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Comparative Historical Analysis of Occupational Structure and Urbanization Across Sub-Saharan Africa

This session presents and discusses papers from the AFCHOS project, based at Cambridge University, which brings together scholars from a dozen countries (https://www.campop.geog.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/internationaloccupations/afchos/). The aim is to construct datasets on occupational structures and urbanization across Africa, in the colonial and post-independence periods, which will be commensurable both with each other and with the INCHOS project on Eurasia and North America. Quantitative analysis of occupational structures is especially pertinent to our understanding of structural change in African economies, supplementing the much-criticized national income accounts. Studying the changing sectoral composition of African economies can illuminate the mechanisms of economic expansion, and the constraints upon it, particularly during structural shifts such as the growth of agricultural exporting during the colonial period, the state-led development strategies in the first decades after independence, the adoption of ‘Structural Adjustment’ in the 1980s, and the recent period of general economic expansion – without industrialization – since c.1995.

Organizer(s)

  • Gareth Austin Cambridge University gma31@cam.ac.uk

Session members

  • Gareth Austin, Cambridge University
  • Jutta Bolt, Lund University and Groningen University
  • Johan Fourie, Stellenbosch University
  • Ewout Frankema, Wageningen University
  • Stefania Galli, Gothenburg University
  • Erik Green, Lund University
  • Michiel de Haas, Wageningen University
  • Ellen Hillbom, Lund University
  • Dácil Juif, Wageningen University
  • Duncan Money, Free State University
  • Karin Pallaver, Bologna University
  • Rory Pilosoff, Free State University
  • Filipa Ribeiro da Silva , International Institute of Social History, the Netherlands
  • Marlous van Waijenburg, Northwestern University (moving to Michigan University

Discussant(s)

  • Leigh Shaw-Taylor Cambridge University lmws2@cam.ac.uk2
  • Damilola Adebayo Cambridge University ada27@cam.ac.uk

Papers

Panel abstract

This session presents and discusses papers from the AFCHOS project, based at Cambridge University, which unites scholars from a dozen countries (https://www.campop.geog.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/internationaloccupations/afchos/). The aim is to construct datasets on occupational structures and urbanization across Africa, in the colonial and post-independence periods, which will be commensurable both with each other and with the INCHOS project on Eurasia and North America. Quantitative analysis of occupational structures is especially pertinent to our understanding of structural change in African economies, supplementing the much-criticized national income accounts. Studying the changing sectoral composition of African economies can illuminate the mechanisms of economic expansion, and the constraints upon it, particularly during structural shifts such as the growth of agricultural exporting during the colonial period, the state-led development strategies in the first decades after independence, the adoption of 'Structural Adjustment' in the 1980s, and the recent period of general economic expansion – but without industrialization – since c.1995.

1st half

Two Countries in One: South Africa’s Occupational Structure

Omphile Ramela, Stellenbosch University; Johan Fourie, Stellenbosch University

Analysing the evolution of the occupational structure in South Africa from the late nineteenth century can improve our understanding of the impact of the mineral revolution on the living standards of, especially, black South Africans. We use occupational classifications in censuses for the Cape Colony and South Africa to investigate the relationship between the production and occupational structure of South Africa and the degree of economic development. The robustness of the relationship is examined using the PEST (primary, extractionary, secondary, tertiary) system at a provincial and national level from 1875 to 2015. The evidence suggests that as South Africa became more economically affluent, primary sector participation decreased resulting in a concomitant increase in secondary and tertiary sector activity, especially for white males. Black males’ and females’ occupational structure, conversely, experienced an increase in primary sector participation relative to the other two sectors.

Analysing the evolution of the occupational structure in South Africa from the late nineteenth century can improve our understanding of the impact of the mineral revolution on the living standards of, especially, black South Africans. We use occupational classifications in censuses for the Cape Colony and South Africa to investigate the relationship between the production and occupational structure of South Africa and the degree of economic development. The robustness of the relationship is examined using the PEST (primary, extractionary, secondary, tertiary) system at a provincial and national level from 1875 to 2015. The evidence suggests that as South Africa became more economically affluent, primary sector participation decreased resulting in a concomitant increase in secondary and tertiary sector activity, especially for white males. Black males’ and females’ occupational structure, conversely, experienced an increase in primary sector participation relative to the other two sectors.

