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The central contention in this chapter is that Africanisms, or strategies from within Africa, show considerable potential, but they are also significantly limited by historical burdens and continuing forces of discrimination and underdevelopment shaped by the combined experiences of historical and contemporary forces within the world system. Stratification economists’ insights on the political economy of (a) addressing past expropriations, (b) managing current expropriations, and (c) preventing future expropriations can, however, provide potential paths for considerable progress, especially at a time when the demands of popular protests are similarly aligned.
This chapter examines (1) publicly available data on the municipal activities of TNCs culled from their own corporate reports, (2) the powers of local governments enshrined in local laws vis-a-vis the protections of TNCs under international law, (3) public opinion of municipal residents as captured in various surveys, (4) the results of scientific studies, including those that test the chemical composition of fuels sold by TNCs, and (5) those studies that subject the exercise of political power to social scientific analyses.
On these bases, it can be argued that, although they are not accountable to any electorate, transnational corporations (TNCs) in Africa play significant roles in planning and governing cities in Africa. TNCs effectively manage important aspects of African life through control of municipal utilities, through the corporate governance of natural resources held by Africans in common, and through ad hoc investment practices that facilitate the private appropriation of socially created rents.
What conclusions can be drawn from this study? What can we learn from answers to the questions that motivated this study?: namely (1) what are the patterns and dimensions of inequality across the world? (2) What causes inequality? (3) Why does inequality persist? (4) Why is inequality an important focus for political economic analysis? (5) What can and is being done about inequality and by whom? What are the implications of these conclusions, these arguments, for policy and for the study of African economics, the study of the political economy of the global south? This concluding chapter seeks to address these questions by successively reinforcing the arguments, drawing out their implications for development policy, and reflecting on what the study can contribute to economics. Both development policy and development economics can better recognise and account for the political economic interests that shape the thinking about Africa. In this process, stratification economics provides both a point of departure and a compass for navigating the future. While many obstacles impede the possibilities of change, there are, indeed, countervailing forces that can propel the needed transformation.
Beyond questions of culture, other modes of explanation for the persistence of inequality in Africa have been similarly simplistic, whether they relate to the lack of (human) capital or the presence – indeed abundance and dependence – of natural capital and the resource curse (as this introduction tries to make clear). More systematic and comprehensive explanations need to be developed. Doing so must involve building new foundations, but the question is where to begin: How do we build the conceptual foundations for a new beginning and how can these be defended or reinforced against counter currents? When built, what sorts of arguments can they support? It is these questions that this chapter successively answers in three sections respectively examining the nature of the foundations that can be built for a new beginning, the aims, paradigm, and arguments of the book, and the overall planned structure of the book.
Socialism is one alternative for Africa. Although pronounced dead at the end of the twentieth century when its struggle with capitalism was formally ended with the former being forced to surrender to the later, the persistent and worsening maladies of capitalism as a system must lead to further discussion of socialisms. Founded on the basis that nothing substantially good can come from capitalism, a system based on exploitation, wage theft, burn out, plunder, and ecological crises on a world scale, socialism promises a link between a more social world and the good society. Two of its defining features are the redistribution of land and the nationalization of industry. Does this cluster of options constitute a firmer and more reliable path to inclusive African development? Using examples such as the land reform in Zimbabwe, the chapter argues that, although the Marxist critique of capitalism has been relentless and long-standing (especially its rejection of capitalism and imperialism), and in many cases quite successful, its analytical reach can be extended and its policy and political alternatives can be reoriented.
