I needed to convert some euros into Ivorien francs in Abidjan last month and my colleague suggested Treichville market as the go to place. On our way there, I’d imagined it would be one of those hole in the wall currency exchange kiosks one sees in global cities from Singapore to South Africa. There would be a flashy LED signboard showing the day’s rates or a humbler blackboard, making the shop’s function unmistakeable.
When we found a suitable street corner to park, the two young men showed up and asked us how much we wanted to change. After a bare minutes negotiation and the flash of the ubiquitous calculator, money changed hands. They were grinning at the minuscule amount I was changing and encouraged me to return with more, offering a range of currencies they handled. Surely this was the shadower side of the cash based informal economy, I thought?
What is formality and informality when you have a business card with your address and phone number?