Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Table of Contents

Title: African studies quarterly
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091747/00028
 Material Information
Title: African studies quarterly
Series Title: Gale Group
Uniform Title: African studies quarterly (Online)
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: University of Florida -- Center for African Studies
Publisher: University of Florida, Center for African Studies,
University of Florida, Center for African Studies
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla
Publication Date: Fall 2006
Copyright Date: 2010
Frequency: quarterly
Subject: Electronic journals
Study and teaching -- Periodicals -- Africa   ( lcsh )
Gainesville (Fla.)
African studies -- Periodicals
Genre: Electronic journals   ( lcsh )
Electronic journals.
periodical   ( marcgt )
Abstract: Presents "African Studies Quarterly," an electronic journal published quarterly by the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Posts contact information for the editorial office via street address, telephone number, and e-mail. Lists advisory board and staff members. Offers access to the current issue, as well as to previous issues. Contains articles and related book reviews. Provides information on submissions and links to "African Anthropology."
Restriction: Licensed for access by authorized UF users (current UF students, faculty and staff -- and others within a UF Library.) Some e-journal service providers may offer only selected articles.
System Details: Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, issue 1 (May 1997)-
General Note: Title from title screen (viewed Aug. 6, 1999).
General Note: An online journal of African studies.
General Note: Latest issue consulted: Vol. 7, issue 4 (spring 2004) (viewed at publisher's Web site, Aug. 19, 2004).
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00091747
Volume ID: VID00028
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 003331589
oclc - 40217685
issn - 2152-2448
lccn - 99030079
lccn - sn 99030079


This item has the following downloads:

v9i1-2 ( PDF )

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page i
    Front Matter
        Page ii
        Page iii
    Table of Contents
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
Full Text

African Studies Quarterly

Volume 9, Issues 1 & 2
Fall 2006

Special Issue

Special Issue on Africa's Moral and Affective Economy

Guest Editor: Goran Hyden

Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida

ITN- 1 92152-448

African Studies Quarterly

Executive Staff
Hunt R. Davis, Jr. Editor-in-Chief
Todd H. Leedy Associate Editor
Shylock Muyengwa Managing Editor
Corinna Greene Production Editor

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issues 1 & 2 I Fall 2006

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for
individuals to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issues 1 & 2 I Fall 2006

Table of Contents

Introduction and Overview
Goran Hyden

Moral Economy as Emotional Interaction: Food Sharing and Reciprocity in Highland
Keiichiro Matsumura

"Earning among Friends": Business Practices and Creeds among Petty Traders in Tanzania
Sayaka Ogawa

From Beer to Money: Labor Exchange and Commercialization in Eastern Uganda
Soichiro Shiraishi

Labor Exchange Systems in Japan and DR Congo: Similarities and Differences
Tatsuro Suehara

The Changing Practices of Kibarua Employment: A Case Study of the Sagara, Tanzania
Kazuhiko Sugimura

The Economy of Affection and Local Enterprises in Africa: Empirical Evidence from a
Network Study in Burkina Faso and Senegal
Tomomi Tokuori

African Imaginations of Moral Economy: Notes on Indigenous Economic Concepts and
Practices in Tanzania
Tadasu Tsuruta

Book Reviews

Review Article: Mandela's World: The International Dimension of South Africa 's Political
Revolution, 1990-99. James Barber. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2004. 256 pp. &
Thabo Mbeki's World: The Politics and Ideology of the South African President. Sean Jacobs
and Richard Calland, eds. New York: Zed Books, 2003. 304 pp.
Derek Catsam

Talk Left Walk Right: South Africa 's Frustrated Global Reforms. Patrick Bond. Scottsville,
South Africa: University of Kwazulu Natal Press, 2004. 266 pp.
Padraig Carmody

Is Violence Inevitable in Africa? Theories of Conflict and Approaches to Conflict Prevention.
Patrick Chabal, Ulf Engel, and Annamaria Gentili(eds). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill
Academic Publishers, 2005. 245 pp.
Mark Davidheiser

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issues 1 & 2 I Fall 2006

The French Imperial Nation-State: Negritude and Colonial Humanism between the Two
World Wars. Gary Wilder. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. 386 pp.
Abdourahmane Idrissa

Famine that Kills: Darfur, Sudan (Revised Edition). Alex De Waal. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2005. 258 pp.
Daniela Nascimento

The Marketing of Rebellion: Insurgents, Media and International Activism. Clifford Bob.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 237 pp.
Lee Seymour

Practicing History in Central Tanzania: Writing, Memory, and Performance. Gregory H.
Maddox with Ernest M. Kongola. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2006. 178 pp.
Jan Bender Shetler

Engendering Human Rights: Cultural and Socio-Economic Realities in Africa. Obioma
Nnaemeka and Joy Ezeilo, eds. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 320 pp.
Jasmine M. Waddell

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issues 1 & 2 I Fall 2006

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issues 1 & 2 I Fall 2006

Introduction and Overview to the Special Issue on Africa's

Moral and Affective Economy


The purpose of this special issue is to allow a better insight and appreciation of Japanese
scholarship on Africa. Japanese academics interested in Africa have been actively studying
various aspects of African rural life. Agricultural economists have focused on the production
side while anthropologists have taken a special interest in the social and cultural side of rural
life. Although not exclusive to Kyoto University, the center for Africanist research in Japan has
been concentrated to this old and venerable institution of higher learning in what was once the
capital of Japan. Understandably, the Japanese have published their work first and foremost in
Japanese. Their body of knowledge about Africa is contained in monographs, edited volumes,
and journals published locally.
Those of us who have been fortunate to work and interact with Japanese Africanists are
aware of the interesting empirical work that they are doing. This special issue contains seven
separate contributions that showcase Japanese studies of Africa. The various authors have
different disciplinary backgrounds but they are all sharing a cross-disciplinary perspective on
the continent. Some are senior academics who have done research in Africa for many years
while others are doctoral students still in the process of finishing their degrees.
The general theme of their work is "things African." They are interested in indigenous
values and institutions and how they fare in the context of increased exposure to external forces.
Their work is theoretically and conceptually located in the moral and affective economy sphere
with its focus on informal institutions and practices. In addition to my own work on the
economy of affection these authors have taken their lead from the research on the moral
economy in Southeast Asia by James Scott.'
The conclusion that can and should be drawn from their research is that the informal
institutions and practices that are associated with a moral or affective economy continue to be a
vital part of social and economic life in Africa. Indigenous concepts and practices are, if not
reinvented, at least continuously adapted to changing circumstances. As the contributions to
this volume demonstrate, this is true for people in urban as well as rural settings. Principles of
reciprocity remain important guides for social and economic behavior. The articles published
here also indicate that this phenomenon is common in different countries. The volume contains

Goran Hyden is Distinguished Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Florida. He has written
extensively on political and development issues with special reference to Africa. His most recent books include
African Politics in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and Making Sense of Governance (Lynne
Rienner, 2004).

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

2 I Hyden

studies carried out in Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Senegal,
Tanzania and Uganda.
In order to do justice to the theoretical and conceptual context that the various authors
have chosen for their work, it is necessary to begin with a dsicussion of some of the key terms
used or alluded to throughout the issue. Thus, the first section of this paper covers the economy
of affection and the moral economy their origin, definition, and place in the study of Africa.
The second section focuses on the distinction between formal and informal institutions an
important point in studies of African social, economic and political phenomena. The third
section will provide an overview of the content of the various individual contributions to this


The economy of affection and the moral economy are part of a conceptual lineage that goes
quite far back in social science historiography. Some may argue that Emile Durkheim's
distinction between mechanical and organic types of solidarity is the beginning. Others may
refer to Weber and his differentiation between traditional and modern forms of authroity. Yet
others may point to Karl Polanyi's seminal book, The Great Transformation, and his notion of
substantivist in contrast to capitalist economics.2 To this can be added a series of anthopologists,
e.g. Marshall Sahlins, whose work has built on these early pioneers.3
The common denominator in these early studies is the transformation of society that
follows from the spread of the market economy or capitalism. To be sure, this is not the only
variable that matters in this process. Many would point to technological development and
industrialization. Others would point to urbanization or the impact of education. Whatever the
role and importance of these other factors, capitalism is of special significance when it comes to
understanding the economy of affection and the moral economy. The latter two constitute
alternative forms of political economy. They are not purely structural as the Marxist version of
political economy is in its emphasis on formal institutions like market and state. Nor are they
just based on the assumptions associated with homo economics the autonomous individual
capable of making rational choices to maximize his self-interest. The moral and affective types
of economic action discussed in this issue are embedded in social relations and cultural
conventions. Individual behavior and choice in these economies are fully rational, albeit in a
given context. Rationality in the economy of affection or the moral economy, therefore, must be
understood as contextualized as compared to the abstract version associated with rational
choice theory. Comparison is not impossible but it is a challenge because of contextual
specificities. Such comparisons can never be stretched to the point of being organized under a
single formalized theory.
This may be viewed as a major shortcoming of these alternative political economies, yet it
is precisely because of the limitations inherent in formal theory that the social sciences need
more than one lens to interpret social reality. Formal theory is really only helpful in the study of
phenomena that are predictable, e.g. votes in legislatures where party loyalties are known in
advance and issues can be arranged on a stable ideological spectrum. Attempts to study social
and political reality outside such stable institutional environments inevitably imply such severe

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Introduction and Overview I 3

reductionism that the study loses sight of the more interesting research questions to be asked.
The economy of affection or moral economy help us throw light on forms of social, economic,
and political behavior that are significant, yet not covered by concepts in mainstream political
The notion of moral economy in contemporary social science studies is foremost associated
with the name of James C. Scott (see above), and more specifically his study of peasants in
southeast Asia. Partly because of his Asian focus, he has attracted much attention among
Japanese social scientists interested in peasant economies. Scott argues that social practices
among peasants in southeast Asia are based on two moral premises: (1) the norm of reciprocity
and (2) the right to subsistence. This translates into a fear of technological innovation and social
change. Peasants adopt the "safety-first" principle or what economists would call a risk-averse
position vis-a-vis their environment. Instead of taking on these challenges, peasants seek social
insurance in the form of support from family, friends, and neighbors. These relations of mutual
support are sometimes lateral (among equals) at other times vertical involving a relationship
with a patron. According to Scott, patron-client relations have been on decline since capitalism
began to make an inroad in the countryside. As a result, these producers on the land -
subsistence farmers, tenants, and agricultural laborers have become increasingly dependent
on their own wit. Theirs is not the conventional class action, but rather non-compliance with
rules and regulations, sabotage, evasion, and deception what the same author in a subsequent
volume refers to as the "weapons of the weak."4
The economy of affection is a close equivalent to the moral economy that has been used in
the study of African social and political life. According to Hyden, this type of political economy
is an outgrowth of the prevalence of a peasant mode of production, in which rural producers
have yet to be captured by state or market.5 In this pre-capitalist order, households place greater
emphasis on social reproduction and subsistence than on production and profit. Because
agricultural technology is simple, there is little specialization and hence limited social
differentiation. The wealthier members of a community are not rich because they own land on
which others are forced to till. Instead, their wealth stems from owning a larger plot and having
more family members to cultivate it. The economy of affection blends economic and social
rationality: individuals are rational in the sense of pursuing strategies that are embedded in
local social contexts. Hyden defines the economy of affection as "a network of support,
communications and interaction among structurally defined groups connected by blood, kin,
community or other affiliations, for example, religion."6
Like the moral economy, the economy of affection is a way for peasants to cope with
circumstances that are threatening their livelihoods. There are some significant differences,
however, stemming foremost from the differences in level of development between southeast
Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Because market and state have penetrated society more effectively
in southeast Asia, the moral economy is more a direct response to the inevitable exploitation of
the poor that tend to be associated with these processes. The existence of an indigenous state
legacy and the longtime exposure to capitalism in countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand
and Indonesia as well as the concentration of people and the reliance on more sophisticated
agricultural technology have facilitated a process of capturing the peasants that are just
beginning to happen in Africa. To be sure, the aim of the colonial state was precisely that of

