The case for an African customs union

I will first explain what I mean by saying that the informal economy, a concept I was associated with coining in the early 1970s, has taken over the world, largely as a result of neoliberal deregulation over the last three decades (pp. 1-3). After a brief account of my own early exposure to West Africa (pp. 3-5), I turn to the question of how and why Africa has long been a symbol of global inequality. Even after independence, Africans are still waiting from emancipation (pp. 5-10). Even so Africa’s development prospects in the 21st century are brighter than for a long time (pp. 10-12). In the course of the 20th century, regional differences in the forms of African political economy converged on the model of agrarian civilization that was once known as the Old Regime. The antidote to the Old Regime is a liberal revolution (pp. 12-15). Accordingly I next consider the role played by free trade and protection in the revolutions that made modern France, the United States, Italy and Germany, with particular reference to the latter’s Zollverein (customs union) in the 19th century (pp. 15-16). Turning to the Southern African example, which includes the oldest extant customs union in the world, I examine the organization of international trade there (pp. 16-18). In conclusion I review the prospects for greater integration of trade regimes in Africa. Is an African customs union possible or desirable? How might it come about? (pp. 18-19).

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