The World's First Biometric Money: Ghana's E-Zwich and the Contemporary Influence of South African Biometrics

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In January 2008 the Ghanaian Central Bank announced that it had introduced a new centralized mechanism for the settlement of transactions between the Ghanaian banks. This interbank switch, as it was called, was purchased from, and managed by, the South African company Net 1 UEPS, and it had a unique central organizing principle. The switch was indexed biometrically, using a key derived from the ten fingerprints of account holders. This new interbank switch and a smartcard encoded in the same way has equipped Ghana with the world's first biometric money supply. This article is an effort to explain the development and significance of this biometric money, which Ghanaians call the e-Zwich. It traces the way in which biometric registration in Ghana (as in other African countries) has leaked from the mundane, difficult, and mostly unrewarding, task of civil registration into the more properly remunerated domain of monetary transactions. Viewed in the light of the rich historical anthropology of money in West Africa, what is at stake in Ghana may be much more significant than any of the current participants fully realize. Perhaps the most interesting finding of this study is that the e-Zwich system might actually succeed.

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... To him, International Journal of Economics and Finance Vol. 8, No. 5;2016 these barriers have infrastructural, regulatory and cultural-cum-human dimensions. The infrastructural dimension relates to issues of interconnectivity, network failure, low bandwidth, high cost of connectivity, frequent power outages and so on. ...
... Regardless of the challenges alluded to in the literarture, the system could have normal and considerable International Journal of Economics and Finance Vol. 8, No. 5;2016 patronage that supports Davis's theoretical explanation of the patronage of new technological systems. In this vein, the view that the system's patronage is poor would need to be reconsidered among researchers. ...
... In Table 3 Vol. 8, No. 5;2016 In terms of each indicator of ACTs, the trend of patronage is steady for the period 2008-2013. There is however an erratic change (rise) in patronage with respect to all indicators of ACTs for the 2013/2014 period (See Figure 3). ...
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It is nearly a decade since the E-Zwich system was introduced in Ghana. In this paper, the researchers conducted a trend analysis to understand the system's patronage from a historical perspective. Annual industry data on eight (8) indicators of patronage of the E-Zwich system from the year of its introduction (2008) to the year 2014 were employed. Descriptive statistics and line graphs are used to analyse the data. Our analysis shows that subscriptions to the E-Zwich system increased steadily in terms of all indicators for the period under review, except that the number of cash deposits had an erratic fall for the period 2013/2014. We conclude that patronage for the system is considerable from a historical perspective.
... Some countries, such as Malaysia, include a very wide range of applications into a single national identity card. 22 As discussed by Breckenridge (2008), it may, in the end, be more practical to specify a limited range of applications for a particular identity system. Much depends on the particular history of a country, including the systems of identification that it has already implemented. ...
... 24 Program-specific identification does raise the issue of how to avoid pre-empting future possible economies of scope by ensuring that the technology is not incompatible with that likely to be used by possible future programs. Some countries, such as South Africa, already have several different systems geared towards different purposes; as discussed by Breckenridge (2008) there is a tension between the use of proprietary systems, some of which already have a large global footprint, and open systems. This remains a problem, despite the progress made in developing common international standards. ...
... Fingerprints of non-white citizens began to be collected by the South African government in 1925 for the purpose of racial registration. In the 1980s collection was extended to citizens of all races due to national security concerns related to the anti-Apartheid movement (Breckenridge 2008). In 1992, the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal hired Net1, a South African company, to set up a system of mobile and fixed centers for the payment of pensions and other social grants using fingerprints as identification. ...
Cash transfers are often a good way for developing countries to address economic and social problems. They are less expensive than directly providing goods and services and allow recipients the flexibility to spend on what they need the most, but for many developing countries, the technical requirements for large-scale programs have been prohibitive. Now, however, biometric technologies have improved and become ubiquitous enough to allow the confident identification and low cost needed to implement successful cash-transfer programs in developing countries. This paper surveys the arguments for and against cash-transfer programs in resource-rich states, discusses some of the new biometric identification technologies, and reaches preliminary conclusions about their potentially very large benefits for developing countries. The barriers to cash-transfers are no longer technical, but political.
... Some, in sector 2, made liberal use of garnishee or emoluments attachment orders, as described below. Others used the systemonly outlawed at the end of the 1990s, and hence no longer used by creditors in sector 2, but still widespread in sector 3of confiscating a debtor's ATM card and identity document in order to ensure repayment (see Breckenridge 2005Breckenridge , 2010 for a similar practice in India, see Parry 2012). All-in-all, this precipitous transition opened up new gaps which intermediaries were able to bridge, by matching creditors who had never previously lent money with debtors who had not formerly borrowed it to the same degree. ...
