera because the residents’ ultimate goal for livelihood enhancement is not solely to enter the formal market but also to maximize their income. Economic activities observed in Kibera cannot be fully explained by applying the existing studies and general theories of ‘slum’ as evidenced by this study. Comprehending the current state of Kibera leads to plentiful implication for expanding the theory and practice of sustainable development the in the informal sector.

Keywords: Kibera, Informal sector, Social networks, Job market, Sustainable Development

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