The Occupational Structure of Mozambique, 1900-2000: Changes and Continuities

Filipa Ribeiro da Silva

In recent years several scholars have made important contributions to better our understanding of the demographic, economic and labour history of Africa (Manning, 2010; Austin 2007, 2008; Frankema and Jerven, 2014; Fourie and Green, 2014; Lane, 2014; Pallaver, 2014; Pilossof, 2014; Vos, 2014; among others). Little is known, however, about the changes over time in the occupational structures of sub-Saharan Africa. To help filling in this gap in the scholarship, in this paper I reconstruct the occupational structure of twentieth-century Mozambique. Firstly, I survey the source materials available, highlighting their potential for this research and discussing their main methodological challenges. Secondly, I reconstruct the occupational structure of Mozambique per decade, identifying and analyzing the most significant shifts and continuities in view of the country’s dominant economic sectors, its urbanization process, mobility and migration patterns. The analysis is based on Mozambican censuses and surveys carried out by international non-governmental organizations.

In recent years several scholars have made important contributions to better our understanding of the demographic, economic and labour history of Africa (Manning, 2010; Austin 2007, 2008; Frankema and Jerven, 2014; Fourie and Green, 2014; Lane, 2014; Pallaver, 2014; Pilossof, 2014; Vos, 2014; among others). Little is known, however, about the changes over time in the occupational structures of sub-Saharan Africa. To help filling in this gap in the scholarship, in this paper I reconstruct the occupational structure of twentieth-century Mozambique. Firstly, I survey the source materials available, highlighting their potential for this research and discussing their main methodological challenges. Secondly, I reconstruct the occupational structure of Mozambique per decade, identifying and analyzing the most significant shifts and continuities in view of the country’s dominant economic sectors, its urbanization process, mobility and migration patterns. The analysis is based on Mozambican censuses and surveys carried out by international non-governmental organizations.

Occupational Structures in Botswana 1920 – 2010

Jutta Bolt, Ellen Hillbom

Since the 1950s, Botswana has experienced rapid economic growth with average incomes increasing twelvefold between 1950 and 2000. However, this has been fully dependent on natural resources – initially cattle and later diamonds. In this paper, we analyse changes in occupational structures in Botswana from the decades preceding the onset of the rapid economic growth until the present. We aim to understand to what extent the economy has experienced structural diversification that may stimulate growth when the diamonds run out. Using available censuses, we show that initially little changed in terms of occupational structure. Most people were subsistence farmers, and only a small fraction of society found employment in the formal wage-economy. However, when diamonds took over the economy, labour moved out of agriculture mostly into low productive services. If these sectors have to take over when diamonds end, Botswana’s economy will slow.

Since the 1950s, Botswana has experienced rapid economic growth with average incomes increasing twelvefold between 1950 and 2000. However, this has been fully dependent on natural resources – initially cattle and later diamonds. In this paper, we analyse changes in occupational structures in Botswana from the decades preceding the onset of the rapid economic growth until the present. We aim to understand to what extent the economy has experienced structural diversification that may stimulate growth when the diamonds run out. Using available censuses, we show that initially little changed in terms of occupational structure. Most people were subsistence farmers, and only a small fraction of society found employment in the formal wage-economy. However, when diamonds took over the economy, labour moved out of agriculture mostly into low productive services. If these sectors have to take over when diamonds end, Botswana’s economy will slow.

Changes in Occupational Structures in Zimbabwe, c. 1900 – 2012

Rory Pilosoff, Erik Green

White settler presence in Zimbabwe, which grew steadily from 1890, drastically changed the nature and scope of the economies and regional trade patterns in the area. Large-scale commercial agriculture became the bedrock of the new economy, supplemented by mining and to some extent manufacturing. The unequal distribution of wealth and resources, plus the long liberation war (1965-1979), left economic uncertainly at independence in 1980. The 1980s saw economic gain, but by the 1990s economic stagnation set in. After 2000, with the Fast Track Land Reform Programme, Zimbabwe endured extreme hyperinflation and economic decline. By analysing the whole population, and how peoples’ working lives changed over the period, we identify economic changes and continuities and how people responded. Finally, we discuss possibilities and limitations of using occupational data to analyse paths of economic and structural change in Africa.