... Some, in sector 2, made liberal use of garnishee or emoluments attachment orders, as described below. Others used the systemonly outlawed at the end of the 1990s, and hence no longer used by creditors in sector 2, but still widespread in sector 3of confiscating a debtor's ATM card and identity document in order to ensure repayment (see Breckenridge 2005Breckenridge , 2010 for a similar practice in India, see Parry 2012). All-in-all, this precipitous transition opened up new gaps which intermediaries were able to bridge, by matching creditors who had never previously lent money with debtors who had not formerly borrowed it to the same degree. ...
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When South Africa’s credit/debt landscape expanded during the 1990s, this was justified by some as a new form of inclusion but alleged by others to have intensified the power and profit of capitalism and acted to the detriment of householders, thus perpetuating ‘credit apartheid’. Yet, blame cannot be so easily assigned. Forces of state and market have intertwined to create a redistributive neoliberalism, enabling brokers – who have played a key role in establishing the current credit/debt landscape – to insert themselves into the interstices of the system, making money by adding interest at every point in the value chain. Apartheid’s spatial separations meant that traders – and later informal moneylenders – relied on agents to bridge the gap between themselves and the rural/township world of economic informality. Even attempts at credit reform have been complicated, and stalled, by the ongoing presence of intermediaries. The paper explores these dynamics, illustrating how difficult it is to separate bad from good protagonists or perpetrators from victims. © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
... I concentrate here on financial transactions as deeply gendered practices. Not only are electronic payment solutions the first sector in which biometric identification was established in Ghana (Breckenridge 2010). Payments, in their various forms, further relate to complex legal, political and social relations, and are of such importance that those who exhibit certain (in)actions in their respect may be viewed as deviant, or in other ways worthy of state attention. ...
... The Ghanaian financial industry was the first sector to introduce a biometric identification system in the West African country, with the e-zwich biometric payment application (Breckenridge 2010). The e-zwich card is a fingerprint-enabled debit card introduced in 2008, used to save money, pay for purchases, settle bills, and receive government payments. ...
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This paper explores how biometric payment practices in Ghana reinforce historically grown, patriarchal frames of representing women’s economic participation. As central modes of participation in social life, payment practices tie closely into national narratives of modernity and economic development. In this light, Ghana’s current biometric identification agenda, of which biometric payment constitutes a central element, has come to associate female entrepreneurs with normative gender identities which question their discipline, autonomy, and meaningful contribution to the economy. Two different institutions seeking to classify Ghanaian women in the interest of altering their behavior will be at the heart of the discussion. In the first case, I will focus on development experts’ routine representation of (Ghanaian) women as “dependent” on assistance. In the second case, I focus on the regulatory institutions of Ghana’s financial sector and the pursuit to formalize what is generally framed as “deviant” female entrepreneurship. The article addresses how the articulation of these normative gender identities reproduces historically rooted conceptions of Ghanaian women’s autonomy and economic participation, to the effect of their continued exclusion from relevant public decision-making processes. The paper finally explores the unconventional ways in which female Ghanaian entrepreneurs-turned-activists index emancipatory gender identities to seek recognition for their economic contribution.
... Moreover, in the relay or transfer between fingerprint and information then back again, identity is reconcretized (and externalized) in the id card, the birth certificate, the passport. It is no stretch to say that identity today resides in the documents, and thus, too, is always routed through the state and its apparatuses, through state-issued identity cards and the protocols and hoops individuals jump through to obtain their cards (Riles 2006;Hull 2012;Breckenridge 2005Breckenridge , 2010Breckenridge , 2014. To be sure, there were colonial era precedents (identity cards and passbooks, which were often fingerprint-based) to the new identity documents. ...
... Magnet (2011) demonstrates how the deployment of biometric technology for welfare distribution in the USA advances the criminalization of poverty while simultaneously benefiting a biometrics industry and driving neoliberal agendas of bolstering the market and cutting back on state spending. The latter observation also holds true for the South African context, where the efficiency-driven implementation of welfare projects saves money by discriminating against a host of unbiometrifiable people (Breckenridge, 2005(Breckenridge, , 2010Donovan, 2015;Jacobsen, 2015;Oostveen and van den Besselaar, 2009). Taken together, these studies show how social sorting at biometric portals (Fuller, 2003) deepens existing distinctions between rich and poor, advantaged and disadvantaged, legal and illegalized populations (Browne, 2015;Maguire, 2012). ...
