Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Studies

First Advisor

Stephen Volz

Second Advisor

Galina An


In my time studying the informal sector, I had come to understand that enterprises in developing countries operating outside of the formal, government regulated economy with unprotected labor relationships were defined as informal. Yet, in the United States, a developed economy, a form of public transportation had emerged in the form of Uber that resembled informal transportation, but was not being addressed as such. In scholarship, there is a tendency to label an enterprise as informal only if it operates within a developing country. With this tendency comes the danger of approaching informal enterprises and the ways in which they organize into associations as though they are undeveloped and inherently inferior to those considered to be more formal.

In this paper, I attempt to challenge efforts of past scholarship to define the informal and the formal, particularly with respect to the ways in which informal organization occurs, through the use of my case study of motorcycle taxis in Uganda. Motorcycle taxis have been described as a double-edge sword: they are a necessity as they currently fill a gap in public transport and fulfill an abundance of other roles within their communities, but they do so at a high risk to riders, passengers, and other road users. While their role in urban transport may become more peripheral over time with the eventual introduction of mass transit systems, the operators will undoubtedly continue to be essential in more remote communities.

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