White settler presence in Zimbabwe, which grew steadily from 1890, drastically changed the nature and scope of the economies and regional trade patterns in the area. Large-scale commercial agriculture became the bedrock of the new economy, supplemented by mining and to some extent manufacturing. The unequal distribution of wealth and resources, plus the long liberation war (1965-1979), left economic uncertainly at independence in 1980. The 1980s saw economic gain, but by the 1990s economic stagnation set in. After 2000, with the Fast Track Land Reform Programme, Zimbabwe endured extreme hyperinflation and economic decline. By analysing the whole population, and how peoples’ working lives changed over the period, we identify economic changes and continuities and how people responded. Finally, we discuss possibilities and limitations of using occupational data to analyse paths of economic and structural change in Africa.

Changes in Occupational Structures in Zambia, c.1930-2010

Duncan Money, Rory Pilosoff

Labour has constituted a major preoccupation for Zambia specialists since the 1930s, yet the coverage has been strikingly uneven. Mineworkers on the Copperbelt have indisputably been the focus of the existing literature and are often presented as the archetypal proletarian, with untested assumptions about the importance of their historical experiences as the model for labour in the country. In this paper we offer an overview of the occupational structures and working lives of the whole population of Zambia from the 1930s to 2010 utilising the PST-I framework. In doing so, we show that employment in mining, and secondary industry generally, remained low even during mining booms and that the labour demands of the colonial economy were relatively modest. Using the PST-I model offers us the opportunity to provide new insights into the function and changes of the Zambian economy through the 21st century.

Labour has constituted a major preoccupation for Zambia specialists since the 1930s, yet the coverage has been strikingly uneven. Mineworkers on the Copperbelt have indisputably been the focus of the existing literature and are often presented as the archetypal proletarian, with untested assumptions about the importance of their historical experiences as the model for labour in the country. In this paper we offer an overview of the occupational structures and working lives of the whole population of Zambia from the 1930s to 2010 utilising the PST-I framework. In doing so, we show that employment in mining, and secondary industry generally, remained low even during mining booms and that the labour demands of the colonial economy were relatively modest. Using the PST-I model offers us the opportunity to provide new insights into the function and changes of the Zambian economy through the 21st century.

Changes in the Occupational Structures in Malawi, c.1930-2010: A Story of Structural Continuity?

Erik Green, Rory Pilossof, Wapulumuka Mulwafu

Malawi – landlocked and with an estimated GNI per capita of US$320 - is one of the poorest countries in the world. In his famous paper ‘The Making of an Imperial Slum’ (1975) Vail argue that colonial Malawi lacked internal forces of development and that its colonial history was characterized by structural continuities. Historians writing in the 1990s challenged this view, pointing especially to the importance of African production of cash crops. This paper contributes to the debate on long-term economic development in Malawi by analyzing shifts in the occupational structure using the (PEST) sector framework. This paper examines these structural continuities by examining the changes and continuities in occupational structures in Malawi, 1930-2010. Our preliminary results show periods of growth in both the tertiary and secondary sectors, but overall lend support to Vail’s claim of structural continuities.

Malawi – landlocked and with an estimated GNI per capita of US$320 - is one of the poorest countries in the world. In his famous paper ‘The Making of an Imperial Slum’ (1975) Vail argue that colonial Malawi lacked internal forces of development and that its colonial history was characterized by structural continuities. Historians writing in the 1990s challenged this view, pointing especially to the importance of African production of cash crops. This paper contributes to the debate on long-term economic development in Malawi by analyzing shifts in the occupational structure using the (PEST) sector framework. This paper examines these structural continuities by examining the changes and continuities in occupational structures in Malawi, 1930-2010. Our preliminary results show periods of growth in both the tertiary and secondary sectors, but overall lend support to Vail’s claim of structural continuities.