The rapid spread of electronic fingerprinting not only creates new regimes of surveillance but compels users to adopt novel ways of performing their bodies to suit the new technology. This ethnography uses two Indian case studies – of a welfare office and a workplace – to unpack the processes by which biometric devices become effective tools for determining identity. While in the popular imaginary biometric technology is often associated with providing disinterested and thus objective evaluation of identity, in practice ‘failures to enrol’ and ‘false rejects’ frequently cause crises of representation. People address these by tinkering with their bodies and changing the rules, and in the process craft biometric bodies. These are assembled bodies that link people and objects in ways considered advantageous for specific identity regimes. By using assemblage theory, the article proposes an alternative interpretation of new surveillance regimes as fluid practices that solidify through the agency of multiple actors who naturalize particular power/knowledge arrangements.
... As Breckenridge (2010) explains, Ghana's e--Zwich payment system, "the world's first biometric money", drew on a technology developed in South Africa to transition toward digital payments even without full or reliable connectivity. It also aimed to extend financial inclusion to people who were not literate and less able to cope with PINs for managing their transactions. ...
Conference Paper
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Payments are central to the way in which governments transfer financial resources to support various programs. The modalities of how such payments are processed have largely remained somewhat peripheral in developing a modern public financial management (PFM) system. However, there has been a drive for governments to digitize payments as part of a financial inclusion or efficiency agenda, as digitization is understood to contribute indirectly to growth and poverty reduction. This chapter argues that it is time to mainstream digitization of payments as part of a functional PFM system to better achieve both PFM and broader reform goals. In so doing, care should be exercised to avoid common mistakes incurred in implementing government financial management information systems (FMIS). Case studies from India, Mexico, Estonia and Ghana illustrate the benefits of integrating payment digitization with a government’s PFM. The cases also point to key success factors for digitization and PFM integration. The chapter concludes by pointing to outstanding challenges and possible directions for future work.
... The E-Zwich technology in Ghana marks an evolution towards the use of biometrics beyond authentication towards identification and e-Money (Breckenridge, 2010). One year after its launch, over 300,000 people had smartcards linked to the system. ...
Purpose The purpose of the paper is to understand the interlinkage with financial inclusion and how it interacts with biometric identification. To investigate this in detail, the authors employ household-level data on India to examine the interlinkage among Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) account, Aadhaar card and mobile telephony. Design/methodology/approach Given the survey data, the authors employ 3 stage least squares (3SLS) methodology to explore the association among these key variables, while controlling for other household, district and economy-wide factors. Findings The findings provide strong evidence of complementarity among these variables, with each tending to reinforce the other. This complementarity is reflected primarily in respect of PMJDY and Aadhaar, but much less so with regard to mobile telephony. Additionally, this complementarity is manifest more prominently in the long run, although it is much less so in the short run. Originality/value To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is one of the earliest studies for India to systematically examine the Jan-Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) trinity.
... Dzokoto, Asante, and Aggrey • Money That Isn't launched in other African countries including South Africa and Namibia (Breckenridge, 2010). ...
The introduction of a new form of money into society can be deemed successful if it is adopted and integrated into the daily financial practices of a large part of the society. In other words, both central banks and the general society play a role in money objects becoming money. On occasion, social rejection of new money objects occurs, such that official legal tender is not accepted or put to use as a medium of exchange in financial transactions, resulting in financial deadweight. Using qualitative data on coin use subsequent to Ghana’s 2007 redenomination of the Cedi as well as the introduction of the e‑zwich card, an electronic payment system, this paper explores two such cases of social rejection of a money object. Due to the role that society plays in adopting money objects, attempts to encourage adoption of money objects must include bottom up strategies.
... On the other hand, many states have tried to make voter registration more reliable and manageable by introducing technological innovations, notably biometric registration systems. It remains debatable if these innovations are allowing African states to 'leapfrog' or if they risk creating additional problems (Breckenridge, 2010;Breckenridge and Szreter, 2012;Gelb and Clark, 2013;Gelb and Decker, 2012). Breckenridge and Szreter (2012: 2) argue that, by sparing these states the need to invest in the type of identification work that entails the creation of largescale permanent structures, biometric technologies are in fact undermining the possibility that voter registration may result in a durable augmentation of state capacity. ...
