Weaving In and Out of Employment and Self-Employment: Young Rural Migrants in the Informal Economy of Ouagadougou

This paper explores how young men of rural origin weave a resource base for social mobility in the urban informal economy by combining strings of employment, strands of entrepreneurship and continued migration. The paper is based on ethnographic material on migrants aged between 14–25 years in Ouagadougou and Abidjan between 2005 and 2008, draws on three extended case studies to show how young migrants’ social position in the network of kin shapes their navigation of urban economies. The paper argues that young Bisa migrants enjoy a large degree of economic autonomy from their early teens onwards, which is agreed upon in both rural and urban households. This autonomy permits them to spend their savings on themselves, but erodes their economic standing, because they have to meet their own basic consumption needs.