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Party Politics, Capital Mobilization and the Rise of ‘Small Boys’ Capitalists in Ghana’s Fourth Republic

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In the last two decades, impressive growth rates have been recorded in a number of states in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nonetheless, economic transformation has not happened in much of Africa. The ‘emerging Africa’ narrative is linked to political liberalization and its growth inducing features such as democratic governance, peace and stability. The aim of this paper is to question whether liberal democracy as institutionalized in Africa has any bearing on the emerging class of home-grown capitalists. Using Ghana as a case study, this paper explores a number of questions: what is driving economic growth in Ghana? what is the link between party politics and capital mobilization, and how is capital mobilized in non-capitalist environment? The empirical part of the analysis is based on data collected through in-depth interviews with political elites, technocrats, business people and party activists. The paper argues that party politics facilitates access to public capital and its mobilization and, consequently the rise of the new generation of indigenous capitalists. It concludes that capital is largely mobilized from public resources. Two types of capital are mobilized in the political arena; party membership allows political entrepreneurs to mobilize ‘phantom’ capital through their proxy companies. Much of the phantom capital is re-invested in partisan politics. On the other hand, special government initiatives allow ‘real’ capital to be mobilize by large business enterprises. The mobilize capital is used to expand or diversify the business, and wean it from partisan politics.

This talk is part of the All POLIS Department Seminars and Events series.

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