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GHANA STUDIES / Volume 9 ISSN 1536-5514 / E-ISSN 2333-7168© 2008 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System 25 “NATIVES” AND “STRANGERS” ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF KUMASI SARA BERRY In their introduction to The fate of the tree, a collection of essays on “planning and managing the development of Kumasi,” Adarkwa and Post note that while Ghanaians have “increasingly [been] drawn into the world market ” in recent years, the costs and benefits have been unequally distributed among them. (Adarkwa & Post, 2001:4) In the following pages, I describe changes in one peri-urban community near Kumasi that felt the effects of globalization between 1993 and 2002. During that period, Ghana experienced its first electoral change of regime since independence, continued the process of privatization that began in 1984 under structural adjustment , and adopted a comprehensive National Land Policy for the first time in its history, in 1999. During the same period, increasing numbers of Ghanaians left the country, hoping to find better economic opportunities in Europe and North America, and sending back remittances that were soon to surpass the value of cocoa, Ghana’s primary export crop.1 The effects of these changes were readily visible on the outskirts of Kumasi, where growth and inequality have gone hand in hand.2 In 1993, I spent several weeks in Asokore-Mampon, a village on the outskirts of Kumasi, gathering information on the history of the community with a particular focus on changes over time in the way people made and 1. In 2004, net private transfers of foreign exchange reached US$1,287 million, USD$216 million more than the value of cocoa exports for the same year. IMF, Country Report 05/286. Ghana: Statistical Appendix (2005). Based on officially recorded transfers , these figures probably understate the actual amounts. 2. Carried out by a team of African and European economists, the West African Longterm Perspective Study calculated that 40 percent of the region’s population were living in towns of more than 5000 in 1990, and that the figure would reach 53 percent or more (49 percent in Ghana) by 2020. OECD, 1998:45, 133. 26 Ghana Studies • volume 9 • 2006 exercised claims on land. At the time, Asokore-Mampon was a village of roughly 100 houses, clustered irregularly around the junction of two roads and surrounded by open fields dotted with plots of maize and cassava. Located about ten kilometers east of the city, the village felt much further away—the quiet broken only by the occasional rumble of a heavy truck carrying gravel from a nearby quarry to the main road to Accra, which lay beyond the horizon to the south. When I returned nine years later, hoping to locate and re-interview most if not all the people I’d met there in 1993, the village had virtually disappeared, engulfed in suburban sprawl that stretched in every direction as far as one could see. A few of my former acquaintances had moved away, and one or two had died, but most were still in residence and I managed to talk with the majority of them. I also spoke with a number of long-term residents whom I hadn’t met before, as well as several newcomers, many of whom lived in houses that had not been built, or even thought of, in 1993.3 In the following pages, I describe some of the experiences they shared with me, their impressions of changes in the town during the preceding decade, and the place of their stories in on-going transformations of Ghana’s political economy. In 2002, residents routinely referred to one another as either “natives” or “strangers”-denoting long-term residents and relative newcomers, respectively. In 1993, “strangers” were few and far between in Asokore-­ Mampon and I do not recollect anyone referring to long-term residents as “natives.” In 2002, these terms seemed oddly anachronistic, reminiscent of a colonial lexicon that portrayed Africans as one-dimensional “subjects” of European domination rather than complex historical agents acting on their own behalf. How did Ghanaians who used these terms understand them in the context of the 21st century? Did they correspond to differences in living...


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