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Manufacturing disorder: liberalization, informal enterprise and economic ‘ungovernance’ in African small firm clusters

Meagher, Kate (2007) Manufacturing disorder: liberalization, informal enterprise and economic ‘ungovernance’ in African small firm clusters. Development and Change, 38 (3). pp. 473-503. ISSN 0012-155X

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Identification Number: 10.1111/j.1467-7660.2007.00420.x


Small enterprise clusters are viewed as an important means of promoting competitive small-firm development even in contexts of unstable markets and weak states. Yet the emergence of successful enterprise clusters in developing regions of Southern Europe, Asia and Latin America contrasts with their conspicuous absence in Africa. This article challenges ahistorical and culturalist explanations regarding the lack of successful enterprise clusters in Africa through a comparative analysis of three dynamic and increasingly globalized informal manufacturing clusters in two different regions of Nigeria. Focusing on a Muslim Yoruba weaving cluster in the town of Ilorin in south-western Nigeria, and two Christian Igbo shoe and garment clusters in the town of Aba in south-eastern Nigeria, this article explores the role of culture, religion and the state in shaping informal economic governance in an African context. An account of the varied and complex history of these Nigerian enterprise networks reveals both their capacity for institutional innovation and economic linkages across ethnic, religious and gender boundaries, as well as their vulnerability to fragmentation and involution in the context of liberalization, state neglect and political opportunism. Far from demonstrating the inadequacies of African cultural institutions, the slide of African entrepreneurial networks into social disorder and economic 'ungovernance' is traced to the destructive impact of neoliberal reforms in a context of poverty and formal institutional exclusion.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2007 Institute of Social Studies
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
D History General and Old World > DT Africa
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2010 11:09
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2024 20:33

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