Welcome to Bazaaristan

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Across the globe, 1.8 billion people -- a quarter of the world's population -- work off the books each day. They are paid in cash for the goods they sell and the services they provide, and due to their ubiquity, there's a word for these merchants in nearly every language. As Robert Neuwirth reports, in French colonies, they're known  as débrouillards -- self-starters, entrepreneurs, all outside the bureaucratic system. They might be vendors selling revolutionary goods in Egypt's Tahrir Square, Nigerians selling mobile phones, or the guy down the street hawking flowers on the corner. Whoever they are, they work in the world's fastest-growing economy: System D.

As Neuwirth writes, System D, slang for "l'economie de la débrouillardise," is the crucial blackmarket, providing opportunities where the regulated global economy has failed. Its value is estimated at roughly $10 trillion, meaning, as Neuwirth points out, that, "If System D were an independent nation, united in a single political structure  -- call it the the United Street Sellers Republic (USSR) or, perhaps, Bazaaristan --  it would be an economic superpower, the second largest economy in the world." The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts that two-thirds of the world's workers will be employed in System D as soon as 2020.

Above, a Pakistani carpet vendor, above, waits for customers at his roadside stall in Quetta on Sept. 16.


A Libyan vendor displays his merchandise at Freedom Square on Aug. 22 in Benghazi, Libya. Vendors selling revolutionary paraphernalia popped up quickly after the uprising began. "The people had a thirst to have something related to the revolution to show their quest for freedom," Abu Bilal, who owns one of the stalls, told the Telegraph.


Indian men search through garbage for scrap at a landfill site in New Delhi on Oct. 11, 2007. An estimated 300,000 waste collectors -- known as ragpickers in India -- rifle through the city's trash to pick up metal and plastic, which they sell to recycling companies.


Vendors offer their products at the Central Market of Guatemala City on Sept. 8. As Neuwirth points out, System D moves all sorts of products, from mobile phones to heavy machinery to roses.


A street vendor sells toys on the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar, India, on July 26.


A vendor of beach accessories rides his bicycle towards Bazaleti Lake on July 30, some 30 miles outside Tbilisi, Georgia, hoping to sell them as temperatures rise.


A vendor prepares noodles at a street stall in Hefei, China, on Dec. 19, 2010. Willngness to engage in System D trade has helped China to become the world's manufacturing and trading center.


A man cooks and sells food next to an official poster reminding residents of the ban on firecrackers at a street corner in downtown Hanoi on Jan. 6, 2009, prior to celebrations for the lunar New Year. Vendors subvert the ban by smuggling firecrackers in from China.


An ethnic Uighur waits for customers on a street in Urumqi in China's Xinjiang region on July 11, 2009.


An Indian vendor prepares corn in a thick fog during the monsoon season at Saputara Hill Station around 250 miles from Ahmedabad, India, on July 29.


A migrant worker rides his tricycle loaded with recyclable cardboard and other waste materials on a hazy day in Beijing on Dec. 9, 2009. It is estimated that 15 million people globally make their living by sorting trash for recycling, according to the AFP


Street vendors wait for customers in downtown São Paulo, Brazil, on April 22, 2004. Many of these vendors could not have started their businesses legally. "I'm totally off the grid," one unlicensed vendor told Neuwirth. "It was never an option to do it any other way. It neer even crossed my mind."


A vendor of mobile phones at the "Computer Village," a market for mobile phones, second-hand computers, and other electronic items in Lagos, Nigeria, on April 23, 2007. Many cities in Africa, including Lagos, have been greatly helped by System D, as legal businesses don't find enough profit in bringing cutting-edge products to the developing world.


A Zimbabwean vendor sells sweet potatoes and cooking oil on July 11, 2007, in the slum of Epworth in Harare. According to the Boston Globe,  items such as cooking oil dissapeared from stores due to price spikes, but could be found on the black market for hugely inflated sums.


A customer rides a moped past Mercedes-Benz hubcaps for sale at the Ladipo Market on June 9, 2003, in Mushin, Nigeria. The Ladipo Market is believed to be the largest auto parts market in West Africa, with most used parts coming from Europe.


A vendor arranges cheap imported bags for sale on a street in Manila, on Sept. 19. The Philippines is seizing record amounts of fake goods this year, most of them from China.

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