Prospects for Recovery and Sustainable Development in Africa

By Aguibou Y. Yansané | Go to book overview

7
Global Formulae, Local Responses: Rural Economic Differentiation in Ghana

GWENDOLYN MIKELL

Some of the problems that West African political economies such as Ghana's now face -- rural differentiation and impoverishment that has been exaggerated by the recent attempts at structural adjustment 1 -- are the logical outgrowth of colonially initiated agriculture or mineral extraction for export and peripheral capitalist development. As colonial administrators pursued economic development that they deemed appropriate for the colonies, they eschewed industrialization while increasing dependence upon mono-crop or monocommodity production. 2 In so doing, they skewed the economy to favor urbanites and bureaucrats, with an accompanying intense exploitation of rural resources and rural producers; and they laid the basis for the differentiation between those who produced for export and those who engaged in food production. For most African countries, the consequences of such dependent economic structuring have been severe. Since independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s, many African leaders, like Nkrumah, having been sensitized to the problematic dynamics of neocolonial economies, have also tried to industrialize, diversify, and create "coherent" political economies for their societies. However, such efforts have been short-lived and were usually frustrated because the global socioeconomic patterns had already been set and were difficult to overcome.

These socioeconomic patterns highlight some of the thorny and persisting issues in contemporary African rural organization. For example, the differentiation between export and food farmers was becoming evident during the 1930s and 1940s, as children of prosperous farmers migrated to urban areas, but it has become even more dramatic today. These new strata created by cocoa established linkages between urban and rural areas, but more importantly, they symbolized the differences in social status between urbanites and rural peasant realities. As these children became urban civil servants, bureaucrats, and service

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