UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Director's Seminar: Inclusion on the Edge: Digital Labour and the Social Contract in Nigeria

23 January 2020, 4:00 pm–6:00 pm

Director's Seminars Series Term 2

The IGP welcomes Associate Professor Kate Meagher to give a Director's Seminar.

Event Information

Open to





Charles Stott


UCL Torrington Place Room G12
1-19 Torrington Place

The rise of digital employment platforms, often referred to as the 'gig economy', has been accompanied by a call for a new social contract in order to facilitate expanded creation of quality employment. This offers a potential solution to the complex employment challenges of contemporary Africa, characterized by high levels of informality, unemployment and rapid population growth.

This paper looks beyond the hype to explore how the gig economy is reshaping livelihood opportunities and reformatting processes of social and economic inclusion among digital taxi drivers in Nigeria. Do proposed changes in the social contract address the problems of precarity and disaffection among Nigerian digital taxi drivers, or do they consolidate a new regime of accumulation around the digital incorporation of precarious labour? This talk will examine the quality of livelihoods created by the gig economy, and the limitations of digital employment in promoting sustainable livelihoods and the public good.

The Nigerian case will inform a consideration of whether the prevailing vision of a new social contract represents a mechanism of economic inclusion or adverse incorporation for Nigeria's informal labour force.  It will also explore how the gig economy is reshaping the basis on which the informal and unemployed masses in developing countries are being included in circuits of contemporary capitalism.  This will form a basis for reflecting on how digital labour and the new social contract are transforming the role of labour in circuits of global accumulation, turning developing country labour from a workforce into an asset class. 

The Speaker

Associate Professor Kate Meagher, The London School of Economics and Politcal Science (LSE)

Kate Meagher has expertise in the informal economy and non-state governance in Africa. She has carried out extensive empirical and theoretical research on cross-border trading systems and regional integration, the urban informal sector, rural non-farm activities, small-enterprise clusters, and informal enterprise associations, and has engaged in fieldwork in Nigeria, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her research focuses on the changing character of the informal economy in contemporary Africa, and the implications of economic informalization for development, democratization and globalization.