My friend Zach linked to this amazing article this morning: The Shadow Superpower.

In many countries — particularly in the developing world — System D [the black market] is growing faster than any other part of the economy, and it is an increasing force in world trade. But even in developed countries, after the financial crisis of 2008-09, System D was revealed to be an important financial coping mechanism. A 2009 study by Deutsche Bank, the huge German commercial lender, suggested that people in the European countries with the largest portions of their economies that were unlicensed and unregulated — in other words, citizens of the countries with the most robust System D — fared better in the economic meltdown of 2008 than folks living in centrally planned and tightly regulated nations. Studies of countries throughout Latin America have shown that desperate people turned to System D to survive during the most recent financial crisis.

This spontaneous system, ruled by the spirit of organized improvisation, will be crucial for the development of cities in the 21st century. The 20th-century norm — the factory worker who nests at the same firm for his or her entire productive life — has become an endangered species. In China, the world’s current industrial behemoth, workers in the massive factories have low salaries and little job security. Even in Japan, where major corporations have long guaranteed lifetime employment to full-time workers, a consensus is emerging that this system is no longer sustainable in an increasingly mobile and entrepreneurial world.

Incredible. And it’s not because these people “enjoy” having to evade the law, it’s just that the only ways to legally conduct business in places like the Congo (where it takes 18 forms to import an item) is to either bribe or circumvent the bureaucracy. Africa is the most regulated continent in the world, which is a handsome part of the reason that commerce does not move there readily. The only woman I know with the bravery and strength to deal with these laws is my friend Magatte. Her first company, Adina, is African-produced.