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

4 I Hyden

capturing the peasants for its own ends, but since independence much political energy has been
spent on dismantling that structure and weakening the capacity of the state and the market -
to influence life in the rural areas. Economic liberalization has not transformed agriculture or
promoted rural development. Instead, it has led to an accelerated migration from the
countryside to the urban areas.
This process of migration has also changed the nature of the economy of affection. When
confined to the rural areas, it tends to rely on relatively stable reciprocal solidarities. People are
ready to exchange labor at critical points in the agricultural season. They also chip in to
regularly assist each other at times of important family occasions, notably the birth or baptism
of a child, youth initiation, weddings, and funerals. These reciprocities tend to be quite specific
and they are taken for granted as obligations to others for purposes of enjoying a form of social
insurance that otherwise would not be there. Some of these specific reciprocities continue to
survive as members of households move to the urban areas. Rural-urban ties continue to be
important, especially among first and second generation of urban migrants. The important
thing, however, is that old social ties are amended and new ones invented to perpetuate
economy of affection types of relations and behaviors. Many of these tend to be generalized in
nature and some are ad hoc arrangements at times of hardship. They also involve relationships
that cut across previous, quite strictly demarcated lines of reciprocal interaction. As several
articles in this issue demonstrate, the social significance of precapitalist social relations survive.
They constitute the mental frame within which individuals make choices and behave.
The economy of affection and the moral economy, as portrayed by Scott, differ in the
following two respects. With regard to presence, the former is more prevalent and central to
social and political life than the latter. The moral economy, while important to local peasants, is
rather peripheral to the economy at large in any southeast Asian country. In Africa, by contrast,
the economy of affection is at the core of social and political life. In addition to the phenomena
discussed in this issue, the economy of affection is at the root of clientelism and other forms of
both lateral and vertical forms of reciprocity. Most importantly, the relations between rich and
poor have yet to "snap" in the sense of leading to land alienation and being replaced by
capitalist types of social exploitation.
The two economies also differ with regard to function. The moral economy is primarily a
defense mechanism. It is reactive in the sense of being a way for marginalized people to counter
the influence of external social forces that threaten their livelihoods or lifeworld. Whether
material or cultural values are at stake, peasants, according to Scott, get together to protect
themselves by engaging in evasive action, deception, and other forms of non-compliance with
orders or demands from more powerful groups or institutions. The economy of affection also
serves as a defense mechanism but it transcends that particular function. It serves the purpose
of maintaining social relations and also social advancement. In this respect, the economy of
affection is entrepreneurial. Poorer members of society seek out richer members, not just
relatives, to obtain a "loan" that would allow him to e.g. build a house, buy the necessary
equipment to start a business, etc. Richer ones seek out poorer ones to build a power base that
can be used for political purposes.
The economy of affection, therefore, is more prevalent and more varied than the moral
economy. Although both are alternatives to conventional types of political economy, the former

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Introduction and Overview I 5

has a more dominant influence of society and its development. In fact, it is so strong that it
easily subverts conventional models of development based on state or market, a topic that lies
outside the scope of this particular issue.
As another aside, it should also be mentioned here that the moral and affective economy is
becoming a global phenomenon. At the empirical level, it is increasingly applied to Africans in
the diaspora: traders and others who live in Europe and North America engaging in
reciprocities of various kinds, e.g. helping new migrants to get a place to stay or a visa to reside.
At the more normative level, Sayer applies the notion of "moral economy" to the conditions of
developed societies where the market economy is well institutionalized.7 His argument is
essentially that social scientists need to think beyond utilitarianism and rejuvernate a more
radical political economy that is based on such principles as justice, equality and respect for
public goods. Human agency is more than just pursuing one's self-interest. It also implies
judgements of responsibility and morally-guided action.


Institutions are typically understood as rules of conduct; organizations are the actors
performing within a particular institutional framework, either complying with or challenging it.
Recent literature on neo-institutionalism is characterized by two controversies. One concerns
whether an institution is merely the sum total of individual actors working together or it has a
life of its own, influencing the choice and behavior of individual actors. Scholars like Ostrom
would tend to see institutions as creations by rational individuals capable of both designing and
terminating institutions at their will.8 In this theoretical scenario, institutions are dependent
variables explained by the rational choices of individual actors. Other scholars, coming out of a
sociological or historical approach to institutions, e.g. March and Olson, argue that institutions
have an influence on human behavior and choice.9 Individuals are being socialized by social
entities, e.g. family, schools, organizations, that convey the importance and value of specific
institutions. The latter, therefore, are independent variables explaining why individuals behave
in certain ways or make certain types of choices.
10 Compliance with state regulations and the principles of neo-liberal economic order the
"good governance" package is being advocated as inevitable prerequisites for development.
Institutionalization, therefore, means formalization. Another is empirical. Scholars find it hard
to study things informal. They are hard to identify, even more difficult to measure. The
emphasis, therefore, tend to be on formal institutions, the rules that are written and that are
tested in the open. Because informal institutions are not so easily transparent, they are typically
left out altogether or spoken of only in general terms as part of "culture." A third reason is
epistemological: the tendency to deny agency to informal institutions. Informal institutions are
not just customs and conventions that do not change. As articles in the issue demonstrate,
informal institutions are constantly being subject to change, including efforts to stabilize them.
Institutionalization, therefore, is also possible in the field of informal institutions. The challenge
is that understanding such processes are more labor-intensive and do not easily lend
themselves to generalizations in the context of an abstract formal theory. Informal institutions

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

6 I Hyden

exist in the "gray" zone between economics and culture and that is where the research frontier
is, especially in Africa, but not just there.
Social science research is better served by an inductive approach that begins with the
identification of a research problem that requires careful consideration of which theory or
method is best suited for understanding and analyzing that problem. An increasing number of
social scientists, unfortunately, approach the study of social and political problems with ready-
made solutions theories that they wrongly assume are sufficiently robust to explain issues
regardless of cultural and historical context. This is not meant to deny the value of comparative
research, only to suggest that comparisons based on abstract theory are inevitably only telling a
very small part of the whole story; hence, it is useless for purposes of prediction a principal
ambition of the social sciences.
11 In developing countries, it is more often part of pre-modern reality: ways of resisting,
coping with, and taking advantage of formal institutions imposed by formal state institutions -
and, often, international bodies like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
This issue deals with informal institutions that are a product of the affective and moral
economy. Other informal institutions may have a different origin. The point, though, is that
regardless of origin, informal institutions matter more, not less today. The work that the
Japanese researchers featured here have done is an important contribution to knowledge. They
operate at the frontier of today's social science research.


The seven contributions to this issue can be divided into two groups. The first four deal with a
set of reciprocal arrangements that are leftovers from precolonial times: labor and food
exchanges that help members of a local community overcome labor bottlenecks while
simultaneously sharing the fruits of their labor in the context of a "beer party." The remaining
three contributions deal with the reinvention of informal institutions inspired by affective
solidarities among formal business entrepreneurs as well as informal sector traders in an urban
Soichiro Shiraishi discusses the influence of the monetary economy on traditional labor
exchange practices among the Sabiny people in eastern Uganda. While beer has given way to
money as a medium of exchange, the short-term exchanges that are characteristic of the modern
economy are still conducted with the help of locally meaningful terms that grow out of the
traditions of the Sabiny. Capitalism does not obliterate informal institutions, but creates
conditions in which they are reinvented.
does not produce conflict.
Sayaka Ogawa offers fascinating insights into the evolution and management of informal
institutions among local middlemen and smallscale retailers (street peddlers) in Mwanza, the
second largest city in Tanzania. Particularly interesting is a local credit system that balances the
pursuit of profit with social norms that draw inspiration from the economy of affection. She
demonstrates that reciprocities can survive and stabilize relations even in fluid urban contexts.
The fellowship that emerges among these smallscale business people does not stem from

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Introduction and Overview I 7

building trust in the conventional manner that Westerners think of. Instead, trust comes from
being able to handle tricks that members keep making against each other. These acts are the
equivalence of jokes in a joking relationship aimed at testing the temper of a stranger and
deducing trust therefrom.
Tadasu Tsuruta, finally, discusses the contemporary relevance of moral-economic concepts
that people in Tanzania, using the country's lingua franca, Kiswahili, have invented in response
to external economic and cultural influences. The important message that his article conveys is
that linguistic terms and concepts in Kiswahili are multi-facetted and straddle notions that are
disaggregated into more specific terms in the English or French language. Things like joking
and mutual aid, dance and politics, as well as wit and cunning, go together with very different
social implications than they have in modern society. At the same time, it would be a mistake,
Tsuruta argues, to consider this to be just a leftover of traditional life. The interesting thing
about these concepts is that they cannot be placed in pre-arranged Western categories. Thus,
they prompt us to probe their cultural content and rediscover the extent to which moral and
affective relations are important in contemporary Africa.


1. Goran Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania : Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry.
Berkeley : University of California Press 1980; Goran Hyden, No Shortcuts to Progress:
African Development Management in Perspective. Berkeley : University of California Press
1983. James. C. Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant. New Haven CT : Yale University
Press 1976.
2. Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation. Boston: Beacon Press 1957.
3. Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics. London : Tavistock Publications 1972.
4. James. C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak. New Haven CT : Yale University Press 1985.
5. Hyden 1980, op.cit.
6. Hyden 1983, op.cit. p. 8.
7. Andrew Sayer, "Moral Economy and Political Economy", Studies in Political Economy, vol
69, no 1 (2000), pp 79-104.
8. Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons. New York: Cambridge University Press 1990.
9. James G. March and Johan P. Olsen, The Rediscovery of Institutions. New York :
Cambridge University Press 1989.
10. Douglass North, Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. New York :
Cambridge University Press 1990.
11. Ronald Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernization. New York : Cambridge
University Press 1997.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

8 I Hyden


1985. Weapons of the Weak. New Haven CT: Yale University Press.

Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article: Goran Hyden.
"Introduction and Overview to the Special Issue on Africa's Moral and Affective Economy."
African Studies Quarterly 9, no.1 & 2: [online] URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v9/v9ilal.htm

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issues 1 & 2 I Fall 2006

Moral Economy as Emotional Interaction: Food Sharing and

Reciprocity in Highland Ethiopia


Abstract: In peasant studies, many anthropologists have taken the view that the peasant
economy has some salient cultural traits distinct from the rational choice of neoclassical
economics. This view has been criticized by political economists as ignoring the process
and mechanism of peasants' economic behavior. This paper examines cases of food
sharing in highland Ethiopia, in order to reveal that the sharing process among peasants
is greatly influenced by their affective motivations. People in highland Ethiopia share
their food crops with various persons ranging from close relatives to unknown beggars,
who rarely give anything in return. While tendencies in sharing activity are analyzed in
terms of the social relationship between donor and recipient, the act of food sharing itself
is seen to be motivated mainly by mixed feelings of fear, awe, and anxiety. In beggar-
donor interactions, beggars appear to elicit sympathy through affective approaches in
order to extract the food crop. I will reconsider the issue of reciprocity, exploring the
possible function of these affective approaches in emotional interaction as a form of
agency towards the achievement of the distribution of wealth. This is an aspect, which
has been described merely as 'moral' or 'ethic' by moral economists and reduced, in turn,
by political economists, solely to calculativee rationality'.


