Social media meets Zimbabwe’s informal economy: How street vendors use social media to support income generation

Summer 2018

Liona Muchenje : Political Economy

Donor: Wishek Fund
Mentor: G. Ugo Nwokeji

The uses of social media in developing countries particularly in Africa are generally under-researched. The few studies that have been conducted emphasized the impact of such digital tools on democracy, civic participation and other largely socio-political implications, leaving out the economic implications. After identifying this information gap, I formulated my research to study the emergent ways in which social media use and the informal economy intersect particularly in Zimbabwe, a country which has been struggling with rampant unemployment and consequently an increasing informal sector made up of self-entrepreneurial street vendors. In light of this development, my study will specifically seek to understand how social media is shaping or transforming street vendors’ income generating activities. Using the capabilities approach, this study will critically assess the role of WhatsApp and Facebook as part of a livelihood strategy for street vendors and determine whether these platforms are effectively impacting their economic choices, opportunities or capabilities.

 

I am very grateful to the Wishek Fund for awarding me this opportunity to meaningfully engage in researching my topic of interest this summer. I travelled to Zimbabwe and conducted interviews that enhanced my understanding of current political economy challenges in this country and the ways in which people are adapting to them. The practical skills I gained and developed over the summer will be tremendously useful to me both in my academic experience now and professional endeavors in the future. Thank you again for your generosity and kindness that made my research possible.