A core component of the infrastructural power of the modern state is the capacity to make its population ‘legible’, through the development of accurate registration and identification mechanisms. In discussing the relationship between democratization and state building, little attention has been paid to the electoral process as a technical process. Yet, the introduction of competitive elections presupposes the registration of voters and thus requires the development of the ‘legibility’ capacities of states. This is particularly evident in sub-Saharan Africa, where democratizing states have been confronted with the weakness of their existing records and forced to develop new mechanisms for registering voters in a reliable manner. This article looks at the experience of the Liste Electorale Permanente Informatisée (the Permanent Electronic Electoral List) in Benin and discusses the potentialities and limits of voter registration as a state-building tool.
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Migrant life has long required a careful balancing of responsibilities. Migrants travel to earn a wage in a capitalist economy while saving resources and honouring obligations that arise in a seemingly less-than-capitalist one. Various agents – rural patriarchs, traders, government authorities, appliance retailers – have used techniques to keep wages beyond migrants' control. Paradoxically, similar techniques have, on occasion, been eagerly embraced by migrants themselves, who know that these resources will need to be husbanded for the upkeep of home. This article explores these contradictions, showing that recent forms of debt build on expectations born of forms of credit that proliferated earlier, but differ in consolidating these forms of credit to produce an unimpeded flow of money into migrants' bank accounts and out of them again. It looks at the advantages and dangers of the recent expansion of credit to constituencies – like migrants – where it previously did not reach.
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African economies have long been a matter of concern to anthropologists, not least in the pages of Africa. These economies are situated, somewhat contradictorily, between global settings of financialized capitalism on the one hand and impoverished local arenas where cash-based economic transfers predominate on the other. The more such economies appear to be tied to wider global arenas and operations that place them beyond the reach of ordinary people, the more necessary it is to explore the logics and decisions that tie them inexorably to specific everyday settings.
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Considerable attempts to create a single economy of credit, in part through regularizing microlenders (especially the much-demonized loansharks or mashonisas), have been made by the South African government, notably through the National Credit Act. This article explores how borrowing and indebtedness are seen from the point of view of consumers and of those who aim to protect them. It suggests that we should speak of moneylending rather than money-lenders; that lending is often done by groups rather than by individuals (in a variant of the well-known stokvel); and that it may represent a response to so-called ‘formalization’ (Guyer 2004) of financial arrangements by those who have considerable experience of this, rather than being a bulwark against it. Based on research in Gauteng and Mpumalanga, the article critically explores prevalent stereotypes of the ‘overindebted consumer’ and the ‘black diamond’, seeking evidence both in support and in refutation of them. It discusses those factors which are conducive to and those which obstruct the achieving of the status of upwardly mobile – and simultaneously overindebted – person; demonstrates that aspiration and upward mobility, and the problems of credit or debt that accompany these, have much longer histories; and that these matters can give us insights into the contradictory character of the South African state. Its ‘neo-liberal’ dimension allows and encourages free engagement with the market and advocates the freedom to spend, even to become excessively acquisitive of material wealth. But it simultaneously attempts to regulate this in the interests of those unable to participate in this dream of conspicuous consumption. Informalization intensifies as all manner of means are devised to tap into state resources. Neo-liberal means are used to ensure the wide spread of redistribution.
Conference Paper
The study concerns the qualitative assessment of three e-payment methods that are tested to optimize cash transfers for the sake of social protection and poverty alleviation throughout Ghana. These methods include: (e-Zwich) smartcards with biometric identification; e-wallets using mobile phones; and cards with PIN to access a bank count 'in the cloud'. The pilot is joint venture of the government of Ghana, the United Kingdom's Department For International Development (DFID) and UNICEF. Besides the innovative use of technology, a unique trait of the project is the initiators acknowledgement of the crucial importance of a thorough and holistic understanding of the context and conditions of implementation. As a result, ethnographic fieldwork is conducted to maximize chances of success. Our presentation in Cape Town involves some reflections on the fieldwork as well as a contemplation of the potential of such applied anthropology in the field of ICTD, both contextualized by means of the ethnographic depiction of the complex transition from unbanked to e-banked in northern Ghana.
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Set in a context where material accumulation is valorized, this article analyzes narratives of sika bone (bad money) as expressions of economic uncertainty by market women operating in an era of increased financialization. The ethnographic evidence supports previous arguments about the impact of economic change in this millennium, a change that fosters both rationality and superstition in equal measure. Salifu proposes that sika bone indicates a sense of uncertainty fostered by economic change in the supply of cash and formal credit, a sentiment that is expressed by applying old notions about occultic means of accumulation to new and equally enigmatic circumstances.