This chapter investigates whether inequality and poverty worsen or improve over time under the conditions envisaged by de Soto. Existing studies arguing, for example, that the application of de Soto’s thesis creates extra costs for the poor who try to register their urban land and real estate do not address the issue. Additional empirical analysis is needed to investigate what the effect of titling has been on poverty and inequality in Africa. Conceptual answers can be found in the work of Joseph Schumpeter, Henry George, and Karl Polanyi. The three, whose work, respectively, on innovation and entrepreneurship as drivers of economic development, on the role of economic rent in economic development, and on the role of “fictitious commodities” and the “double movement” in shaping the dynamics of capitalist economic development, bear directly on de Soto’s claims. While, on the surface, the work of Joseph Schumpeter may be taken as confirming de Soto’s thesis, that of Henry George and Karl Polanyi demonstrates that de Soto’s thesis is fundamentally flawed. A critical analysis and synthesis of these seemingly differing conclusions, however, reveals that applying de Soto’s ideas through policy would be ineffective, and actually serve to simultaneously entrench and augment inequality.
Using human capital formation in the oil industry in Africa, this chapter shows that Africa’s experiences with oil contradict the mainstream account of human capital and economic development. Rather, (a) both the demand for and supply of education have dramatically increased during the oil boom, and (b) this boom is neither the result of local content alone nor the product of distorted public interventions. Rather, it is a function of cumulative forces and processes as well as aspirations for a different reality in the future. In turn, there are strong grounds for demanding – as of right – that the fruits in the oil industry be shared. That is, if the fruits are collectively produced and reproduced, then they must also be widely socialized and diffused. Yet, (c) investment in "oil education" has not been accompanied by the expected "returns on education" in the sense of establishing congruence between jobs expected and jobs obtained, and (d) much of the relatively little employment generated is gendered and endangered work, with annualized wages that are different and differentiated between local and imported labor, creating a labor aristocracy in the workforce that is not necessarily linked to embodied investment in education and experience
Five key questions beg for answers, namely: (1) what are the patterns and dimensions of inequality across the world? (2) What causes inequality? (3) Why does inequality persist? (4) Why is inequality an important focus for political economic analysis? (5) What can and is being done about inequality and by whom? This chapter seeks to answer these questions with reference to Africa as a point of departure for preparing the grounds for a new political economy of the Global South.
This chapter shows that the re-imaging of Africa in growth terms is not only a reflection of Africa’s growth record but also creating "confidence in the market" by confirming that Africa is ripe and ready to host investment and to open up markets in areas where they did not exist or existed but were not capitalist in form. Either way, however, the "Africa on the rise" narrative – indeed all growth praises showered on Africa – achieve a major political and economic goal. Neglecting ethical questions about sustainable jobs, inequality, and ecological crisis, while extolling the virtues of capital accumulation, it extends a particular neoliberal ideology which favors people with market power, not the majority with precarious positions or their relationship with nature. Economic growth, then, must also be regarded as a problematic explanation. Like its tools of commodifying land (Chapters 2 and 3), labourlabor (Chapter 4), and the environment (Chapter 5), mainstream approaches to economic growth must be fundamentally rejected.
This chapter revisits the prevailing theories about land reform in Africa by developing a novel approach to systematize them. Based on this approach, the chapter argues that there are significant gaps between the theories, how they are implemented, and their outcomes in relation to reducing intergroup inequalities. Indeed, in many cases, land reform has widened these differences, suggesting that, rather than inclusion, land reform has been a path to exclude poorer and weaker groups such as women and migrants. Through land reform, a global land market has developed in Africa but, in contrast to the claims by advocates, this market has been a conduit for transferring African wealth to the Global North. Although questions of implementation may blur the lines between what works and what does not, this finding provides strong grounds to be sceptical of theories about African land tenure systems and how they work or should work.
In this book, Franklin Obeng-Odoom seeks to carefully explain, engage, and systematically question the existing explanations of inequalities within Africa, and between Africa and the rest of the world using insights from the emerging field of stratification economics. Drawing on multiple sources - including archival and historical material and a wide range of survey data - he develops a distinctive approach that combines key concepts in original institutional economics, such as reasonable value, property, and the distribution of wealth, with other insights into Africa's development and underdevelopment. While looking at the Africa-wide situation, Obeng-Odoom also analyzes the experiences of inequalities within specific countries. Comprehensive and engaging, Property, Institutions, and Social Stratification in Africa is a useful resource for teaching and research on Africa and the Global South.