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Cooperatives, the State, and Corporate Power in African Export Agriculture

The Case of Uganda's Coffee Sector



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Cooperatives, the State, and Corporate Power in African Export Agriculture by Karin Wedig

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Agriculture still contributes more to Africa's GDP than any other sector, and small farms are the region's largest food producer and a major source of employment and export earnings. However, agricultural productivity remains low and destitution among small producers is widespread. In recent years the revival of Africa's cooperatives has been celebrated by governments and international donors and this book explores the strengths but also the issues which surround these cooperatives. This book illuminates the discriminatory nature of Uganda's informal labor markets, including non-permanent forms of labor organization, and points to the role of cooperatives as an instrument of progressive change in African export agriculture. In contrast to the portrayal, advanced by some governments and rarely questioned by donors, of an unproblematic co-existence of small producers' collective action and big capital interests, the author calls for a re-politicized debate on the Social and Solidarity Economy. As part of this, she highlights the adverse political and economic conditions faced by African cooperatives, including intense international competition in agricultural processing, inadequate access to infrastructure and services, and at times antagonistic state-cooperative relations. Supported by wide-ranging interdisciplinary evidence, including new ethnographic, survey and interview data, this book shows how cooperatives may be co-opted by both the state and corporations in a discourse that ignores structural inequalities in value chains and emphasizes poverty reduction over economic and political empowerment. It provides a critique of New Institutional Economics as a framework for understanding how institutions shape redistribution, and develops a political economy approach to explore the conditions for structural change in African export agriculture.

Author Biography

Karin Wedig is the Chief Economist for Africa at the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). She holds a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and has served as a policy advisor to social and economic reform programs in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, including GIZ, UNESCO, ILO, UNDP, and the French Agence Francaise de Developpement.
Release date NZ
February 1st, 2019
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
1 Line drawings, black and white; 24 Tables, black and white; 1 Illustrations, black and white
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