International Development Planning Review

Marginalisation and integration within the informal urban economy: the case of child waste pickers in Kaduna, Nigeria

International Development Planning Review (2014), 36, (2), 155–180.

Abstract

This article examines how age shapes the positions and choices of child waste pickers in Kaduna, Nigeria. There is a special interest in the Almajirai, or young male pupils of the Islamic education system. Drawing on empirical data, the article reports that child waste pickers have limited access to the most valuable recyclables, largely because they are excluded from the spaces where such materials are found. Their access is further reduced by limited mobility and a lesser amount of time spent on waste picking. In a reflection of the socially stratified and highly dependent relations found, child waste pickers have little bargaining power when recyclables are traded. They remain active in waste picking due to its significance as a poverty reduction strategy but in spite of this and the contributions towards resource recovery, child waste pickers are not acknowledged by the government. The lack of recognition and the failure to formalise the informal system reinforce their vulnerability due to increased susceptibility to exploitation and exposure to health risks. At the broadest level, the study confirms on-going socio-spatial processes of exclusion in African cities, both as a result of urban governance practices and the power dynamics within the informal economy.

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Adama, Onyanta