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Economic and Political Reform in Africa

Anthropological Perspectives

Peter D. Little

Publication Year: 2013

What are the local effects of major economic and political reforms in Africa? How have globalized pro-market and pro-democracy reforms impacted local economics and communities? Examining case studies from The Gambia, Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, Peter D. Little shows how rural farmers and others respond to complex agendas of governments, development agencies, and non-governmental organizations. The book explores the contradictions between what policy reforms were supposed to do and what actually happened in local communities. Little’s bold vision of development challenges common narratives of African poverty, dependency, and environmental degradation and suggests that sustainable development in Africa can best be achieved by strengthening local livelihoods, markets, and institutions.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

This book took much too long to complete! It perennially was on the backburner, always precluded by more urgent commitments. It has hung around in partially completed form for several years and confronted lots of false starts and stops along the way. An important change in the project’s pace came in 2007–2008 when I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, which allowed me to commit...

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Introduction: What it means to be “Reformed”

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pp. 1-17

I began to think about this book about thirteen years ago on a short visit to Baringo District, Kenya, where I had conducted my PhD dissertation research during 1980–1981. I had not been there for almost three years when I visited in March 1998. Standing on the parched and badly receding shores of the district’s namesake, Lake Baringo, a nearby young man explained that its retreat was evidence...

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1: “They think we can Manufacture Crops”: Contract Farming and the Nontraditional Commodity Business

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pp. 18-45

In May 1994 I sat at a meeting in the office of a large international development organization in downtown Banjul, the small capital city of The Gambia, West Africa. The conversation centered on the need to diversify the country’s exports and its dependence on groundnuts, a traditional export crop whose annual export earnings had been declining for the past decade. The discussion eventually...

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2: “Everybody is a Petty Trader”: Peri-urban Trade in Postconflict Maputo, Mozambique

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pp. 46-63

A common sight in Africa’s sprawling urban and peri-urban areas is the widespread proliferation of petty traders, hawking items from foods to cigarettes to cheap imported electronics. These street hawkers and other self-employed traders represent the fastest-growing segment of the labor market in Africa, attracting the unemployed, the displaced, and the impoverished as well as those seeking...

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3: “We now Milk Elephants”: The Community Conservation Business in Rural Kenya

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pp. 64-90

An elderly Samburu woman on the hot, dusty plains of northern Kenya explains to a visiting group of government and development officials that pastoralists have learned the value of wildlife. She notes unabashedly that “we now milk elephants like we do our cows—they provide us with income to buy food” (field notes, January 1995). The mixed crowd of state officials and development workers...

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4: “They are Beating Us over the Head with Democracy”: Multiparty Elections in Rural Kenya

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pp. 91-115

A recent headline from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) celebrates a “Landmark ruling for Kenya nomads.” The account tells the story of a “historic court ruling” that awarded the same Il Chamus pastoral community discussed in chapter 3 the right to elect their own parliamentary representative (BBC 2006). The court case is one of several pending in the Kenyan courts where...

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5: “The Government is Always Telling Us What to think”: Narratives of Food Aid Dependence in Rural Ethiopia

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pp. 116-140

In 2007 a large government billboard on a road in Amhara Region, Ethiopia, warily cautions rural residents about the harms of depending on food relief and developing a “dependency attitude.” This same message is communicated at a workshop during the same year in the regional town of Dessie, South Wollo Zone, where government officials warn farmers about depending too much on food relief...

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6: “Counting the Poor”: The Politics of Pastoralist Poverty Assessments in Kenya

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pp. 141-163

Ethiopia’s expensive and expansive PSN P activity is a product of a new approach to poverty alleviation that uses both safety net and pro-market interventions to protect the poor, as well as to promote smallholder commercial agriculture. The implementation of Poverty Reduction Strategy Plans (PRSPs) in Ethiopia and other poor countries was an implicit admission that more had to be done to...

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7: “A Sort of Free Business”: Hyper-liberalization and Somali Transnationalism

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pp. 164-186

In January 2011 Somalia attained the unenviable status of being twenty years without a real central government, the longest period of statelessness in the post– World War I era. Less than a year earlier (July 1, 2010) the territory had marked fifty years of independence from colonial administration, an event that might have been a cause for celebration in most former colonies but was hardly noticed...

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Conclusions: Rethinking Encounters and Reformist Narratives

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pp. 187-196

This book has been about social and economic changes in several African countries that can be traced to economic and political reform programs first introduced in the early 1980s. It has used the twin platforms of neoliberalism, with its emphases on individualism and economic growth, and globalization, with its focus on global flows of goods, technologies, and ideas, to explain a series of ethnographic...


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pp. 197-202


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pp. 203-230


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pp. 231-240

About the Author

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p. 258-258

E-ISBN-13: 9780253010933
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253010797

Page Count: 258
Illustrations: 8 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013