The concept of "moral economy" suggested by James Scott opens us to a particular
framework for understanding the behavioral features of rural peasants.'_Peasants are suggested
to share salient cultural traits, characterized as anti-market, aversion to risk by the safety-first
principle, and adherence to the norm of a subsistence ethic within the community.2_This
simplified portrayal of peasants has provoked a great deal of criticism. In particular, political
economists have accused the "moral economists" for having left out important questions as to
how morals work among peasants, how norms are derived in the first place, and in what way
village resources are distributed.3These criticisms are targeted against the assumption
underlying a depiction of the peasant economy as static, where the process and mechanisms of
economic action are of minimal importance.
Despite all their criticism, however, political economists have been able to reveal only a
single aspect of the mechanism of peasants' economic behavior: the rational calculation of self-

Keiichiro Matsumura Ph.D., is a research associate of Cultural Anthropology at Graduate School of Human and
Environmental Studies, Kyoto University. His research interests have focused on resource distribution and land
tenure practice of coffee growing farmers, Southwestern Ethiopia.

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

10 I Matsumura

interest. As Albert Hirschman pointed out, theoretical emphasis on "interests," among all other
human passions, was historically invented and constructed in accordance with the rising spirit
of capitalism in Europe.4 In this paper, I will suggest an alternative perspective on the
mechanisms and motivations of peasants' sharing activities by focusing on such interactions in
highland Ethiopia.
In most literature of peasant studies, the issue of wealth-sharing and reciprocal assistance
has long been discussed in terms of their cultural aspects. Clifford Geertz, for example, argues
that in colonial Java society, peasants, despite the pressures of population increase and
plantation economy, maintained their socio-economic homogeneity by fragmenting their
limited wealth.5 Geertz thus characterized Java society using the terms "agricultural involution"
and "shared poverty". In African studies, Goran Hyden elaborated his model of the "economy of
affection," in which he argued that reciprocal social networks of the African peasant mode of
production persist even in the post-colonial era.6 These arguments are based on an assumption
that some sort of moral or ethic concerning the sharing of wealth through reciprocal ties is
maintained within close relationships based on kinship and the community.
George Foster's study on a rural community in Mexico illustrated the significance of
"cognitive orientation" in the peasantry.7 He argues that peasants, based on an "image of limited
goods," fear that a stable balance of the wealth could result in a disruption. The amount of
desirable objects, such as land and wealth, are always conceived to be limited. It is believed that
someone's improvement in position would threaten those of others. A person who acquires, or
has acquired, more than his traditional share of goods, must be pulled back to the level of all.
Despite the wide variety of concepts surrounding peasants' economic behavior, there is a
common perception that the sharing custom is derived from the peasants' cultural traits. These
arguments are more or less based on the assumption that peasant communities are culturally
homogenous, perpetuating a system of distribution of wealth clearly distinct from the one of
homo economics.
Are these characteristics no longer applicable to newly established settlements dependent
on cash crops, or multi-ethnic urban-like communities? In the rapidly changing situation of
rural Africa, it is now widely observed that peasant communities are heavily dependent on cash
economy or waged labor, and the demographic mobility between the urban and the rural is
increasingly growing. The view of peasant economic behavior based on static cultural features
has to be reconsidered.8
In this paper, I will focus on a rural community in highland Ethiopia, where multi-ethnic
migrants have settled for the production of cash crops. People have different cultural
backgrounds and religious beliefs. It is almost impossible to find a single cultural trait or
concept shared by all the villagers. This culturally heterogeneous community can provide a
much wider basis for understanding the dynamic processes of food sharing in a changing
society of contemporary Africa.
The research village is located in southwestern Ethiopia, which is known as the possible
origin of Coffea arabica. People grow coffee as cash crop and cultivate maize for subsistence.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, immigrants have increasingly moved to this area
in search of fertile land. According to the national census in 1994, the population of the research
village was 1987 individuals in 451 households. In my extensive survey of 404 households in

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Moral Economy as Emotional Interaction I 11

2002, more than half of the household heads were Oromo (61.4%), many of them being recent
settlers from various areas.9 Most of the Oromo people were Muslims, but some of them are
Christians. The second largest ethnic group was Amhara (18%), who had migrated to this area
from the north. All of them were Christians belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The
third group was "Kullo" (Dawro and Konta) (8.0%), coming from the southern part of Ethiopia
mainly as coffee pickers.


In this newly populated multi-ethnic village, people usually share and distribute their food
crops. After the maize harvest, the poor villagers get around begging for a portion of maize.
Most of them are elder women, but sometimes strangers also join in the attempt. Those who
reap the harvest are expected to share the crops with those who do not. How do people share
food with others? What motivates them to do so? I shall begin by describing two types of crop
distribution observed in the village setting: the first being those practiced immediately after the
maize harvest; the second, among villagers in everyday life.

Maize distribution after the harvest

In highland Ethiopia, sharecropping is common practice. The ratio of harvest shared
between landholder and tenant depends on the provider of oxen used for plowing. When a
landholder provides the oxen, he is entitled to half the harvest. When a tenant provides the
oxen, the tenant receives two-thirds. However, the crops are not only shared between
landholders and tenants. During the harvest, tenants try to secure the a force through various
means. One of the main such means is through labor exchange. In addition, tenants usually ask
relatives and friends for help. Furthermore, landless poor villagers often join the work in
expectation for a reward in crop.
A.O., a tenant farmer in his sixties, was cultivating maize with his two unmarried sons in
2000, using oxen provided by the landowner. During the harvest, A.O. was assisted by a total of
twenty persons including his two sons. Among them were six agnatic and matrimonial
relatives, four villagers working for labor exchange, five helping as friends, and two landless
peasants working for reward. Immediately after the completion of this harvest, A.O. and his
two sons reciprocated their work as labor exchange to eight persons including four relatives
and four labor exchangers, and distributed maize to nine persons including two married
children, three relatives, and two landless workers, and two poor villagers.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

12 I Matsumura

Figure 1. Proportion of maize distribution of total harvest for tenant AO (in

Figure 1 shows that out of the total maize harvest for tenant A.O. (1137.8 kg), about 15% in
weight was distributed outside his household. A notable share was distributed to his family and
relatives. Although labor exchangers were not given any crop but reciprocated only in labor for
their own harvests, three kinship members received labor in addition to a distribution in maize.
A portion of the crop (0.9%) was voluntarily donated to two poor villagers as zakat, or Muslim
charity. Out of the friends who helped in the harvest work, only one was given crop for the
reason that he was landless and poor. The other three friends were not given any because they
were young and unmarried, and the one poor villager, who worked briefly for A.O., was denied
because of the shortness of the period he offered help. From this case, it can be pointed out that
maize distribution after harvest occurs mainly between those in fixed relationships, notably
agnatic kinsmen and poor villagers, and in large amounts at a time.

Food sharing in everyday life

The sharing and distributing of crops are not restricted to the immediate post-harvest
period, but takes place in everyday life. Here I will focus on the case of B.Y., a tenant farmer in
his thirties who was also my chief informant. B.Y. lived with his wife and a baby and cultivated
a small plot. Not so rich a farmer, he worked hard to produce maize as well as cash crops
including coffee, taro, peanuts and so on. I collected his data on food sharing and gift-giving for
two periods between 2002 and 2003: two months during the dry, post-harvest season and
another two months during the wet, pre-harvest season.
Maize harvest, which usually takes place between October and November, is followed by a
dry season during which coffee beans are reaped. This is the best time of the year for farmers, as
both food and income abound. The wet season, in contrast, corresponds to the preharvest

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

workers The poor
Other r

ChiU ins'


Moral Economy as Emotional Interaction I 13

season, when villagers are usually affected by food shortage. An analysis of B.Y.'s case shows
that he shared more food during the wet food shortage season with a wide range of people from
kinsmen to unknown beggars. While data for the dry season totaled an equivalent of 58 Birr in
crops such as maize, taro and peanuts, which in turn were distributed to 14 persons, in the wet
season the total reached 88 Birr distributed to 28 persons. Figures 2.1 and 2.2 indicate that about
half of the sharing in cash-equivalent value was for those who are not kinship members, but
neighbors, villagers, and even non-villagers.


Villager Parents and Other '

4% relatives P
5% stsiblings

Figure 2.1 Food sharing during rainy Figure 2.2 Food sharing during dry
season (in cash-equivalent value) season (in cash-equivalent value)
Interviews with B.Y. on each case of sharing revealed that food sharing can be classified
into six categories according to the social relationships involved in each case: parents and
female siblings; close relatives and male siblings; employees and younger collaborators in
farming; respected persons and those to whom the donor is indebted; villagers and
acquaintances; and unknown beggars.
Firstly, when the recipients were parents or female siblings, the provider showed a
tendency to share as a voluntary act, supporting his family members in times of trouble. Such
sharing opportunities were frequent and not fixed. The amount of crop shared in each case was
small, but the demands from the needy recipients were hardly ever refused. Secondly, sharing
with close relatives and male siblings implied an obligatory attitude on the provider's behalf, to
show his faith to relatives living close by. Compared to the first category, the amount of shared
crop was much larger, but opportunities were usually limited to fixed occasions, as on the
completion of harvest.
In the third and forth categories, when the food crop was given to employees and younger
collaborators for farming and to respected persons and those to whom the donor is indebted,
the donor voluntarily gave out food crops and other commodities. His aim seems to be to
maintain a good relationship with the recipient. Finally, in the case of the fifth and sixth
categories, which consist of villagers and acquaintances and unknown beggars, sharing was not

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

14 I Matsumura

usually voluntary, but preceded by begging on the recipient's part. The amount of the crops
given in each case was very small, but its occurrence was most frequently observed.
These cases indicate that people do not always give more to those in closer relationship, but
share their food with various persons ranging form close relatives to unfamiliar persons and
even unknown ones. Moreover, in all the cases, the donor did not seem to expect any reward in
return. In fact, counter-gifts were given in only exceptional cases.
Why do people so frequently share their foods with others? Are they willing to give some
crops without any hesitation? Why are people sharing food with others beyond the boundary of
kinship or even village? I will explore these questions by examining the actual interaction of
sharing and some episodes, which reflects people's perception of giving and receiving.


