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Recognizing Africa’s role in the global knowledge economy.
Research Area

Informal Sector Innovation


Open AIR Expert

Erika Kraemer-Mbula

Professor at University of Johannesburg


The majority of business enterprises in Africa are informal – but what are their creative processes? How do they innovate?

These questions are largely unanswered, as research on informal enterprises still represents a relatively new and unexplored frontier.

The informal sector is generally characterized by a lack of regulations typically seen in the formal sector. However, our research suggests the two worlds are not as far apart as they appear.

This kind of fluidity has implications for IP and innovation patterns, and can be the catalyst for developing unique, open knowledge management strategies across the continent.

Gaining a fuller appreciation of how the informal and formal sectors interact in different contexts, and how best to alter the use of IP rights, can help public policy frameworks effectively encourage economic growth – not only in Africa, but in Canada as well.

To read about how we study the informal sector, go to our case studies page. To find out more about our results and our impact, read our annual report.


about Informal Sector Innovation

Invention in Africa: Open AIR shares its Model at CAAS 2019

By Uchenna Felicia Ugwu Africa is becoming recognized as an important hub of informal innovation, which should not be excluded or ignored by formal systems for IP…

Uchenna Ugwu June 27, 2019

Empowering Rural Craft Women through Social Entrepreneurship and Open, Inclusive Innovation

By Desmond Osaretin Oriakhogba My Engagement with the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa As part of my on-going project as a Queen Elizabeth…

Desmond Oriakhogba May 5, 2019

The Maker Movement Across North Africa (Arabic)

نغم الحسامي ونجلاء رزق Authored by: Nagham El Houssamy and Dr. Nagla Rizk For the English version of this Working Paper, please click here. نسعى…

Nagham El Houssamy March 27, 2019

Open AIR at TFi4SD Africa

By Erika Kraemer-Mbula The 2018 Annual Economic Summit, was organised by the Global Economic Institute in partnership with the Government of the Canary Islands.…

Erika Kraemer-Mbula January 9, 2019

Workshop on Integrating Gender Perspectives into Research Projects: Focusing on Social Justice, Inclusivity, and Openness

By Desmond Oriakhogba Recently, Open AIR participated in a workshop which focused on the integration of gender perspectives into research projects aimed at promoting…

Desmond Oriakhogba December 18, 2018

À la découverte de la « Darky » : une imprimante 3D fabriquée au Sénégal

Par Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou La difficulté d’accès à l’équipement est souvent pointée comme l’un des principaux problèmes dont souffrent les makerspaces…

Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou December 14, 2018

Fablabs et le développement durable de l’Afrique

Par Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou Je suis Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou, doctorant en Communication Publique à l’Université Laval (Québec, Canada). Je m’intéresse…

Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou November 30, 2018

Highlighting Inclusion of Marginalized Voices at International Conferences: A NERG’s experience

By Nicole Tumaine Over the past four months, I have had the privilege of attending three international conferences as a panelist thanks to the generous support of…

Nicole Tumaine October 22, 2018

The Nollywood Phenomenon: Innovation, Openness and Technical Opportunism in the Modeling of Successful African Entrepreneurship

Authored by: Chidi Oguamanam Abstract: The Nigerian movie industry, known as Nollywood, has attracted an impressive degree of research interest since its debut…

Chidi Oguamanam October 17, 2018

3D Printing: Enabler of Social Entrepreneurship in Africa? The Roles of FabLabs and Low-Cost 3D Printers

Authored by: Tobias Schonwetter and Bram Van Weile Abstract: Recognising the potential of 3D printing technology for facilitating locally relevant innovation and…

Tobias Schonwetter October 15, 2018

The Maker Movement Across North Africa

Authored by: Nagham El Houssamy and Dr. Nagla Rizk Abstract: This Working Paper sets out findings from research exploring the growing maker movement across North…

Nagham El Houssamy October 5, 2018

Skills Development, Knowledge and Innovation at Suame Magazine, Kumasi

Authored by: Yaw Adu-Gyamfi and Benson Adjei Abstract: The informal-sector industrial cluster of Suame Magazine in Kumasi constitutes a major avenue for training,…

Yaw Adu-Gyamfi September 4, 2018