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The illusion of capitalism in contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa: a case study of the Gambia

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Abstract:

PurposeThis paper aims to evaluate critically the meta-narrative that there is no alternative to capitalism. Building upon an emerging body of post-structuralist thought that has begun deconstructing this discourse in relation to western economies and post-Soviet societies, this paper further extends this critique to Sub-Saharan Africa by investigating the degree to which people in the Gambia rely on the capitalist market economy for their livelihood. Reporting the results of 80 household face-to-face interviews (involving over 500 people), the finding is that only a small minority of households in contemporary Gambian society rely on the formal market economy alone to secure their livelihood and that the vast majority depend on a plurality of market and non-market economic practices. The outcome is a call to re-think the lived practices of economic transition in Sub-Saharan Africa in general and the Gambia in particular, so as to open up the feasibility of, and possibilities for, alternative economic futures beyond capitalist hegemony. Design/methodology/approachSome 80 households (involving over 500 people) were interviewed face-to-face on their livelihood coping strategies. FindingsReporting the results of 80 household face-to-face interviews (involving over 500 people), the finding is that only a small minority of households in contemporary Gambian society rely on the formal market economy alone to secure their livelihood and that the vast majority depend on a plurality of market and non-market economic practices. Practical implicationsThe outcome is a call to re-think the lived practices of economic transition in Sub-Saharan Africa in general and the Gambia in particular, so as to open up the feasibility of, and possibilities for, alternative economic futures beyond capitalist hegemony. Originality/valueThis research gives us an empirical understanding of the implications of lived experiences of people's day-to-day livelihood coping strategies, which refutes the capitalist's thesis and calls of a re-think on economic and sustainable development policies and strategies in Sub-Saharan Africa

Keywords: Africa; Developing economies; Market economy; The Gambia

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/14636681111138767

Publication date: May 31, 2011

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