A large portion of electoral irregularities in developing countries stem from administrative deficiencies, rather than deliberate fraud. This is particularly evident when it comes to voter registration and identification: the quality of a voter list depends on the existence of effective mechanisms to register and identify citizens and electors, which might not be easily at hand in many developing countries. Democratization in these countries has been accompanied by intense polemics about the quality of the voter rolls and the identification of electors, which have threatened democratic consolidation. Biometric technology has been recently heralded as a possible solution, but its effective potential is disputable. In order to understand how problems with registering and identifying voters have affected democratization, this article reviews the contrasting experiences of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. In Côte d'Ivoire, the problem of the reliability of the voter register has been entangled since the 1990s with the politicization of the citizenship question. As a consequence, compiling an acceptable voter register has proven extremely difficult and cumbersome. In Ghana, an effective electoral administration has been key to overcoming the mistrust of the political parties about the fairness of the voter process.
Starting in March 2012, the South African government engaged in a massive effort of citizen registration that continued for more than a year. Nearly 19 million social welfare beneficiaries enrolled in a novel biometric identification scheme that uses fingerprints and voice recognition to authenticate social grant recipients. This article seeks to understand the meaning of biometric technology in post-apartheid South African welfare through a study of the bureaucratic and policy elite's motivation. It argues that biometric technology was conceived of and implemented as the most recent in a series of institutional, infrastructural and policy reforms that seek to deliver welfare in a standardised and objective manner. This has, at times, been driven by a false faith in technical efficacy and has involved a playing down of the differential political implications of biometric welfare identification.
Key contemporary mechanisms of distribution are routed through the 'social assistance' programmes provided by states. While we still often think of such programmes on the model of the well-known 'welfare states' of the global North, new forms of state and international transfers to the poor (in Africa and elsewhere in the global South) suggest a need to rethink the question of social assistance from a less Eurocentric perspective. With a special focus on southern Africa, this chapter reviews the meaning of 'social assistance' in a region where the domain of 'the social' was never securely established in the first place. It reflects on the possibility that new rationalities and techniques of social assistance may be calling into question the assumed dependence of social service provision on traditional forms of population registration and documentation.
Uganda's system of recording births and deaths was unusually comprehensive by colonial African standards, but colonial registration struggled to assign individuals a permanent, accurate identity. Many Ugandans used different names at different times in their dealings with officialdom, and local elites were complicit in this reidentification. The flexibility which is an inevitable component of a name-based registration system in East Africa served to alleviate social tension and exclusion. The possession of multiple names was advantageous to the weak, and could benefit rural elites, but it obstructed the state in its desire to monitor and control its population. The rise of biometric systems of identification is in part designed to bypass the naming problem, but also reflects the growing influence on African governments of two contradictory trends: the tying of aid to concepts of universal rights, and growing awareness of the potential of technology to undermine challenges to governmental authority.
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Traditional sources tell us relatively little about how Africans perceived death in the past. In some societies, however, changing attitudes towards mortality can be identified from the names which were given to babies. In Bunyoro almost a third of the names that were given during the colonial period referred to death. The declining frequency of death-related names from the 1940s offers significant insights into the impact of Christianity, education and population growth on the Nyoro's worldview. That death-related names did not re-emerge in the era of AIDS is a significant indication of how the pandemic has been viewed in western Uganda.
Money has two sides, symbolised as heads and tails, It is the product of social organisation both from the top down (`states') and from the bottom up (`markets'). It is thus both a token of authority and a commodity with a price. Most economic theories of money focus on one extreme to the exclusion of the other. The current ideological debate between Keynesians and monetarists leads to unnecessarily wide swings in public policy. It is time for anthropologists too to abandon our predilection for polarised argument when making a comparative study of institutions such as money. The article has three main sections. The first locates the problem of money in contemporary economic history, showing how the rise of Eurodollar banking, barter and plastic credit cards is undermining state control of money in the industrial societies. The second traces two influential strands in the history of western monetary theory, linking them to the contrast in nineteenth-century economic thought between English utilitarianism and the German romantic reaction. These strands are brought together in the work of Keynes, whose ideas dominate our century. The third section applies these findings to a reanalysis of Malinowski's Trobriand ethnography, suggesting that the commodity/token opposition has relevance for the organisation of exchange there. The ethnography of stateless societies adds an essential dimension to our search for effective understanding of the forces shaping the modern world.
