Africa 2013

The 2013 trip traveled through Africa and visited several cities in South Africa, Malawi, and Ghana.

Iron Sharpens Iron 2013 in Africa

The Political Economy of Globalization: Perspectives from Africa

Following the established pattern from recent years, the Iron Sharpens Iron (ISI) program seeks to integrate fundamental economic concepts with foundational political analysis and democratic values. Accordingly, the ISI program explores the interaction of business, economics, and politics. The program integrates powerful abstract academic ideas with pragmatic, concrete business, economic, and political policies and practices. The program examines the effect of economics on politics and the effect of politics on economics.

In addition to the meta-themes of political economy, the specific applications to the African context stressed the role of idiosyncratic economic institutions—colonialism and decolonization, ethnic fractionalization, the roles of culture and religion in framing economic behavior and institutions, and the existence and impediments of transactions cost on economic life.

Examples of these phenomena abound.

  • The nexus between colonialism policy is evidenced in the legacy of the slave trade and later its abolition. Visits to the slave castles underscored that scourge.

  • Similarly, the process of decolonization is seen in the rocky transitions to democracy in South Africa, including the discussions in the meeting with former President F. W. de Klerk and also in the presentation of parliamentarian Cheryllyn Dudley, African Christian Democratic Party Whip.

  • Similarly, the link between ethnic fractionalization was reinforced by looking at academic study of ethnic fractionalization and the quality of government as well as Mr. de Klerk’s observations about the conflict between the Dutch and British culture as well as the Zulu rift with numerous other tribes and de Klerk’s observations regarding the potential conflicts within the ANC.

  • Likewise, the ISI program examined academic evidence regarding negative effects of the Islamic population on female education, as well as examining the practice and doctrines of Islam with the leading educational Imam in Tamale, Ghana, a metropolitan center of approximately a half a million people.

  • In the same vein, we examined the theoretical effect of high transaction costs on market activity and also examined the failure of traditional banking in Malawi and Ghana due to the high transaction costs attributable to no citizen documentation such as driver’s license or social security identification. The consequence for the citizenry is the inability to open bank accounts.

  • We observed microfinance organizations obtaining tribal documentation from local chiefs and using that documentation to open savings accounts that in-turn permitted microfinancing of small businesses.

  • Similarly, the entrepreneurial function of lowering transportation costs, a concept akin to transaction costs, was remarkably documented by visiting the Cape Town port and observing the massive containerization activity of Damco, part of the Maersk Group, a large Danish diversified enterprise.

The ISI program also stressed integration of faith with learning and living via church, devotions and prayer meeting attendance as well as student led—faculty administered devotions. The latter were embraced by the students and hotel and restaurant staff enthusiastically celebrated our student devotions.