From Anti-Development to Rural Development: The Challenge of Economic Transformation in the Former Labour Reserves of Ghana and South Africa

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:04
Oral Presentation
Ben SCULLY, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Akua BRITWUM, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
This paper evaluates a challenge for rural development in Northern Ghana and the Eastern Cape of South Africa, drawing on fieldwork conducted by the authors in both regions in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Both regions are among the poorest in their respective countries, and both have been the focus of state efforts at rural development. However, both regions share a history that presents an obstacle to contemporary rural development efforts. Both were historically labour sending areas for the mining sectors which were central to the 20th century economies of the two countries. To establish these areas as ‘labour reserves’, both were subjected to ‘anti-development’ policies in the colonial and apartheid eras that aimed to undermine non-wage sources of income in order to ensure a steady supply of migrant labourers. As such, the rural economies of both places have long historic ties to the urban labour market. In the contemporary period, the urban labour market has become more precarious and unstable, increasing the importance of the rural area as a source of informal social protection. Rural land also serves as a resource which can facilitate successful urban migration. This dual role of the rural areas as a safety net and a springboard has important implications for potential rural development strategies. Any efforts that do not recognize, and protect, this key role of land in rural livelihoods are destined to face problems.