Opening Paragraph In Part I of this article (McCaskie, 1983a) I discussed the relationship between accumulation, wealth and belief in Asante to the close of the nineteenth century. In this concluding part I analyse these and cognate themes in the twentieth century. I remain wedded to the approach outlined in detail in Part I; an attempt to locate action and motive within a cognitive or ‘intellectualist’ framework. But this article is more episodic and less directly narrative than its predecessor. There are reasons for this change of stylistic gear.
In the political aftershocks of September 11, powerful interests in the United States and Britain have proposed the development of national systems of biometric identification and registration. For much of the last century, South Africans have lived with such a biometric order, and in recent years the democratic state has begun to invest in a massive scheme of digital biometrics for the delivery of benefits and the elimination of fraud. This HANIS system has been preceded by a massive project of digital biometric grant delivery that affects millions of people throughout the country. These systems are changing the nature of the state, and the relationship between private individuals and the commercial domain. For the countries considering a move from the decentralised order of paper-based identification to the new world of digital biometrics, there is much to be learned from a close study of contemporary South Africa.
Research Article The Documentary Impulse: Archives in the Bush • Article author query • zeitlyn d [Google Scholar] David Zeitlyn University of Kent A wide variety of documents exist in Cameroonian rural villages, few of which are likely to be preserved since many are not perceived as being worthy of long-term conservation as well as being vulnerable to damp, termites, and to recycling in the form of cigarette or wrapping paper. In this paper I consider the information contained in the different types of written record and how they interrelate. In a companion piece (Zeitlyn mss) I continue to discuss a diary written at my instigation over an eighteen-month period. Anthropologists and historians alike are prone to a writing disease: “If in doubt write it down.” We record things often for the sake of recording (sometimes without having a specific end in mind for any particular record). Valuable serendipity often results, and our colleagues and successors, as well as the descendants of those we have worked with are sometimes the beneficiaries. Academics, and anthropologists among them, often seek out like-minded people to spend time with. This in itself raises some questions about the generalizability of information so received. But leaving that aside, the accounts of anthropologists and their key informants (for example Muchona [Turner 1967], Ogotommêli [Griaule 1965]) are striking, as much for the resemblances between academic and informant as for their putative differences.
Inspired by Jane Guyer's insights in Marginal Gains (2004) into the distinctive logics and performative repertoires that animate economic life in Africa, this article offers a few reflections on the implications of African economic dynamics for conceptual debates about economic and social meanings of value. In particular, it is suggested that market values may be understood not simply as momentary quantitative indicators or measurements of opportunity costs, but as social processes in which people continually assess present circumstances and options in terms of their understandings of the past. Since history may always be read in more than one way, there is always an element of ambiguity in market values. Rather than a chronicle of exceptional responses to global forces and common human needs, African economic history may be read as an opportunity to reflect on how people and events come together in economically enabling or destructive ways in particular times and places, and what is historically specific about Africans' gains and losses from economic interactions with one another and with other parts of the world.
This article engages with Jane Guyer's assessment (in Marginal Gains, 2004) of contemporary forms of capitalism from outside the bounds of two opposing logics: the universalization of capitalist arrangements versus the specificity of local forms of economic arrangement. Guyer's rejection of a priori definitions of economic categories leads to fertile analysis of measures and mediations as polysemic modes of valuation. The author asks: what is the theory that would account for or accommodate this polysemy? Corollary questions of epistemology arise regarding distinctions between local conventions and formal procedures and about the criteria that establish such distinctions. Conceding that we attest to the efficacy of economic concepts through practice, the author questions whether these concepts are institutionalized through "experience." Such concepts (e.g., equivalence) are not merely "economic" in nature; their genealogies disclose the extent to which their efficacy derives from their placement in many domains of life, as artifacts of a general epistemology.
This paper makes a very preliminary and provisional attempt to relate the discussion in Jane Guyer's Marginal Gains (2004) of disjunction, thresholds, and multiple scales of value characteristic of economies in the Atlantic zone with the disjunction, profusion, and fragmentation characteristic of artistic genres of the region, especially praise poetry. It suggests that their underlying common property is an intense focus on the making and unmaking of persons. In a region where social and political self-realization is open-ended and depends upon acquiring people, and where people are transactable, transitions between multiple conditions of personhood can take place, but some thresholds cannot be crossed. One of the key ethnographic examples in Marginal Gains—the Niger Delta—is revisited to suggest possible lines of further inquiry into this aspect of the originality of cultural production in the zone of the Atlantic trade.