Expected sharing and inevitable dilemma

What views do people have on giving crops to others? Farmer B.Y. said: "Everyone knows
who harvests a lot of crops, or who are digging taro now. They come and tell us that they will soon come
to take taro". His words imply that those who have many crops are always expected to share
with those who do not. Moreover, the recipients often behave as though sharing is a normal
obligation of the rich.
One day, a poor woman living in the village came to B.Y.'s compound and said, "Last time,
you gave me too little. Did you mean to give me anything at all?" The woman's attitude, which struck
me as quite arrogant, indicates that she viewed, or at least pretended, sharing with the poor to
be an ordinary thing and even a duty for those who were relatively better off. At that time, B.Y.
refused her demand and said, "It was enough and even too much!"
I asked B.Y. if he was expecting reciprocal assistance in case of food shortage. B.Y. replied,
"People never appreciate our gift, and never return us a thing. Far from it! Suppose we were suffering
when they were not in trouble. They'd never even come close to us." The implication here is that those
who give crops do not necessarily expect to receive reciprocal assistance in times of need. And
yet, why do people share food?
People often emphasize the importance of sharing food with the poor by adhering to
Islamic principles. When farmer B.Y. gave some maize to an unknown beggar, he explained the
reason as follows: "Because Allah gives us food, it's bad for us not to give anything when we are begged.
If you tell a lie that you don't have any crop, all the crop in your house will disappear."
During my research, however, I observed many cases that run counter to these words.
Once, an elderly widow came to B.Y.'s compound and begged his mother for food. In an appeal
for crops she complained that her son was sick and that she was hungry. At that time, B.Y. said
to his mother, "Don't give her anything! We cannot afford to do that!" I asked him why he said so
and refused to give something to a poor woman. He replied: "When I was a child, my parents did
not mind giving our crops to others, and wound up losing our annual storage in six months. It was quite
While people seem to share food with their relatives, neighbors and poor villagers, they
also face the dilemma that too much giving could make them suffer from food scarcity,

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Moral Economy as Emotional Interaction I 15

especially during rainy season. So it sometimes happens that people refuse the demand for
crops and repel the beggars. They do not always follow the religious precepts without

Food Sharing and Social Relationships

In spite of such a dilemma, people actually share food with various kinds of persons
ranging from kinship members to unknown beggars. What differences are there between
sharing with close relatives and sharing with strangers? Sahlins classifies reciprocity into three
categories: "generalized reciprocity" -- the altruistic gift giving without expectations for
immediate return; "balanced reciprocity" -- the direct exchange of equivalents; and "negative
reciprocity" in which people try to make gains at the expense of others.10 Sahlins argues that
these three types of reciprocities are related to social distance: "generalized reciprocity" is based
on close relationship among kinship members; "negative reciprocity" is observed on remote
distant relationship between other ethnic groups and strangers; and "balanced reciprocity" is
built up in between.
First of all, I will introduce episodes that illustrate background motivations for food
sharing among close relationships. One day, a female cousin of farmer B.Y. said to his mother:
"I have been laid up these days, but B. Y. has never visited me at all. Bring him to divine justice!" The
expression of this "divine justice" connotes a severe accusation. B.Y. heard of her words from his
mother with embarrassment and said: "I have been in the field all day long. I've never heard of it.
And again, she is always laid up with stomachache, headache or something bad. That's why I give her
milk or butter each and every time. This time, too, she wants me to bring her something." Despite all
these words, he visited her after a few hours.
There is no way to confirm whether or not the female cousin really wanted B.Y. to bring
her anything at all. But it was obvious that he himself felt expected to share something with this
neighboring relative. In the research village, relatively wealthy persons constantly feel the
pressure to share wealth with other kinship members.
I came across an incident in which B.Y. found a fist-sized object covered by plastic buried
in his maize field. He took it to a witch doctor and asked what it was. The witch doctor said,
"One of your relatives planted this witch medicine. It is intended to make your field barren." At that
time, I could not understand why the relative had to do such a thing, because they could
possibly gain some benefit from B.Y.'s harvest. B.Y. explained to me: "Relatives don't want you to
be richer than themselves." This indicates that indebted feelings or senses of inferiority invoked by
food sharing and gift-giving can have a significant implication among close relationships.
According to B.Y., "People often work against wealthy kinsmen. They use witch medicines or
spread malicious rumors for preventing him from becoming richer." In close relationships such as
with kinship members, there is an antagonism against wealthy relatives. Those who are
somewhat richer than other kinsmen are forced to consider negative pressures or envy among
relatives. Then the fear of envy and hostile action can be an important incentive for people to
share their wealth with close relatives.
In the case of sharing with strangers, what are the motivations? One morning, a stranger
came to farmer A.O.'s compound. The man said "Pl ,ic give me something to eat." A.O. replied,

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

16 I Matsumura

"Come in. My wife will serve you a meal." After the man finished it and went away, A.O.'s wife
said, "Yesterday, he came to the house next door. We were drinking coffee, and invited him in. He must
be a thief and is now about to go to a different village to steal." It is frequently observed that people
serve strangers meals or give some crops. Why do people share their limited wealth with
strangers, and even with a suspected thief?
There is an oft-told story among Muslim villagers. The rough storyline is as follows: A
ragged beggar visits a farmer, who chases him away, but eventually people find that the
unknown beggar is a wali (Muslim holy man). In fact, a rumor of a man in the village ran quite
similar to this story. Once, a stranger with dirty clothes came to the village. He was usually
walking around and picking up rags in the village. It seemed to me that he had some mental
problem. The villagers, however, saw him in a different way. They said: "He looks like a madman,
but in fact he is a great wali." Strangers are easily associated with holiness or sacredness, respected
and sometimes, feared by the villagers.
Furthermore, the status of other ethnic groups indicates their unique position in the
community. Out of seven witch doctors around the village, four are Kullo, two are Amhara, and
one is a different branch of Oromo. Interestingly, all of them are from other ethnic groups or
from a remote area. The Kullo have migrated to this area as temporal coffee pickers and they
are regarded as being lowest in status in the research area. Nevertheless, it is widely believed
that the spiritual power of the Kullo is most formidable and dangerous. People feel a kind of
respect and awe as well as fear toward strangers. It can be argued that these mixed feelings
drive people to share food even with socially distant persons despite their own dilemma.

The process of begging and giving

It appears that different kinds of emotional feelings have to do with peasants' sharing
activity. In this section, I examine the actual process of narrative interaction between a donor
and a beggar. These verbal exchanges can sometimes be quite obnoxious, as I have suggested
above, and in other cases peaceful or even funny. The following scripts are abridged from the
narrative of a begging woman (H.M.) who was a Christian Amhara allegedly over a hundred
years of age. She visited a house of a Muslim Oromo farmer and spoke in the Oromo Language.

H.M.: "Two children (young men) were quarreling over my granddaughtere. That's why I've come here
today. They're surely going to kill me. I do not have any relatives around here. So I am very scared. When
they come to my home, my daughter gives them bread and milk, but nothing for me. I am fasting and
spending nights without any meal."

In fact, she usually spoke only Amharic and the Oromo farmer could also speak Amharic
fluently. But at that time, she used the Oromo language and made a pitiful story to appeal for
food crops. It seemed to me that the Oromo farmer did not fully believe what she said, but her
words and expressions were enjoyable enough to create a pleasant atmosphere between them.

(After some turns of the conversation, finally the farmer gave her some taro.)

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Moral Economy as Emotional Interaction I 17

H.M.: ".Oh, my brother. Allah, give him a long life. Like a person receiving a reward, I shall enjoy the
food, lying down on my bed. When I go home and put two taros in my mouth, I will boast it as if our
Oromo ancestor killed an animal [such as lion] (Oromo phrase)."

H.M.: "Allah, give her a peaceful life. Give her a good harvest of taro every year. Give her a child every
year. Our great Abba Yabu (Muslim holy man), bless you and bless your crops. (lifting the taros on
her back with an effort) Ass of the mother you kicked out after marriage! (Oromo phrase meaning
like 'oops-a-daisy') I won't go anywhere, now. I shall return home directly by way of the meadow."

Tracing these rhetorical utterances of a female beggar, it can be pointed out that religious
belief and even ethnic identity are utilized as means for obtaining food. She weaved various
stories of misery, referred to Oromo ancestor and Muslim holy man even though she was a
Christian Amhara, and told with humorous expression in a friendly atmosphere, which
successfully aroused the donor's sympathy to the point where he could no longer resist giving
her something. This process suggests that "moral" or "norm" may not be embedded in the
society or in peoples' mind in advance. Instead, they are repeatedly evoked and reminded by
sentimental approaches, through socially affective discourses or symbolic resources such as
language and religion.
All these cases suggest that the process of food sharing is not automatically practiced
according to a moral or a norm, but that people are negotiating with each other for validity
between sharing with others and keeping for themselves. It is a dynamic process negotiated
over the distribution of the wealth. In the process of this interaction, I have pointed out that
some mixed emotions like fear, respect, awe, and sympathy do function as a key element
affecting the outcome of food sharing. Only those who are able to manipulate these emotions in
their negotiation can receive their share of food. In the next section, I will discuss this point in
detail with reference to literatures on reciprocity.


Reciprocity and religious principle

The issue of food sharing has long been discussed in terms of various concepts such as
'egalitarianism', 'leveling mechanism', 'reciprocity' and 'moral economy.' I will start my
argument with the concept of 'reciprocity' in anthropology. As I have pointed out, sharing
behavior in highland Ethiopia can be summed up in two distinct characteristics: despite
difference in motivation, food sharing is undertaken among various individuals from family
members to unknown beggars; and in each case any counter-service in return is hardly
As discussed above, these results are not in accordance with Sahlins' formula on
relationships between social distances and 'reciprocity,' in which he argues that in closer
relationships people are more likely to share food with less return, whereas in alien
relationships people tend to act more selfishly. There is no doubt that the relationships among
family members and relatives are apparently much closer and tighter than the ones with

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

18 I Matsumura

villagers of other ethnicity or with unknown beggars. Why do villagers provide their valuable
food crops even for unfamiliar persons?
First of all, I have indicated that the religious belief of Islam would lie as an influential
discipline for sharing activities. Just as Schneider points out in the case of the Christianity of
Europe, it can be argued that the Islamic principle would liberate people from the community-
based, blood and territorial relationship and introduce the egalitarianism or brotherly
compassion based on the extended relationship of the religious community." There is no doubt
that religious beliefs have something to do with food sharing in the research village.
Otsuka, an anthropologist studying Islam, highlights the significance of exchange theory,
which indicates 'reciprocal connection' in wealth-sharing among Muslims.12 To sum up his
point, zakat in Islam implies a kind of 'reciprocity' between a Muslim and Allah (or a holy man),
in which his contribution can lead to his mundane interests in return. Then zakat does not mean
a material donation to the poor, but a display of devotion and faith to Allah or a holy man.
Therefore, according to the principle of Islam, the real recipient of the donation would be Allah
or a holy man, not the poor or beggars. In fact, farmer B.Y. mentions to a poor villager, "We are
giving in favor of Allah, not for you."
It is an oversimplification, however, to treat the Islamic principle as the sole ground for
explaining food sharing in rural communities. Actually, the sharing activity is not limited to the
Muslim villagers, but also present among Christian villagers and even between both.
Furthermore, not everybody devotes himself to sharing food without hesitation. If all people
actually believed that Allah would always guarantee rewards to the zakat giver, nobody would
refuse to give. Hence the principle of 'reciprocity' cannot fully clarify the context of food sharing
in the village. It rather seems to be an idealistic discourse among Muslims.
The villagers often say: "We Muslims have to leave one-tenth of our crops in the field, even if
monkeys or boars are going to finish it up." In reality, however, no one is likely to leave their
valuable crops in the fields. At the same time, in everyday life, they face the dilemma in which
they are at risk of food shortage by giving away a certain amount of their crops. Therefore, since
there is a discrepancy between the religious ideology and people's actual behavior, we should
take into account as to what context, and who, utilizes the Islamic discourse for obtaining their
In anthropological theory of gift exchange, it is generally argued that the gift recipient
would be forced to reciprocate, or at least be subjected to an expectation to do so. Mauss calls it
'total service' with three obligations: the obligation to reciprocate presents that have been
received; the obligation to give; and the obligation to receive.13 The creation of obligatory
relationships in gift exchange would be at the center of the principle of 'reciprocity.' As Blau
also argues in his theory of social exchange, these obligatory exchanges could bring power
relationship to the donor and the recipient by placing the recipient in debt.14
In a way, the ideology of Islam could be considered as a strategic approach to prevent
people from indebtedness. Each time when the poor beggars refer to Allah for the giver's
blessing, the words implies that zakat would be for Allah and not for the beggars, who would be
freed from responsibility of the debt and counter-service. Hence the Islamic principle would
bear authority as a powerful discourse in interactive negotiation over food sharing.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Moral Economy as Emotional Interaction I 19

In order to avoid reciprocal indebtedness, the recipient can also take approaches such as
'alienation' to the donor. As the villager's words, "when they are not in trouble, even if we are
suffering, they never come close to us," indicate, the recipient of shared food tends to avoid
frequent contact. If they keep in touch, they would always be reminded of the indebtedness,
which places them in a subordinate position against the donor. Avoidance of everyday contact
by the recipient can be considered as a way of concealing hierarchical relationships between the
donor and the recipient.
Of course, the donors also have strategic means to gain advantage in the interactive
negotiation. When begged, they often show their annoyance in an obvious manner and refuse
the demand. The words thrown at the begging women: "it was enough and even too much!" and
"Don't give anything! We cannot afford to do that!" clarify that the speakers do not always give
crops out of kindness and that they are in superior position in the negotiation over sharing.
These donors' approaches, however, are subject to counter-approach from the recipients.