2nd half

Plunder, Planning and Implosion: Occupational Structures and (De)industrialization in the Congo over the Long 20th Century

Michiel de Haas, Ewout Frankema, and Dácil Juif

The Belgian Congo became one of the most industrialized colonies of sub-Saharan Africa. This paper investigates how far structural change affected the organisation of indigenous labour in this vast, very sparsely populated area. We show that the Belgian Congo developed into a ‘command economy’ with a higher degree of market coordination and labour specialization than witnessed in other African colonies. Given that the Belgian colonial regime intervened more deeply into existing labour arrangements there were at least two consequences. First, the pressure on scarce labour resources was enormous, which led to high degrees of labour coercion, especially during the first two decades of industrialization between 1908 and 1929. Second, since this command system created strong inter-sectoral dependencies, the collapse of the colonial order had severe implications for the functioning of post-colonial society.

The Belgian Congo became one of the most industrialized colonies of sub-Saharan Africa. This paper investigates how far structural change affected the organisation of indigenous labour in this vast, very sparsely populated area. We show that the Belgian Congo developed into a ‘command economy’ with a higher degree of market coordination and labour specialization than witnessed in other African colonies. Given that the Belgian colonial regime intervened more deeply into existing labour arrangements there were at least two consequences. First, the pressure on scarce labour resources was enormous, which led to high degrees of labour coercion, especially during the first two decades of industrialization between 1908 and 1929. Second, since this command system created strong inter-sectoral dependencies, the collapse of the colonial order had severe implications for the functioning of post-colonial society.

A Preliminary Analysis of the Occupational Structure of Tanzania (1900 ca. - 2014)

Karin Pallaver, University of Bologna

This paper presents the available sources and data for a quantitative overview of the changing occupational structure of Tanzania. Section 1 introduces the available sources and the problems they present, and asks how far back we can go in the analysis of the occupational structure and demographic composition of the population. Section 2 focuses on the main historical turning points in the country’s history and how they affected the occupational structure. At the same, the section presents a preliminary discussion of the proportion of the labour force that was employed in each sector over time. Section 3 analyses the relevance of gender in the study of the history of the occupational structure of Tanzania. Section 4 presents the available data on the changing urbanization rates over the period and the connection between urbanization and occupational structure.

This paper presents the available sources and data for a quantitative overview of the changing occupational structure of Tanzania. Section 1 introduces the available sources and the problems they present, and asks how far back we can go in the analysis of the occupational structure and demographic composition of the population. Section 2 focuses on the main historical turning points in the country’s history and how they affected the occupational structure. At the same, the section presents a preliminary discussion of the proportion of the labour force that was employed in each sector over time. Section 3 analyses the relevance of gender in the study of the history of the occupational structure of Tanzania. Section 4 presents the available data on the changing urbanization rates over the period and the connection between urbanization and occupational structure.

The Occupational Structure of a Peculiar Colony: Sierra Leone in the early 19th century

Stefania Galli, University of Gothenburg

Occupational structure is a valuable proxy for economic development when more direct indicators are lacking. This study employs occupational structure for the Colony of Sierra Leone in 1831 with the aim of contributing to shed new light on African economic development at a very early stage. This work is based on data extracted from the 1831 census, one of the first reliable censuses in African history. This source provides valuable information on the whole colonial population, including occupational titles for a vast part of it. The results show that the Colony was far from homogeneous, combining a largely primary-oriented countryside with a more modern urban sector centre around the Freetown’s harbour.

Occupational structure is a valuable proxy for economic development when more direct indicators are lacking. This study employs occupational structure for the Colony of Sierra Leone in 1831 with the aim of contributing to shed new light on African economic development at a very early stage. This work is based on data extracted from the 1831 census, one of the first reliable censuses in African history. This source provides valuable information on the whole colonial population, including occupational titles for a vast part of it. The results show that the Colony was far from homogeneous, combining a largely primary-oriented countryside with a more modern urban sector centre around the Freetown’s harbour.

Occupational Change under Coercion and Volatility: Structural Change in Cote d'Ivoire (c. 1895-2010)

Marlous van Waijenburg, Michigan University

"Occupational Change under Coercion and Volatility: Structural Change in Cote d'Ivoire (c. 1895-2010)". Ongoing efforts to develop comparable databases on historical labor relations and occupational change are deepening our understanding of the path(s) towards economic modernity. For scholars of Africa and others part of the 'global south', partaking in such contributions poses several challenges, as economic data is often scarce, skewed, and unreliable, and the structural transformation of these economies and labor markets at least partly took place under conditions of systematic labor coercion. This paper, which traces occupational shifts and structural change in Côte d'Ivoire – French West Africa’s only (semi-)'settler colony' – aims to balance the objective of global comparability with attention for historical context and particularity, paying due attention to the 'invisible' occupational changes that resulted from forced labor schemes.

