Lagos conference to explore social protection for informal economy workers

The role of co-operatives will be central to discussions about the social and solidarity economy, in an event organised by StreetNet International and Wiego

Workers, unions and policymakers gather in Nigeria next week to discuss ways to ensure social protection for social economy workers.

The conference, in Lagos on 21-22 June, has been set up by StreetNet International and Women In Informal Employment – Globalizing and Organizing (Wiego), two organisations focused on supporting street vendors and informal traders.

It will bring together informal economy workers, the trade union movement and governments with the aim of developing an African regional position on social protection for informal economy workers and a follow-up action plan for regional activities. 

Over past three years, Diego and StreetNet have been working together on social protection in the sub-Saharan region, producing reports on worker-driven social protection schemes and an online social protection advocacy course. The conference will highlight the project findings, focusing on capacity building, knowledge sharing and research.

“This project draws on the respective strengths of the two organisations – Wiego’s research and technical content expertise and StreetNet’s worker education expertise – to deliver a set of interventions which we hope will help to systematise the social protection work of informal economy organisations in the Africa region,” said Laura Alfers, director of Social Protection Programme at Wiego. 

Speakers will include representatives from Wiego, StreetNet, ITUC Africa and the African Platform on Social Protection, alongside government figures. 

The conference will be hosted by the StreetNet affiliate in Nigeria, the Federation of Informal Workers Organizations of Nigeria (FIWON), which started a co-operative scheme to provide a range of services to over 800 members. Run as an informal worker-driven collective with chapters in Lagos and Osun, the co-op facilitates access to insurance for its members. The chapters operate in parallel, offering different services, from a savings and loans package to land acquisition schemes and health insurance packages.

“The conference will mark a major milestone in our advocacy for social protection coverage of working people in the informal economy,” said Gbenga Komolafe, general secretary of FIWON. “Hopefully, it will help to sharpen perspectives of what is possible and feasible for governments in sub-Saharan Africa, in terms of providing practical, implementable schemes and programmes for informal economy workers to reduce vulnerabilities and socio-economic exclusion.”