This study has been conducted in accordance with CRU’s political economy analysis framework, thus focusing on power arrangements. By analysing changes in arrangements of power one can understand why decisions are made, what incentives play a role, how alliances form or break, and what narratives dominate. In turn, such understanding is key to identifying feasible approaches to conflict resolution. Examining shifts in arrangements of power enables the simultaneous exploration of the perspectives of those who govern and those who are being governed, as power is always relational. Doing so requires the use of three lenses: 1) the power networks and relationships between conflict actors; 2) the power practices and exchanges between them; and 3) contextual factors such as institutions and ideology that affect the power distribution underlying conflict.[155]

This political economy analysis is further specified to the informal sector, in order to situate the role of the informal sector in the deeper context of the political settlement, in which the most significant power and state connections are understood. The framework combines traditional conflict analysis with elements from social network and power analysis, and draws on recent research across a range of disciplines, namely new political economy, new institutional economics, and conflict studies. It thus brings to the surface the politics and power dynamics that may facilitate or hamper proposed interventions in conflict-affected situations. This way it uncovers hidden stakeholders, the practices and exchanges that facilitate the main actors’ relation to power, and the written and unwritten rules and structures that form the silent backdrop of these relations. This identification of arrangements of power helps to identify potential spoilers and entry points for action by showing which structures might be amenable to changes and which structures might be used to the policy maker’s advantage.

The report supports conflict-sensitive programming, by recognising that ‘[t]he success of most development efforts, including efforts to strengthen the state and build institutions of public accountability, rises or falls according to the degree to which these efforts are aligned with – or at least do not fundamentally threaten – the interests of powerful national and local actors who are in a position to thwart or co-opt those efforts.’[156] The analysis recognises that ‘many times well-intentioned interventions become ineffective because they reinforce an equilibrium that sustains the outcome the intervention attempted to change. These situations can arise from interventions that do not take into account the existing power balance.’[157]

Research for this report included desk research, interviews, focus group discussions and fieldwork, running between September and November 2019. Desk research included a literature review of academic and grey literature, supplemented with news sources and Ethiopian news websites, in order to do an initial scoping of migration patterns, ethnic nationalist tensions and employment in the urban informal sector economic developments. Fieldwork was conducted by Jos Meester and Nancy Ezzeddine, and consisted of key informant interviews and focus group discussions. Respondents represented a range of formal and informal positions, from construction to domestic work to street vendors, as well as labour unions, researchers, government advisers and (I)NGO staff. The wide range covered allowed the researchers to triangulate information and perspectives through cross-referencing information between different professional backgrounds.

Regardless of the efforts undertaken to cover the breadth and depth of grievances in the Ethiopian informal sector, and efforts to ensure reliable and valid data through triangulation and other efforts, the research was subject to a number of limitations. As indicated above, not all relevant sites could be accessed due to rapidly emerging security concerns (notably Dire Dawa and Bahir Dar). It should therefore be borne in mind that additional research in further depth covering stakeholders in the regional capitals might provide further insights. It should be remembered that Ethiopian ethnic nationalist and informal economic dynamics are not homogenous across ethnic regions and are evolving and changing rapidly as the country’s governance changes. While the dynamics covered in this report are likely to be indicative of dynamics across a range of urban contexts, they cannot be expected to hold across all major cities, as Addis Ababa represents an especially dynamic case. Extrapolations from such dynamics without taking into account the local context may thus obscure important differences. It should also be noted that given the strong tensions surrounding the subject, and the particularistic or clientelistic nature of a number of these relations, participants were at times unwilling to fully share their experiences for fear of repercussions.

See Clingendael. 2019. Our methodology for political-economy analysis, The Hague: The Clingendael Institute of International relations for further details.
Parks, T. and Cole, W. 2010. Political Settlements: Implications for international development policy and practice, San Francisco: The Asia Foundation.
World Bank Group. 2017. World Development Report 2017: Governance and the law, Washington DC: World Bank Group, 27.