University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > African Economic History Seminar > ‘From Oil Shocks to Structural Adjustment in Two African Beverage-Crop Economies: Ghana and Kenya Compared, 1973-1983’

‘From Oil Shocks to Structural Adjustment in Two African Beverage-Crop Economies: Ghana and Kenya Compared, 1973-1983’

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This paper offers a bilateral comparative approach to understanding the marked inter-country variations within the history of economic growth in post-independence Africa. It focusses on the critical period from the OPEC oil-price shocks to the adoption of Structural Adjustment; the former has often been seen as a cause of the latter. Rather than the now customary cross-country-regression approach to comparison, the paper aims to examine in more depth, using both quantitative and qualitative sources, two former British colonies which shared enough to make their differences analytically significant. Among their similarities, Ghana and Kenya specialized in exporting beverage crops, whose world prices boomed in 1976-1978, offsetting the first oil shock. Yet, within the range of “Afro-pessimistic” stories, their trajectories contrasted. Kenyan income p.c., up a third over 1963-1972, stagnated during 1973-1983 overall; much worse, Ghanaian income had stagnated in 1963-1972; and fell a third by 1983. During these economic transitions, respectively, from expansion to stagnation, and from stagnation to decline, Kenya had one change of government, Ghana four, including two junior-ranks “revolutions”. The paper argues, first, that the proximate cause of the contrast in growth performance was not government intervention in general, but a specific difference in the extent and form of state intervention. Second, it explores the reasons for this policy difference, in the process testing two theoretical approaches which paid particular attention to Kenya and/or Ghana in the period under review: the Dependency-Marxist controversy about the nature of African capitalisms in the 1970s, and Batesian rational-choice analysis. It is argued that, while both ‘structural’ explanations take us part of the way, a full explanation has to take seriously both ideology and contingency.

This talk is part of the African Economic History Seminar series.

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