Thursday, January 19, 2012

identity economics

Kate Meagher, in her 2010 book Identity Economics chronicles the recent history of the informal garment and shoe manufacturing clusters in Nigeria's Igboland. It's a fairly pessimistic look at the possibilities for these merchants.

She writes, "If the travails of Igbo informal producers have revealed anything, it is that even the most dynamic and well established informal enterprise networks lack the ability to assert their productive interests against the distruptive agendas of local officials, let alone to defy national or global economic and political interests." Meagher calls for strengthening the capacity of informal operators while leaning on the government to find ways to work with informal merchants -- thus allowing them an opening to turn the identity economics of tribal social networks into something that can develop across regions and transcend traditional divisions.

But, in a short epilogue, she adds a bleak new prognostication: locally funded criminal networks and state neglect/persecution are conspiring to drain the life from this hope. "Despite claims to promote informal enterprise, the devil's deal of state neglect and clientalism continues to triumph over any genuine commitment to productive support and political voice within the informal economy. This reckless policy neglect is rapidly squandering the valuable informal institutional resources that could offer a path out of the unemployment, disaffection and criminality engulfing the Nigerian south-east."

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