Urban kinship: the micro-politics of proximity and relatedness in African cities, by Jesper Bjarnesen and Mats Utas

IMG_7873It is our pleasure and privilege to introduce a special issue of Africa, exploring the micro-politics of proximity and relatedness in six African cities. To understand how social and spatial proximity affects the dynamics of everyday sociality, we suggest the notion of urban kinship to capture how idioms of relatedness in the city build on more enduring socio-cultural legacies, often explicitly articulated in the language of family. Kinship ties are often thought to be naturally given, both in the sense of being biologically rooted in descent and in the sense of being inevitable as social ties. But kinship ties are indeed negotiable and require active work, in terms of their implications for the reproduction of relatedness as well as in their nominal orders. Continue reading

Beyond African ’growth’: some comments on the Swedish media debate, by Linda Engström

On Saturday the 26th October, the Swedish National Radio broadcasts its traditional 20 minutes of economy news – ‘Ekonomiekot’. The reporter and editor Pär Ivarsson interviews national economist Peter Stein, and Stefan Kullander, Sales manager for Africa at the company ABB in Sweden. The topic of today’s program is the economic growth of Africa.

There are many things that strike me, listening to this program. Below, I have listed my four main points of critique that I hope could contribute to that ‘Ekonomiekot’ partly revises its take on economic growth, development and ‘Africa’.

First of all, the recent and frequent reports on outstanding economic growth in Africa have quickly turned this into mainstream ‘knowledge’. But, earlier this year, the Norwegian scholar Morten Jerven published his book ‘Poor Numbers – How we are misled about African development statistics and what to do about it’. Looking carefully at what is behind these numbers he concludes that “the quantitative basis for knowledge about African economic development is very fragile”. In Ekonomiekot, for example, Ghana is pinpointed as one of the more successful countries regarding economic growth. According to Jerven, Ghana’s increase in GDP depend to a large extent to use of better data and better methods for accounting.  Tanzania is also mentioned, which is the country where I myself conduct field work. Certainly, there has been progress in some regions of Tanzania. However, the contrasts between a rich elite and a poor peasantry is striking, especially if you spend time in rural areas. According to some experts – inequality is only increasing.

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