Emotional interaction over sharing food

Hence the interaction of food sharing appears to be a kind of tug-of-war interaction over
the obligation and indebtedness induced by reciprocity. Among others, as I suggested, envy is
definitely a significant element for the interaction. It has been repeatedly pointed out that envy
would function as a leveling mechanism. Its operation, however, cannot be explained in simple
terms such as: "food is shared because the rich are envied." How can we understand the way in
which envy works as an incentive for food sharing?
In his essay on envy, Foster stresses the importance to recognize the correlation between
'envy' and 'jealousy.' "Envy stems from the desire to acquire something possessed by another
person, while jealousy is rooted in the fear of losing something already possessed."15 Thus an
emotion of 'envy' and 'jealousy' necessarily includes the mutual interaction between the envier
and the envied.
we can say that man fears being envied for what he has and wishes to protect himself from
the consequence of the envy of others; man also fears he will be accused of others, he wishes to
allay the suspicion; and finally, man fears to admit to himself that he is envious, so he searches
for rationales and devices to deny to himself his envy and to account for in terms other than
personal responsibility, the conditions that place him in a position inferior to another.16
Foster argues that envy is activated by multiple fears. The cases in highland Ethiopia can
also be explained to some extent by these multiple fears. What is of most importance here is that
food sharing is always driven through the mental interaction of expectation and fear between
the rich and the poor. On the one hand, the poor expect an act of sharing, or at least they
pretend as if this expectation is well-deserved, without admitting that they are envious, inferior,
or indebted. On the other hand, the rich sense this envy and the expectation to share, and fear
unfavorable outcomes should they fail to do so. These hidden interactions between the envier
and the envied are present in food sharing process.
The case of highland Ethiopia, however, implies that envy works as a strong motivation
especially in close relationships. There are also different kinds of fear observed in the interaction
of food sharing such as fear of the religious principle or of God, or strangers and those from
other ethnic groups. Furthermore, these fears include mixed feelings of awe, anxiety, and

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

20 I Matsumura

respect that often emerge as ambivalent sentiments. Fear of God, includes not only fear of
sanctions from God, but also respect for his sacredness. Fear for strangers includes not only fear
of unfamiliar persons, but also anxiety about the potential for misfortune. Reference to Allah by
the recipients can exert pressure only when the donor feels fear and awe toward Allah. If one
has no faith in Islam, those words may not have an effect. The same could be applied to witch
medicine, which can exercise pressure on the rich only if they bear fear of witch doctors or
These kinds of multiple emotions may cause people to act in certain ways, which political
economists have hardly taken into account. Hyden argues that in the economy of affection
actors share a common set of expectations.17 The point is that those shared expectations can
function only by being activated and reproduced through the cycle of emotional interaction
among people.
In highland Ethiopia, relatively vulnerable persons such as the poor, beggars, and socially
weak minorities are in more advantageous positions for negotiations through emotional
interaction. They would consciously and unconsciously manipulate these mixed emotions and
gain superiority in the negotiation over sharing. As a result, the food crops not infrequently
flow from the haves to have-nots. If this interpretation is correct, another possibility emerges:
the influx of migrants with growing social mobility could even accelerate sharing activities
among the peasants. Although it is quite difficult to see whether or not the amount of food
shared among peasants has increased, the relationships to be shared could possibly have
become much wider and diversified in accordance with the growth of social heterogeneity. The
classical argument of peasant studies has focused solely on relatively closed and homogenous
peasant communities. The framework of emotional interaction for food sharing can provide a
useful perspective in considering the contemporary situation in rural Africa.


The principle of political economists can be seen as 'economy of rational calculation,' in
which individuals always account their interests, utility, cost and benefit. The process of
interactions in highland Ethiopia, however, indicates that people are often driven into the
sharing of food through ad hoc emotional incentives. These affective motivations are sometimes
ambivalent and mixed, including fear, respect, and sympathy. This 'economy of emotional
interaction,' I think, is one of the significant agencies that bring about the situation described as
"moral economy."
Peasant studies have identified a distinct feature maintained among the peasants, which is
completely irreconcilable with the capitalistic or market-oriented standard. Nowadays,
however, most agrarian societies in Africa have been rapidly integrated to the market economy
and capitalism. Many anthropologists of peasant studies have set up their theory based solely
on peasant societies outside the market economy. That is the reason why their framework limits
their view of peasant economic behavior within culturally homogenous communities with
persistent essential features. In order to reveal the "moral economy" within the market economy,
the economy of emotional interaction is a concept to take into account the dynamic process of
contemporary situation surrounding peasants in rural Africa.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Moral Economy as Emotional Interaction I 21


1. Scott 1976.
2. Scott 1976.
3. Popkin 1979.
4. Hirschman 1977.
5. Geertz 1963.
6. Hyden 1980.
7. Foster 1965.
8. Roseberry 1989.
9. Matsumura 2003.
10. Sahlins 1972.
11. Schneider 1990.
12. Otsuka 1989.
13. Mauss 1990, p. 13.
14. Blau 1964.
15. Foster 1972, p.168.
16. Foster 1972, p.166.
17. Hyden 2004, p. 9.


Blau, Peter M. Exchange and Power in Social Life. New York: J. Wiley, 1964.

Foster, George M. "Peasant Society and the Image of Limited Good." American Anthropologist 67,
no.2 (1965): 293-315.

"The Anatomy of Envy: A Study in Symbolic Behavior." Current Anthropology 13, no.
2(1972): 165-202.

Geertz, Clifford. Agricultural Involution: The Process of Ecological Change in Indonesia. California:
University of California Press, 1963.

Hirschman, Albert 0. The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before its
Triumph. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1977.

Hyden, Goran. Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.

"Informal Institutions, Economy of Affection, and Development in Africa." Tanzanian
Journal of Population Studies and Development (Special Issue: African Moral Economy) 11, no.2
(2004): 1-20.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

22 I Matsumura

Matsumura, Keiichiro. "Changes beyond the State Institution: Socialist Policies and Land
Tenure in a Coffee-Growing Village, Southwestern Ethiopia." Nilo-Ethiopian Studies 8-9 (2003):

Mauss, Marcel. The Gift: The Form and Reason for exchange in Archaic Societies. London: Routledge,

Otsuka, Kazuo. Islam as a Different Culture: From a Social Anthropological Perspective. Tokyo:
Doubunkan Publishing, 1989. (in Japanese)

Popkin, Samuel L. The Rational Peasant: The Political Economy of Rural Society in Vietnam.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.

Roseberry, William. "Peasants and the World." In Economic Anthropology, ed. S. Plattner
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989), pp. 108-126.

Sahlins, Marshall. Stone Age Economics. Aldine Publishing, 1972.

Scott, James C. The Moral Economy of the Peasant. New Heaven: Yale University Press, 1976.

Schneider, Jane. "Sprits and the Spirit of Capitalism." In Religious Orthdoxy & Popular Faith in
European Society, ed. Ellen Badone (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).

Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article: Keiichiro
Matsumura. "Moral Economy as Emotional Interaction: Food Sharing and Reciprocity in
Highland Ethiopia." African Studies Quarterly 9, no.1 & 2: [online] URL:

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issues 1 & 2 I Fall 2006

"Earning among Friends": Business Practices and Creed among

Petty Traders in Tanzania


Abstract: This paper analyzes how petty street traders called Machinga have created
unique credit transactions in response to the political and socio-economical
transformation after the economic liberalization of Tanzania. The credit transaction
described in this paper is called Mali Kauli and is conducted by middlemen and micro-
scale retailers. In this paper, I will discuss how newly created urban social relationships
and knowledge of urban life, both function to sustain this unstable credit transaction,
which balances social norms with economic profit. In conclusion, I will insist that the
norms of reciprocity are not incongruous with economic rationality. The flexible "moral
economy" does not require a rigid community or set of conventional norms. It can take
effect in fellowships in which people trick each other, yet at the same time build mutual
trust. The Mali Kauli transaction is a creative practice of the Machinga.


The economic liberalization of Tanzania since the mid-1980s has brought a rapid influx of
imports to Tanzania. These imports, including second-hand clothes, have opened new economic
opportunities for the urban poor and vitalized the small-scale commercial sector. Machinga are
the street traders and hawkers selling these imported goods. The term Machinga is derived from
the two English words: 'marching' and 'guys'.1 The numbers of Machinga are increasing at a
rapid rate. For example, Ngware estimated their number in Dar es Salaam at 85,000 in 1995.2
Although no official figures are available for the present, one can assume that this number has
increased several fold in the past ten years.
The purpose of this study is to examine the social networks and the historical change of the
business practices of Machinga by analyzing a unique transaction called Mali Kauli in the trade
of second hand clothes in Mwanza city. The Mali Kauli transaction is a unique credit transaction
conducted by middlemen and micro-scale retailers. Although Mali Kauli is profitable to both
kinds of merchants, its sustainability does not rest on economic benefit alone. While middlemen
do enjoy economic dominance, playing the role of patrons, they build horizontal personal
relationships with retailers that do not necessarily correspond to the principles of neo-classical

Sayaka Ogawa, Ph.D. Candidate, is a student of Graduate School Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto
University. Her research interests have focused on the entrepreneurships and social networks of commercial informal
sector, especially, those who called as Machinga in urban Tanzania. Her present research topic is the historical change
of their business practices in the second-hand clothing trade. Her major is economic anthropology and urban

