The quality of informal sector production : poor quality or quality for the poor
A glance through the voluminous literature on micro-enterprises clearly shows the existence of robust information on the role, definition and the importance of informal sector in economic development. The literature however contributes very little to knowledge on the technological dimension of the sector. Little is known about the quality of products manufactured in the sector although much has been written on quality in large scale manufacturing. This research attempts to fill this gap by exploring the status of quality in micro-enterprises and the factors that contribute to it. The adopted methodology consisted of producer and consumer surveys. This was complemented by product tests, and experiments to determine the applicability of interventions to improve quality. User-based measures of quality formed the basis of measurement in this research. The products were found to be of poor quality in that they did not fulfill the task and non-task attributes that underlie a purchase by a consumer. The low quality was attributed to inadequate facilities and processes, poor quality materials and a low level of skills in the sector. Quality may be improved through either changing these inputs or raising their quality. The findings revealed a wide range of innovative behaviour by micro-enterpreneurs. However, the micro-entrepreneurs were found to be perpetuating an imitative model which inhibits their innovative capability. Interventions directed at improving products, processes and skills could empower micro-entrepreneurs through building their self confidence which could in turn generate fresh innovations.