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The contribution of African women to economic growth and development : historical perspectives and policy implications -- Part I : the pre-colonial and colonial periods

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  • Akyeampong, Emmanuel
  • Fofack, Hippolyte

Abstract

Bringing together history and economics, this paper presents a historical and processual understanding of women's economic marginalization in Sub-Saharan Africa from the pre-colonial period to the end of colonial rule. It is not that women have not been economically active or productive; it is rather that they have often not been able to claim the proceeds of their labor or have it formally accounted for. The paper focuses on the pre-colonial and colonial periods and outlines three major arguments. First, it discusses the historical processes through which the labor of women was increasingly appropriated even in kinship structures in pre-colonial Africa, utilizing the concepts of"rights in persons"and"wealth in people."Reviewing the processes of production and reproduction, it explains why most slaves in pre-colonial Africa were women and discusses how slavery and slave trade intensified the exploitation of women. Second, it analyzes how the cultivation of cash crops and European missionary constructions of the individual, marriage, and family from the early decades of the 19th century sequestered female labor and made it invisible in the realm of domestic production. Third, it discusses how colonial policies from the late 19th century reinforced the"capture"of female labor and the codification of patriarchy through the nature and operation of the colonial economy and the instrumentality of customary law. The sequel to this paper focuses on the post-colonial period. It examines the continuing relevance and impact of the historical processes this paper discusses on post-colonial economies, and suggests some policy implications.

Suggested Citation

  • Akyeampong, Emmanuel & Fofack, Hippolyte, 2012. "The contribution of African women to economic growth and development : historical perspectives and policy implications -- Part I : the pre-colonial and colonial periods," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6051, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6051
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Agénor, Pierre-Richard & Canuto, Otaviano & da Silva, Luiz Pereira, 2014. "On gender and growth: The role of intergenerational health externalities and women's occupational constraints," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 132-147.
    2. Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano & Nathan Nunn, 2013. "On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(2), pages 469-530.
    3. Shantayanan Devarajan & Sudhir Shetty, 2010. "Africa : Leveraging the Crisis into a Development Takeoff," World Bank Other Operational Studies 10156, The World Bank.
    4. Esteve-Volart, Berta, 2004. "Gender discrimination and growth: theory and evidence from India," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 6641, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Kasekende Louis & Brixova Zuzana & Ndikumana Leonce, 2010. "Africa: Africa's Counter-Cyclical Policy Responses to the Crisis," Journal of Globalization and Development, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-22, January.
    6. Hippolyte Fofack, 2010. "Africa and Arab Gulf States: Divergent Development Paths and Prospects for Convergence," Journal of African Development, African Finance and Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 97-130.
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    Keywords

    Anthropology; Gender and Development; Population Policies; Rural Development Knowledge&Information Systems; Gender and Law;

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