"Occupational Change under Coercion and Volatility: Structural Change in Cote d'Ivoire (c. 1895-2010)". Ongoing efforts to develop comparable databases on historical labor relations and occupational change are deepening our understanding of the path(s) towards economic modernity. For scholars of Africa and others part of the 'global south', partaking in such contributions poses several challenges, as economic data is often scarce, skewed, and unreliable, and the structural transformation of these economies and labor markets at least partly took place under conditions of systematic labor coercion. This paper, which traces occupational shifts and structural change in Côte d'Ivoire – French West Africa’s only (semi-)'settler colony' – aims to balance the objective of global comparability with attention for historical context and particularity, paying due attention to the 'invisible' occupational changes that resulted from forced labor schemes.

Occupational Structures in Northern Nigeria, 1921-2006

Emiliano Travieso, University of Cambridge; Gareth Austin, University of Cambridge

This paper is a quantitative analysis of the occupational structures of Northern Nigeria over six benchmark years from colonial rule to the twenty-first century. It is based on the censuses, plus other primary sources. We explore structural shifts in the northern Nigerian economy during and after British ‘indirect rule’ and relate them to the region’s specific precolonial history, notably the nineteenth-century Sokoto Caliphate. We show how the growth of agricultural exporting was associated with gradual and uneven handicraft-deindustrialisation. After independence, we trace the large-scale reallocation of labour from agriculture to services from the 1960s to 2000s, in the context of spectacular population growth and changing relative prices of agricultural produce and non-tradeable services. We quantify the extraordinary growth of transport and education services, relating them to the transfers of oil revenues from southeast Nigeria to the North as well as to shifting economic policy.

This paper is a quantitative analysis of the occupational structures of Northern Nigeria over six benchmark years from colonial rule to the twenty-first century. It is based on the censuses, plus other primary sources. We explore structural shifts in the northern Nigerian economy during and after British ‘indirect rule’ and relate them to the region’s specific precolonial history, notably the nineteenth-century Sokoto Caliphate. We show how the growth of agricultural exporting was associated with gradual and uneven handicraft-deindustrialisation. After independence, we trace the large-scale reallocation of labour from agriculture to services from the 1960s to 2000s, in the context of spectacular population growth and changing relative prices of agricultural produce and non-tradeable services. We quantify the extraordinary growth of transport and education services, relating them to the transfers of oil revenues from southeast Nigeria to the North as well as to shifting economic policy.

Structural Change in the Economy of Ghana, 1921-2010: An Occupational Approach

Gareth Austin, University of Cambridge

This is the first study of Ghana’s changing economic structure primarily through occupational structures and urbanization. The paper explores what can be found from the available sources. Ghana, which achieved independence in 1957, was the political union of four colonial territories. By 1921 there was a strong case for regarding the whole as a single economy, despite persistent regional differences. The 1921 census was also the first to get close to a plausible estimate of the share of urban in total population. Not until the 1960 census was detailed occupational data for the whole population provided. We use it to examine the colonial cocoa and mining-based export economy, and how it has evolved since: through Nkrumah’s industrialization policy, economic collapse in 1975-83, and the sustained economic growth from liberalization in 1983 to the beginning of oil exports in 2011.

This is the first study of Ghana’s changing economic structure primarily through occupational structures and urbanization. The paper explores what can be found from the available sources. Ghana, which achieved independence in 1957, was the political union of four colonial territories. By 1921 there was a strong case for regarding the whole as a single economy, despite persistent regional differences. The 1921 census was also the first to get close to a plausible estimate of the share of urban in total population. Not until the 1960 census was detailed occupational data for the whole population provided. We use it to examine the colonial cocoa and mining-based export economy, and how it has evolved since: through Nkrumah’s industrialization policy, economic collapse in 1975-83, and the sustained economic growth from liberalization in 1983 to the beginning of oil exports in 2011.