1st Edition

Cooperatives, the State, and Corporate Power in African Export Agriculture
The Case of Uganda’s Coffee Sector

ISBN 9781138070516
Published March 18, 2019 by Routledge
218 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations

USD $155.00

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Book Description

Agriculture is a major contributor to Africa’s GDP, the region’s biggest source of employment and its largest food producer. However, agricultural productivity remains low and buyer-driven global value chains offer few opportunities for small producers to upgrade into higher value-added activities. In recent years, the revival of Africa’s cooperatives has been celebrated by governments and international donors as a pathway towards inclusive agricultural development, and this book explores the strengths but also the issues which surround these cooperatives.

The book scrutinizes the neoliberal ideal of economic prosperity arising through the operation of liberalized labor markets by illuminating the discriminatory nature of Uganda’s informal labor relations. It points to the role of cooperatives as a potential instrument of progressive change in African export agriculture, where large numbers of small producers depend on casual wage work in addition to farming. 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.

Table of Contents

List of tables and figures


1. Africa’s Cooperative Revival

1.1 Conceptualizing cooperatives

1.2 Outline of Chapters

1.3 Methodological Notes

2. Footloose Labor in Uganda’s Coffee Sector

2.1 Rural Labor Diversification

2.2 Working Conditions in Agriculture and Beyond

2.3 The Discriminatory Nature of Informal Labor Market Regulation

3. Cooperatives as a Driver of Inclusive Rural Development

3.1 The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE)

3.2 Cooperative Performance and Capacity for Advocacy

3.3. Cooperatives and the State in Uganda

4. Institutional Change for Cooperative Growth

4.1 New Institutional Economics: A Critical Reappraisal

4.2 Institutional Development as Elite Bargains

4.3 Collective Action and Inclusive Institutional Change

5. The Socioeconomic Effects of Uganda’s Coffee Cooperatives

5.1 Mt Elgon: Social and Economic Features of a Coffee Growing Area

5.2 Access to Cooperatives and the Benefits of Membership

5.3 Organizational Structures of Representation

5.4 Women’s Cooperatives: Empowerment through Economic Organization

6. Corporate Power in Uganda’s Coffee Sector

6.1 The Concentration of Corporate Power

6.2 Corporate Strategies vis-à-vis Small Producers

7. Conclusion


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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 degrees from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) and the University of Cambridge. She has worked as an Assistant Professor of International Political Economy at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver; consulted social and economic reform programs in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia and spent more than three years living and working in Uganda as an advisor and researcher.