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

24 I Ogawa

Economic anthropologists and political scientists have investigated these personal
economic relationships embedded in society, using concepts such as the "economy of affection"
or "moral economy".3 The majority of pioneering work referring to this type of economy has
focused on peasant societies. They have emphasized the existence of "the norm of reciprocity"
and "the right to subsistence" in such societies.
Previous urban studies in Africa have pointed to the existence of "economy of affection" or
"moral economy" in the informal sector.4 Several authors argue that entrepreneurs in the urban
informal sector are caught between supporting their rural relatives while at the same time
trying to make ends meet in the city. Many promising informal sector entrepreneurs cannot
achieve effective capital investment and expansion of their business as they find it very hard to
reject requests for assistance.5 So not surprisingly, some studies have argued that to be
successful, entrepreneurs in the informal sector should abandon their "affection" to their rural
brethren or others making claims on their resources and instead create modern business
Studies of moral economy call into question the validity of development as a linear process
from tradition to modernity. Ueda insists on the need to study how reciprocal norms are
maintained by the social logic of a moral economy, and how individual entrepreneurs
manipulate both the social logic and personal needs as the situation demands.7 In this paper, I
will explore Ueda's points through an examination of Mali Kauli transactions.
In the current globalizing situation in which movements of people, things, and information
accelerate, a dichotomic model of global and local economies no longer makes sense. The critical
edge of anthropology, emanating from anti-essentialism, has corroded the very theoretical
premises of moral economy: the analytic concepts of culture, customs, norms, and community
as their functional totality, all gave way to views that these are mere political, social and
ideological constructs associated with various forms of power. If local cultures and traditions
are mere constructs with no original substance, and if community boundaries are too fluid and
ambiguous to serve analytical purposes, then do such views contradict the sheer existence of a
moral economy? If we reject morality thinking, that is, a discussion about what is and isn't
good in the way people treat one another, then we deny ourselves any grounds from which we
can criticize preexisting, unequal sociopolitical arrangements.8
This paper aims to present a more flexible version of moral economy, which manifests in
traders' attempts to sustain human ties amidst the irreversible deluge of global capitalism a
moral economy which allows us to appreciate the diverse moral sentiments underpinning a rich
array of practices, without reducing them within simplifying dichotomies of selfishness and
altruism, economic rationality and social norms.
The data for this paper were collected from my research in Mwanza city, the second largest
city in Tanzania with about 620,000 people situated at the southern tip of Lake Victoria.9 I
conducted my first research phase using participant observation for about 10 months from
September 2001 to June 2002. As a second phase for nine months between November 2003 and
July 2004, I have conducted interviews with 300 merchants on their life history and the changes
in their business practices since the 1970s.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

"Earning among Friends" I 25


The Trade of Second-hand Clothes in Mwanza City

The merchants who participate in the trade of second-hand clothes in Mwanza can be
categorized into three groups: wholesalers, middlemen, and retailers. The second-hand clothes
are being brought in by wholesale traders. The Mali Kauli transaction, on which I focus in this
paper, is conducted between middlemen and retailers.
First, I define these merchants and describe their economic activities. Wholesalers are
defined as those who import the bales from international recycling agencies and sell them to
middlemen. Second-hand clothes are gathered from general households by charity
organizations and volunteer associations and are then transferred to recycling agencies. These
agencies classify the second-hand clothes by items such as shirts, jackets, dresses and so on, and
wrap each kind in vinyl sheeting and iron bands.10 The blocks of clothes wrapped with vinyl
sheeting are called bales. One bale includes 200-1,000 pieces depending on the kind of clothes.
Wholesalers sell them to middlemen in their shops.
Middlemen are defined as those who purchase bales from wholesalers and sell them item
by item to retailers. In Mwanza, there is Mlango Mmoja, a permanent market, where 350 stalls of
second-hand clothes are established. Most middlemen open the bales in this market. Retailers
are defined as those who purchase the second-hand clothes from middlemen and sell them to
consumers. Retailers can be sub-classified into stall-keepers, small-street traders, hawkers, and
rural market traders.
In Mwanza there are 18 wholesaler shops. The managers and the employees of these shops
are estimated to be about 30 persons. The estimates for middlemen and retailers are: 200 and
4,000, respectively. Most wholesalers are Indian and Pakistani traders, while middlemen and
retailers are predominantly African. Wholesalers need capital of at least US$20,000 to import
bales, manage the shops and obtain business license. Middlemen purchase an average of 7
bales, twice a week, with an average capital of US$1,000. The smallest middlemen, however,
need only US$50 to buy one bale per week. The capital of retailers is usually very small, and
most of them do not need any capital because they buy second-hand clothes from middlemen
on credit.
The biggest gap is between wholesalers and retailers. This is evident both in terms of ethnic
identity and access to capital. No middleman has managed to become a wholesaler while many
retailers have become middlemen. This gap between wholesalers and others corresponds to
local perceptions of urban dwellers. While wholesalers are called Wauzaji wa Jumla, both
middlemen and retailers are called Machinga by urban dwellers. Among the merchants, retailers
refer to a middleman as Mtajiri (a rich person or employer) in the Swahili language, and
middlemen refer to retailers as Machinga. However, middlemen recognize that they, like
retailers, are called Machinga by urban dwellers. This builds a sense of fellowships among
middlemen and retailers. As mentioned in the final chapter, the Mali Kauli transaction is
underpinned by urban fellowships.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

26 I Ogawa

Types of Mali Kauli Transaction

There are two types of transactions between middlemen and retailers, namely cash
transaction and Mali Kauli, which is a kind of credit transaction. About 80% of thirty three
middlemen interviewed in my research conducted Mali Kauli transaction in 2001-2002.
According to my research, Mali Kauli can be regarded as the dominant transaction between
middlemen and retailers.
The meaning of Mali Kauli is selling the commodities (Mali) on credit through a verbal
promise (Kauli). Let us briefly look at the characteristic of this type of transaction. In Mali Kauli
a middleman typically deals with an average of twenty retailers. He sells clothes to retailers on
credit without any collateral, and allows them to return the unsold clothes and renegotiate the
"basic price," which is the purchase price of each item for retailers.
The Mali Kauli transaction is accomplished as follows: Most middlemen purchase an
average of seven bales from wholesalers twice a week. On the morning of the first day, a
middleman opens his bales and classifies the second-hand clothes into three grades: A, B, and
C, according to the quality and fashion of each item. Grade C is not sold on the first day but
saved until the third day. After the middleman finishes the classification, retailers inform the
middleman of their choice on how much of each grade is available. Then the middleman
determines the "choosing turn" of the retailers requesting the same grade. Retailers choose their
clothes according to their "choosing turn." For example, the first retailer of grade A choose fifty
clothes, then the second retailer of grade A choose thirty clothes, and then the third retailer
follows him, followed by the fourth, and so on. Finally, the middleman and each retailer
negotiate the "basic price" per item.
During the daytime of the first day, the retailers start selling their clothes. They try to gain
their profit by selling each item above the "basic price." On the evening of the first day, the
retailers come back and pay the middleman for the number of clothes sold during the day. At
this time, retailers can return unsold clothes or renegotiate the "basic price," which the
middleman usually reduces. This process is repeated on the second and third day.
In short, a bale of second-hand clothes is sold according to the following cycle: Most
middlemen purchase the bales on Mondays and Thursdays. From Monday to Wednesday,
middlemen mobilize all retailers of grade A and B to sell as many clothes as possible by
decreasing the basic price of each item. Usually, middlemen can obtain enough profit to
purchase new bales on Thursday. On Wednesday middlemen mix the unsold items of grade A
and B with clothes of grade C, which were set aside on Monday. All the unsold clothes become
grade C on Wednesday.
As middlemen have already covered the cost of purchasing bales by the sale of grade A
and B, grade C becomes their net profit. On Thursday, grade C are sent to some rural markets.
The rural market traders go into the business with the goal of selling everything. They will sell
every grade C by auction sale to the rural small-scale traders.
An important point of this Mali Kauli transaction is that the middlemen give the monetary
assistance to retailers who are unable to raise enough profit on any particular day. Retailers
observed in my research often made plenty of excuses in order to demand middlemen for
monetary assistance and indefinite debts from middlemen. These occur at the end of each day

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

"Earning among Friends" I 27

when retailers pay middlemen the purchase costs of clothes sold during that day. Fig.1 shows
the income of a retailer per day. This retailer needed at least Tsh.1,580 (USS1.50) per day for
eating three times and paying city bus fares." If this figure represents the minimum cost of
living, this trader made no profit from his retail business on twenty six days out of eighty five
days. Out of twenty six days, however, this trader successfully received financial support from
the middleman on nineteen days. Furthermore, he elicited indefinite debts from the middleman
on the remaining seven days. In this way, the trader could sustain a minimum standard of
living during the whole period. When this same retailer was able to sell many clothes, he
successfully pressured the middlemen into giving him rewards, which occurred on ten
occasions during the eighty five days. All of the middlemen interviewed in my research tried to
respond to such requests for monetary assistance and reward. This financial support from
middlemen is indispensable for retailers to make a living in the city.

Tsh. 9000 [ : Net profit Monetary assistance I- Award Debts Minu cost of living

00 Avi l~ y l ., n lii l i l1 1II


1 6 11 16 21 26 31 36 41 46 51 56 61 66 71 76 81
Fig.1. Income of a Retailer (85 days)

In order to examine the reasons for the conduct of Mali Kauli transactions by both middlemen
and retailers, I will outline the history of second-hand clothing trade.


Historical Change in Business Practice among Small-Scale Traders

Before economic liberalization, private commercial activities were banned under the
socialist regime, and second-hand clothes were imported by Christian charity organizations or
by smugglers.12 Especially in the late 1970s, as the economic crisis deepened, about thirty
individuals from Mwanza town coordinated the smuggling groups based on ethnic network to
import second-hand clothes (mostly from Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya).
In 1986, with the introduction of economic liberalization, various goods including second-
hand clothes began to be legally imported. Indian traders, who had left Tanzania after their

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

I; lsg!'!"i~ l?*'A 'Il|l'''lsa 's:*ss!!
ll. . . . . .ll . ..ill ll i ll ll ll l

28 I Ogawa

houses and businesses were nationalized in the early 1970s, came back to Tanzania and opened
wholesale shops. Very often former smugglers were the true middlemen. At that time both
middlemen and retailers operated their business only in the city center. Middlemen operated
theirs in Market Street while most retailers operated in Makoroboi Street and the Shaa open
market. The form of transaction between middlemen and retailers at that time was different
from the Mali Kauli transaction, which only emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Middlemen who used to be in the same smuggling groups before economic liberalization,
jointly purchased more than one hundred bales from wholesalers on credit. After they
purchased the bales, they shared the bales among each other. They held auction sales side by
side on Market Street.
Traders who arrived first to Market Street were known as Wafungulishaji. They are the
retailers who sell clothes on Makoroboi Street. Wafungulishaji "force middlemen to open their
bales," in the promise of buying at least fifty clothes by a certain price. After selling several
clothes to Wafungulishaji, the middleman begins to sell other items out of the bales at
auction. Wapelembaji are those who join the auction to bid on each item. They shop around
several middlemen auctions selling same kinds of clothes. Then general consumers come to join
the auction. Wapiga-top who sell clothes in Shaa open market, watch the development of
auction. As the auction reaches a final phase, they begin calling out "Top," requesting the
middleman to close up the auction. The middleman responds after a series of calls, letting the
Wapiga-top purchase all unsold clothes at rock-bottom price. Thus, all items in the bales have
been sold.
As mentioned above, in the early days of economic liberalization, middlemen sold each
item at the auction to three kind of retailers: Wafungulishaji, Wapelembaji and Wapiga-top who all
purchased clothes in cash. Each kind of retailer had different business strategies, each with its
own merits and demerits.
Wafungulishaji typically got the most fashionable and best quality items out of the bales
because they purchase clothes before middlemen sell them at auction. On the other hand, even
if they find that the contents of bales are mostly bad clothes, they have to purchase promised
numbers of items at the promised price. In this respect, the Wafungulishaji take chances and
hope that the bales contain good quality items. Wapelembaji can check each item and buy as
many clothes as they want at the auction. However, they have to buy clothes at a higher price
than the Wafungulishaji because they engage in bidding up the price of the items left behind by
the Wafungulishaji. Wapiga-top can buy a bulk of clothes at the cheapest price. But they
sometimes have to take unprofitable clothes such as dust-cloth because they are unable to check
the items, similar to the Wafungulishaji.
The strategy of the middlemen in the late 1980s was in response to their inability to check
the contents of the bales before they purchased them. Even if all items in the bales were bad,
they had to pay a fixed purchase cost to wholesalers. Therefore, selling the clothes to
Wafungulishaji before opening the bales was regarded as a risk aversion strategy by the
middlemen. Selling to Wafungulishaji covered some of the costs for each bale, but if the bales
contained mostly good clothes, middlemen would fail to gain large profits. If middlemen sold
all items out of their bales to Wapelembaji by bidding up the price of each item, they could boost
their profit. Selling clothes to Wapiga-top was also regarded as a risk aversion strategy. If

