Small Business Economics

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 323–335 | Cite as

The growth process of informal enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa: a case study of a metalworking cluster in Nairobi

  • Tetsushi Sonobe
  • John E. Akoten
  • Keijiro Otsuka


Small and informal enterprises are preponderant in Africa’s manufacturing sector. Their growth is negligibly low except when young and small, but little is known beyond this. This paper reports the results of our field study of a metalworking cluster in Nairobi. As competition was intensified by the entry of new enterprises, the education level of entrepreneurs became important in determining enterprise performance, which is reminiscent of East Asian experiences. Recently, some enterprises have left for formal industrial areas partly because their original sites have become too congested for them to grow and partly because being formal facilitates marketing and further growth.


Africa Kenya Industrial development Informal sector Human capital 

JEL Classifications

O14 O33 O55 L26 



This paper has benefited from the helpful comments and suggestions of an anonymous referee of this journal. Many thanks are also due to Paul Kandasamy for helping us editing the paper. Also financial support of the Global Center of Excellence project funded by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Japanese government is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tetsushi Sonobe
    • 1
  • John E. Akoten
    • 2
  • Keijiro Otsuka
    • 1
  1. 1.Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development, National Graduate Institute for Policy StudiesTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Institute of Policy Analysis and ResearchNairobiKenya

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