Gigantically comprehensive and carefully researched, Security Engineering makes it clear just how difficult it is to protect information systems from corruption, eavesdropping, unauthorized use, and general malice. Better, Ross Anderson offers a lot of thoughts on how information can be made more secure (though probably not absolutely secure, at least not forever) with the help of both technologies and management strategies. His work makes fascinating reading and will no doubt inspire considerable doubt--fear is probably a better choice of words--in anyone with information to gather, protect, or make decisions about. Be aware: This is absolutely not a book solely about computers, with yet another explanation of Alice and Bob and how they exchange public keys in order to exchange messages in secret. Anderson explores, for example, the ingenious ways in which European truck drivers defeat their vehicles' speed-logging equipment. In another section, he shows how the end of the cold war brought on a decline in defenses against radio-frequency monitoring (radio frequencies can be used to determine, at a distance, what's going on in systems--bank teller machines, say), and how similar technology can be used to reverse-engineer the calculations that go on inside smart cards. In almost 600 pages of riveting detail, Anderson warns us not to be seduced by the latest defensive technologies, never to underestimate human ingenuity, and always use common sense in defending valuables. A terrific read for security professionals and general readers alike. --David Wall Topics covered: How some people go about protecting valuable things (particularly, but not exclusively, information) and how other people go about getting it anyway. Mostly, this takes the form of essays (about, for example, how the U.S. Air Force keeps its nukes out of the wrong hands) and stories (one of which tells of an art thief who defeated the latest technology by hiding in a closet). Sections deal with technologies, policies, psychology, and legal matters.
The kingdom of Dahomey is often presented as the classic instance of the operation of a royal monopoly of the Atlantic trade in West Africa. Detailed study establishes, however, that there was never any such royal commercial monopoly in Dahomey, although there were attempts to establish such a monopoly in the 1780s and in the 1850s. The kings of Dahomey enjoyed a number of commercial privileges, and controlled the distribution of the war captives taken by the Dahomian army, but they were never the sole sellers of slaves. There was always an important group of private merchants in Dahomey, who were mainly concerned with marketing the slaves imported into the kingdom from the interior. The replacement of the slave trade by the palm oil trade in the nineteenth century strengthened the position of the private merchants, since they were able to move into the production of oil as well as marketing it. The kings of Dahomey also engaged in the production of oil for export, but were not able to establish as complete control of the production of oil as they had exercised over the ‘production’ of slaves.
The records of trading between Africans and Europeans on the Guinea Coast since antiquity raise issues the practical resolution of which has never ceased to occupy economic historians. The Herodotean inadequacies of dumb barter in Carthaginian goods and in gold dust were fully resolved only at the time of the eighteenth-century slave trade. In Senegambia and even on the Windward Coast, as we now know, the Royal African Company had still to go without an effective profit-and-loss accountancy. With the advent of the regular slave trade two new commercial devices had to be introduced by the Europeans. Both the sorting and the ounce trade sprang from the vital need for adjustment between the radically different trading methods of Europeans and Africans. And it was not so much a case of mutual adjustment, for of the two systems only one, the European, adjusted.
During the last decade, the flow of oil revenue into Nigeria has expanded spectacularly, dwarfing other sectors of the economy. Its implications for development, for the growth of a commercial capitalism, and for the corresponding emergence of a more defined class structure are crucial issues about which much has been written. What we have heard less about, however, is how the ordinary people of Nigeria react to the floods of petro-naira which they themselves cannot reach. Fortunes are being made out of oil, but the living conditions of the rural and urban masses deteriorate as agriculture declines and the urban centres become overcrowded with the jobless and the impoverished. What are the attitudes of these people to the petro-naira? The answer to this question is no less important than an analysis of the hard economic data for our understanding of what is actually going on in Nigeria today.