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

"Earning among Friends" I 29

middlemen tried to sell bad clothes at auctions, they would typically lose both time and money.
Judging when they should accept to sell their unsold clothes to Wapiga-top by closing the
auction was quite difficult for the middlemen. An inappropriate decision could lead to failure in
raising large profits or in completing their sales.
Despite the speculative nature of the transactions mentioned above, both middlemen and
retailers interviewed in my research stated that they enjoyed profit at that time. For example,
they said,

"Immediately after economic liberalization, I could sell all items out of bales that first day. And
next day, I could increase the number of bales compared to the day before. But these days I
cannot imagine purchasing bales every day"

"I started my business with only Tsh.4,000 in 1988. After two months, my capital had grown to
about Tsh.200,000. All the retailers that I know, who started before 1990, eventually did become

The Transition from Auction to Mali Kauli Transaction

Business conditions changed drastically from the early to the mid-1990s. First of all, the
number of second-hand clothing traders increased at a rapid rate, from about 200 in the mid
1980s to more than 2,000 traders in the mid-1990s. With a greater number of middlemen, Indian
wholesalers decided to reject selling bales on credit because they could sell all bales in cash.
Middlemen who had formed groups to purchase bales now separated and became independent
operators. Middlemen had to compete fiercely to attain stable customers. Middleman would
persuade Wapelembaji to become their stable Wafungulishaji in exchange for occasional credit.
Retailers also preferred to transact with certain middlemen in exchange for occasional credit. As
a result, the number of stable clients per middlemen began to increase.
The Tanzanian government implemented various policies for informal sector development
in the 1990s to respond to increasing street traders. For example, the Dar es Salaam City Council
legalized sixty six economic activities and set the amount of tax and license fees under the
'Hawking and Street Trading (Amendment)' By-Laws of 1991.13 Local authorities like Mwanza
City Council followed this policy. However, the most important change for the traders was a
new policy for Mwanza urban planning. The Mwanza City Council constructed six trading
centers, including Mlango Mmoja Market, (the biggest market for selling second-hand clothes),
under the "Mwanza Master Plan" enacted in 1993. Under this plan, the police and Mgambo the
militia organized under the ruling Party started to destroy stalls and desks of street traders
and forced them to move to these markets in 1995-1996. The middlemen and retailers bitterly
refused to move, and some traders invented mobile stalls or went to suburban areas to hawk.
That is how the notion of Machinga came about. Urban dwellers and government officials began
to call the street traders marching in the city by that name. It should be noted that middlemen
and their stable clients helped each other by gathering small change to pay bribes to have the
police release their fellow trader in custody.
As a consequence, middlemen and several retailers engaged in transaction with each other
formed a loose group in the mid-1990s. At that time, however, most middlemen continued to

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

30 I Ogawa

sell second-hand clothes at auction, and selling clothes on credit was uncommon. It was only
after moving to the Mlango Mmoja markets that selling second-hand clothes on credit, namely
Mali Kauli, became the common form of transaction.
Despite their reluctance and resistance, middlemen and retailers finally moved to these
markets by 1997.14 This move to the Mlango Mmoja markets made it difficult for both
middlemen and retailers to maintain their business styles. The Mlango Mmoja markets are
located far away from the city center and the roads to get there are bad. Customers who used to
stop to join the auction on the way to their office or central bus station did not bother to go to
Mlango Mmoja.
After moving to the new markets, traders were strictly obligated to pay tax and license
fees. They had to pay Tsh.12,000 a year for license fee, Tsh.2,000 a month for tender fee,
Tsh.5,000-12,000 a year for rental cost of a market stall and Tsh.2,000 every six months as
cleaning fee. The traders who could not pay these costs abandoned their official location and re-
established their business activities in the city center. Most of them became hawkers and street
traders, and some of them decided to go to rural markets, promoted by the Mwanza
Municipality at that time. In addition, the Tanzanian government introduced Value Added Tax
(VAT) and a twenty percent tax on imported goods in 1998.15 As a result, the wholesale price of
bales increased dramatically.16 Such policy changes made these street traders shift their
business strategies from selling at auction to Mali Kauli.


The Mali Kauli transaction system evolved for two reasons. First, the rising wholesale price
of bales made it increasingly difficult for the costs of bales to be met by auction sale; a condition
aggravated by the newly imposed taxes and license fees. By classifying second-hand clothes
into three grades and setting an approximate price for each grade, the middlemen could avoid
the hazards of negotiating with retailers, thereby systematizing the trade in their favor.
Secondly, the classification into three grades also made eminent sense given the diverse
market outlets that middlemen and retailers encountered. The urban market is relatively "up-
scale" while the rural markets are for poorer customers. The grade A is not only too expensive
for the rural people but also out of touch with rural tastes because this grade includes items of
cutting edge fashion (such as dresses that reveal part of the body). On the other hand, the
cheapest grade C is too damaged for the urban residents to wear in their office and not suitable
for the "chic" crowd of urban youth. Hence middlemen, by classifying the items into three
grades, from which retailers are allowed to choose, were distributing second-hand clothes in an
effective manner.
Retailers, on the other hand, choose each grade according to seasonal change of
demands. For example, in rural areas, demands for second-hand clothes rise during the harvest
season, thus raising retailers' demands for grade C. Consumers would go for grade A for their
best outfit during Christmas season, after which they would revert to grade B, when tapped out
by holiday spending. Middlemen, therefore, still have to cope with seasonal variations that
somewhat complicate their business despite the introduction of Mali Kauli.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

"Earning among Friends" I 31

This transaction system has two beneficial effects for the middlemen. First, they can attract
many retailers, including those who are without capital, and mobilize them for rapid
distribution of clothes. Secondly, they can effectively allocate items of various grades among
the retailers in exchange for credit. The second point becomes clear by contrast with cash
transaction, where retailers are free to select the grade they want and some grades remain
unsold for a long time. These benefits allow them to attain greater profit. Mali Kauli also has
benefits for retailers. First, they can begin business without capital. Some retailers do have
capital at the beginning of their business, but most retailers cannot save their capital because of
the high competition. Secondly, retailers can return unsold clothes that failed to match
consumer preferences or proved to contain dirty marks and small tears. Had such clothes been
bought for cash, retailers would end up spending many days selling them. The Use of Mali
Kauli enables retailers to shift their business risks to middlemen. Thirdly, retailers can
renegotiate the "basic price" on the following day if the original price proved too high. All these
benefits allow retailers to minimize their business risks and to stabilize their economic activities.
Furthermore, if retailers could not raise enough profit, they may demand monetary assistance
from their middlemen. In sum, both middlemen and retailers benefit financially from Mali
Kauli. They have a mutual interest in upholding this system because even if it may limit profit
maximization, it lessens the risk. The system, however, also causes some friction between
middlemen and retailers, which will be the subject of the next section. POTENTIAL FRICTION
IN MALI KAULI TRANSACTIONS Retailers, as suggested above, sometimes require a
particular grade in order to respond to the market demand. Middlemen, however, do not
always accept such requests because they intend to distribute all clothes. Because middlemen
determine the "choosing turn" of retailers requesting a single grade, they usually favor the
requests of retailers who sell many clothes. However, this tendency is reversed on occasions
when the middleman is stuck with a bale with low quality clothes: he would impose these on
his favorite retailers, hoping to take advantage of their superior selling abilities. Retailers, who
have been loyal to the middleman by selling large quantities, feel cheated by such treatment.
The use of their high bargaining skills in protest against the middleman adds to the
Retailers, not content with the situation, could resort to other activities during the day that
they have received such a share of clothes. To top it off, they would demand the middleman
provided financial assistance at close of day. The middleman ends up with a double loss as he
would never recover the cost of the bale, giving out money to retailers for days on end. The
difficulty for the middleman is that he is unable to judge whether the retailer is just lazy or if he
is trying hard in vain. The conflict between the middleman and retailers culminates as the
retailers run away, the frequency of such events being quite high. During the period of my own
research, no fewer than eleven out of nineteen retailers transacting with a particular middleman
ran away, the latter suffering a reported loss of TSH 1,500,000 (approximately US$ 1,600).
Almost all middlemen interviewed in my research stated that they had experienced retailers
running away with their credit. In the end, though, they tend to forgive the retailers because
they cannot do without them. Most middlemen seem to foresee such outcomes when they
engage in Mali Kauli transactions because it is the retailers who have the real bargaining power
in this form of transaction. The interesting thing is that as many as ten of the eleven retailers

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

32 I Ogawa

that ran away from the middleman eventually returned to him to begin Mali Kauli transactions
again. To understand why this happens, it is necessary to probe the social relations that
underlie these transactions.


According to my interviews with twenty six middlemen, it emerged that they prefer the
Mali Kauli credit transaction because they are tired of giving small change or gifts to retailers.
Such a gift is not considered credit and therefore is money gone. Because the middlemen are
perceived as being rich, and thus privileged, they are expected to share some of their income
with their poorer fellows. My interviews with ninety two retailers tended to confirm this. They
looked at middlemen as lucky people who managed to build their wealth because they were the
first to enter the trade and thus were able to monopolize it. As Hart points out the common
view of the successful entrepreneur in Africa is that he has made it at the expense of others, not
because of his individual effort.17 When retailers enter into a Mali Kauli transaction, therefore,
they tend to see the middleman as having an obligation to assist them.
This arrangement resembles the culture of reciprocity that Hyden discusses with reference
to rural Tanzania in his book about the economy of affection.18 In his case, the investments
people make in reciprocal relations tend to be based on kinship, religion or village community.
As other studies have shown, however, the economy of affection is not merely a rural
phenomenon, especially in the case of informal economy.19
My study in Mwanza confirms the existence of these reciprocal norms as the basis of what
may be best described as pseudo-kinship relations. Even though middlemen serve as patrons,
their relationship with the retailers is not hierarchical. Middlemen often emphasize that their
relationship with retailers is one of friendship, using jokes to cement this informal type of
relationship. They do not want to come across as being rich by using a taxi or wearing
expensive clothes. They sometimes share a single room with retailers in one of the slum areas of
town. There is an urban fellowship among these people that is not primarily based on ethnicity
but on the informal economic transaction that they call Mali Kauli.
This becomes evident when I compare the situation in 1992 (reconstructed from interviews)
with what I have observed directly in 2002. In 1992, kinship and village origin as well as
ethnicity was a much more prominent basis for economic transactions: no less than forty one
out of ninety one relationships were based on kinship and village origin with as many as sixty
two out of ninety one being based on ethnic origin. In 2002, in contrast, 163 out of 207
relationships studied were based on newly created urban relationships. Only twenty nine were
built on kinship or village origin and thirty eight on ethnic origin.
This is in part a reflection of the extensive urban migration that has taken place in recent
years, but it is also a testimony to how people in urban areas reinvent informal relationships to
serve the basic principle of reciprocity. Middlemen are not choosing retailers any longer
because they are from the same village or ethnic group. Many also say that they actually wish to
avoid transacting with relatives and people of the same ethnic background.
This seems to go against conventional wisdom that suggests that middlemen would prefer
relatives and others whom they can trace in case of default of payment. This principle may still

