Market governance in Kinshasa: the competition for informal revenue through ‘connections’ (branchement)
Albert Malukisa Nkuku and Kristof Titeca
IOB Working Paper 2018.03
This paper analyses in detail the governance of urban markets in Kinshasa. By unpacking the complex relations of power which underpin these markets, the paper shows how informality is used as an instrument of accumulation by a variety of actors, which try to gain access to the revenue generated by the markets. Concretely, actors within and outside markets rely on a system called branchement, which refers to connections with higher-level authorities, allowing these actors to access their positions and revenue. Focusing on these connections, the paper draws the following main conclusions: first, market revenue is the site of an intense competition, in which particularly high-level political actors (with links to the Presidency) control revenue streams – rather than the Kinshasa provincial government (which has the legal right to do so). Second, these alliances are fragile and unstable: both changes at higher- as well as local-levels (i.e. the market) create a series of conflicts, in which actors try to re-affirm their position and access to revenue. Third, these connections rely on a variety of linkages – ethnicity, regional, clan – but particularly family- and financial linkages are important. Overall, the paper highlights the need and importance for analysing the informal vertical connections through which urban actors navigate their positions and income.