This paper takes as its point of departure a simple fact that has gone largely unnoticed in the historical and ethnographic literature of migrant mine labour: prior to 1933 mineworkers were paid in gold. It is argued that the ideas and practices associated with the control and transmission of metallic money were at the heart of the experience of migrant labour before the crisis and formed a major part of the self-definition of migrant gold miners during the 1920s. Moreover, both the practices and ideas of African mineworkers were reciprocally linked to the global political struggles taking place over the gold standard. From the First World War to the Christmas of 1932, the South African and Imperial states and mining capital were involved in a controversy over the form of the South African and international money supplies. Whilst in appearance an abstract and mysterious debate, the contest over the form of the money supply laid the foundations for a system of value that penetrated into the daily lives and politics of many southern Africans. Chief amongst these were hundreds of thousands of migrant mine-workers. Following from this, the paper posits a re-interpretation of the gold standard crisis. The turning point that coincided with the new year of 1933 was not merely an economic change; it constituted a major transformation of the form, value, velocity and politics of money throughout Southern Africa. Coincidently, the crisis was an economic and cultural transition for the mining industry itself and marked a dramatic re-definition of the terms of economic conflict between workers and managers. Finally, this paper calls for a new periodization of capitalist development in Southern Africa that meshes together the cultural and economic dimensions of historical processes in a manner that foregrounds the experience of the African working class.
Opening Paragraph The present article is intended as the first of two contributions to the economic and social– but above all to the intellectual– history of the West African forest kingdom of Asante or Ashanti (now located in the Republic of Ghana). Both papers will attempt to pull together and to situate in a ‘mentalist’ framework a number of recent and confessedly disparate research findings concerning a cluster of concepts, ideas and beliefs that, merely for the sake of brevity at this point, I will assign simply to the embracing ‘neutral’ rubric of general transformations in the ideology (or ideologies) of wealth. The first article will be concerned with developments in Asante society up to the close of the nineteenth century (defined here interpretatively rather than in strictly chronological terms); its successor will concentrate on a highly detailed examination of a sequence of crucially telling events in the early colonial period, and upon selected developments thereafter in the twentieth century. The articles are designed and intended to be read sequentially; the first, it is hoped, will assist in making sense of the significantly denser context (and more detailed content) of the second.
Some systems of divination are used to select particular sections of text, which are typically arcane and erudite, in which lies the answer to the particular, pressing problems of the client. Celebrated examples of such systems are the Chinese I Ching and the Yoruba Ifá. Werbner’s work on Kalanga and Tswapong divination provides a case-study of the detailed praxis in such systems. Diviners have a multiple role when a divination technique selects a text. At each consultation they must satisfy themselves, their client, and their audience that they have followed the correct procedures to select the text. A second stage follows. The client has a particular question and the selected text was not composed as a specific answer to it. Interpretation is required to satisfy the client that the question has been answered. The diviner thus plays the role of indigenous critic, a role both similar to and different from that of literary critics in the Western tradition. The concept of ‘dialogic’ used by Barber in her analysis of Yoruba praise poetry is taken to illustrate similarities and differences between diviner and critic.
The purpose of this study is to evaluate and adjust the data so far collected on births and deaths from all the compulsory registration areas in Ghana. The analysis shows that there is incomplete registration of births and that the extent of underenumeration affects both males and females by a proportion of 75 percent and 72 percent, respectively. For infant mortality and deaths in general, it was possible only to demonstrate, by an analysis of the sex ratios, that errors are inherent in the plan. Suggestions are made as to how some of the errors which now occur can be rectified. Continued research into the quality of the data and a critical appraisal of the existing plan will reveal those defects that most seriously cripple efforts to obtain positive information.
Most people in Africa and Asia are born and die without leaving a trace in any legal record or official statistic. Absence of reliable data for births, deaths, and causes of death are at the root of this scandal of invisibility, which renders most of the world's poor as unseen, uncountable, and hence uncounted. This situation has arisen because, in some countries, civil registration systems that log crucial statistics have stagnated over the past 30 years. Net of debt relief, official development assistance reached US$80 billion in 2004. Yet because of the weakness in recording vital statistics, we have little authoritative evidence that these funds have their desired effects on either mortality or poverty reduction. Sound recording of vital statistics and cause of death data are public goods that enable progress towards Millennium Development Goals and other development objectives that need to be measured, not only modelled. Vital statistics are most effectively generated by comprehensive civil registration. Civil registration has a dual function, both statistical and legal; it also helps with economic development. 30 years of stagnation will not be overcome quickly, although new efforts to develop national statistical capacities offer a unique opportunity to refocus attention on civil registration. Now is the time to make the long-term goal of comprehensive civil registration in developing countries the expectation rather than the exception. The international health community can assist by sharing information and methods to ensure both the quality of vital statistics and cause of death data, and the appropriate use of complementary and interim registration systems and sources of such data. The continued cost of ignorance borne by countries without civil registration far outweighs the affordable necessity of action.
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