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

"Earning among Friends" I 33

be important in many urban contexts, but my study of the informal economic relations in
Mwanza shows that middlemen choose a retailer based on whether or not he is a Mjanja.20 A
Mjanja is a person with Ujanja. The original meaning of Ujanja is defined in Swahili as 'cunning'
or 'slyness.' Why would a middleman regard Mjanja, a cunning retailer, as a desirable person
for credit transaction?
Both middlemen and retailers are regarded as Machinga and they also represent themselves
as Machinga. The middlemen state that their business is constantly being criticized and facing
threats. Not only in the period of smuggling but also after economic liberalization, Machinga are
always in danger of being arrested or having to pay bribes.21 In the early 1990s, they carried the
image of being a source of urban crime. Frequent violent protests Machinga against police
roundup did not endear them with the rest of urban residents. Against these public criticisms,
Machinga state that, "the right way has been always closed for us. We have to move like rats. We
need Ujanja to do our business by avoiding criticism, dealing with police, and so on." When
they encounter the police, Ujanja is used as a "weapon of the weak" or "the everyday form of
resistance."22 In addition, Machinga are generally regarded as being of low status because their
business does not need an academic background or any special skill, and their earning usually
is very low. For example, Machinga sometimes are called 'Walala hoi' meaning the people who go
to sleep exhausted.23 They share what may be best described as a survival ethos. They say that
Ujanja is the only skill and knowledge for them to survive urban life, because they lack
education, skills or capital. While the term has negative connotations to others, being a
Machinga is something to be proud of if you are a middleman or retailer in the urban economy.
They have built their fellowship on the idea that a Machinga is a Mjanja; if the person is not
Mjanja, he is not one of them.
The Machinga use Ujanja in their Mali Kauli transactions with middlemen in order to
facilitate business maneuvers while maintaining fellowship ties. According to their own
explanations, they achieve this in three ways: firstly, by choosing between clothes designated
for profit and those that are not; secondly, by changing the retail prices according to customers
(selling items at a higher price to rich customers and at a lower one to poorer customers); and
thirdly, by focusing on the 'psychology' of middlemen instead of a single day's profit.24
Middlemen and retailers, in interacting with each other, engage in relations that are constantly
characterized by ambiguity or uncertainty. Because middlemen cannot judge whether retailers
goof off or not, they have to second-guess them. The latter do not always speak the truth and
they seem to have no regrets about telling lies such as "my child is sick," "the police confiscated
my commodities" and so on. In spite of these uncertainties, the middlemen try to be even. As
one middleman said:
in Mali Kauli transactions, do not blame the retailer even if you find he is lying. Instead, try
to guess why he is doing it. If you find a sign that the retailer has a real problem, you must
accept his lie and help him. If there is no evidence to that effect, don't give him monetary
assistance. You also have to be ready to tell a lie. I know the hardship of sleeping without
eating, but I cannot help someone every time even if I wished to. So, try to become just a friend
'jamaa', not the best friend 'besti' of retailers. If you don't even try to be a friend, they will run
away, but if you are regarded as their closest friend and you cannot help them, they will also

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

34 I Ogawa

run away. Mjanja is the person who can bargain well to keep the balance between being fellows
'wasela' and best friends.25
Negotiating equilibrium in an economic exchange that is embedded in a set of informal
social relationships is a much more difficult proposition than doing so in the conventional
marketplace. Mali Kauli is not just about making economic profit. It is also about serving and
managing social relationships without turning them into a fixed community. Middlemen and
retailers alike need each other against the threats that they face together by government and city
authorities as well as the police. The uncertainty of their business and social existence call for a
form of fellowship that transcends kinship and other parochial boundaries. At the same time,
they are afraid of developing too strong a relation of dependence on each other. In particular,
they are reluctant to let relatives be part of their economic transactions. When they let these
people in, business becomes a charitable activity, as one middleman said. Thus, Mali Kauli has
created a new version of the economy of affection in which it is not blood relationship that
creates fellowship but informal business transactions that require a sense of moral affinity like
that provided by the common usage of Ujanja. This form of transaction sits somewhere in
between a regular business deal and the more exclusive social interactions that characterize
kinship and family bonds.


Middlemen and retailers maintain Mali Kauli transactions despite often-strained relationships.
Their ability to sustain these unstable relationships is explained neither by their interest in profit
alone nor by a traditional social norm. The success rests with their common embrace of Ujanja.
It is the creed of life they deem necessary for survival in the urban environment and building a
sense of fellowship. Ujanja is not only an "everyday form of resistance" of the informal sector
against the power of the state. It is also the knowledge of life required for dealing with the
hardships of urban life and being able to create a life-world over which they have some sense of
control. The Machinga of Mwanza are at one and the same time trying to be independent and a
member of a local community. By being cunning they can maneuver this apparent contradiction
in ways that give them a sense of mastery of their destiny. Reciprocity based on moral
principles is not incongruent with economic rationality. The true Mjanja is neither a selfish
individual, nor a person immersed in tradition. He is an "operator" trying to be both self-reliant
and social at the same time. He, as the rest of the material presented in this article suggests, is
evidence of the flexibility of the economy of affection and its ability to continue to serve as a
meaningful alternative political economy to the hegemony of neo-liberal market transactions.


1. It is the dominant interpretation of the term "Machinga". However some studies point
out that the term is derived from an ethnic group called "Mchinga" that comes from Lindi
and Mtwara Regions, one of the poorest areas in Tanzania. Apparently most people
engaged in street trade in the aftermath of economic liberalization in Dar es Salaam in
the late 1980s were from those two regions (Liviga, 1998).
2. Ngware, 2000, p. 9.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

"Earning among Friends" I 35

3. Hyden defines the "economy of affection" as a broader analytical concept than the
"moral economy" discussed by James Scott (1976). According to his definition, the
economy of affection is more generally referring to other types of informal institutions
including the vertical relations, that typically are not included in the notion of a moral
economy (Hyden, 2004 p.7).
4. Macharia(1997); Olomi(1996); Williams (1987); Tripp(1997); Tripp and Swantz (1997).
5. Marris and Somerset (1971); Bienefeld (1975); Hart (1975).
6. Hyden (1983) suggests that the economy of affection prevented modern capitalistic
development in Tanzania. His argument is similar to that of Evers (1994) who argued
that traders in the peasant society of Asia find themselves caught between choosing the
fair price associated with local moral norms, on the one hand, and the market price, on
the other. If they wish to solve the dilemma, they have four options: 1) immigrate out of
their society, 2) join an ethnic or religious group, 3) accumulate cultural capital or 4)
depersonalize the economic relationship.
7. Ueda, (1996), pp.16-17.
8. Sayer, (2000), p.2.
9. Economic and Social Research Foundation, 2000.
10. See Hansen, (2000 and 2002) for detail of this process. Hansen revealed the
comprehensive distribution chain of second-hand-clothes from Western countries to
Zambia (Hansen, 2002).
11. Most small-scale traders eat at Mama ntilie "women who sell prepared food on the
street". Based on the observation that this trader always ate at the same place and took
same bus, his minimum cost of living was estimated at Tsh.1,580 per day: Tsh.180 for
breakfast, Tsh.1,000 for lunch and dinner at Mama ntilie, and Tsh. 400 for the round trip
fare of the city bus. This estimate is roughly supported by the trader's remarks-he was
constantly complaining that he needed at least Tsh.1,500 to get through the day.
12. The ujamaa socialism of Tanzania entailed extensive state social and economic
intervention, including nationalization of many foreign-owned enterprises, creation of a
state import and wholesale trading monopoly, attempts to accelerate industrialization
through the creation of new state productive enterprise (Gibbon, 1995, plo). Tanzanians
bought the commodities from parastatal institutions such as State Trading Corporation,
Regional Trading Corporations and cooperative Ujamaa shops at that time.
13. Dar es Salaam City Council, 1997.
14. Mwanza Municipal Council, 1998.
15. Tanzania Revenue Authority, 2000.
16. According to my interview with wholesalers, for example, the cost of a bale of shirts had
been maintained at Tsh.20,000 from 1986 to1997, but it has risen to Tsh.80,000 in 1999.
17. Hart, 1975, p.1, 5.
18. Hyden,1980.
19. Williams (1987); Tripp(1997); Tripp and Swantz (1997); Ogawa (1999). Tripp argued that
the economic activities of female urban informal sector in Tanzania have characteristics
of moral economy, that is not pure moral economy originated in rural society, rather it
has been created in urban situation demands (Tripp, 1997, p127).

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

36 I Ogawa

20. A great deal of African urban studies argued that urban migrants tend to make closed
groups according to kinship, village of origin and ethnic affiliation. We can trace the
urban studies insisting the significance of rural ties back to the 1960s(e.g. Epstein, 1969;
Mitchell, 1969). Several studies of urban informal economy argued that such group
memberships function to establish their economic activities (e.g. O'Connor, 1983;
Macharia, 1997). Macharia, however, argued that while ethnicity often give the basis for
trust and consideration to credit, some ethnic groups are jealous and envious of each
other's success and may never pay back a credit to run down the business of their co-
ethnic, therefore, such ethnic groups would rather give the credit to people from other
ethnic groups than their co-ethnic (Macharia, 1997, p.137).
21. According to my interview with the official in charge of markets in Mwanza City
Council, the reasons why the police arrested Machinga are that (1) they reduce the
businesses of formal shop-owners who pay taxes and license fees, (2) they block
pedestrian and vehicle traffic by overcrowding and (3) they destroy the environment of
the city.
22. These terms were created by Scott (1985). Tripp has shown how every day forms of
resistance of urban dwellers exist in Tanzania. She insists that the massive scale on
which Tanzanians engaged in informal economic activities cannot only be explained by
saying that people 'withdrew' from the state. Tanzanians did much more by creating
new resources, networks and thus transformed society. Their collective struggle to
survive challenged the government to recognize these transformations (1997, pp. 201-
202). Matsuda has argued that the attitude of urban dwellers in Kenya such as idleness
and feigning ignorance can be regarded as "soft resistance" against repressive state
power (Matsuda, 1999).
23. Rames (1993) p.xix).
24. Commonly expressed as 'saikolojia' (psychology), or 'mawazo' ('worries', often used as
the speaker holds his head in his hands).
25. The term Wasela is derived from the English word "sailor." A common explanation for the
etymology: "We sail the troubled sea of urban life in search for money."


Bienefeld, M. "The Informal Sector and Peripheral Capitalism: The Case of Tanzania." In IDA
Bulletin vol.6, no.3 (Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, 1975), pp.53-73.

Dar es Salaam City Council, Mwongozo Kwa Wafanyabiashara Ndogo Ndogo, Dar es Salaam, 1997.

Economic and Social Research Foundation, The 2002/3 Tanzania Participatory Poverty Assessment,
(Dar es Salaam: The United Republic of Tanzania, President's Office-Planning and Privatization,

Epstein, A. L. Urbanization and Kinship: The Domestic Domain on the Copperbelt of Zambia,
Academy Press, 1981.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

"Earning among Friends" I 37

Evers, H. "The Trader's Dilemma: A Theory of the Social Transformation of Markets and
Society." In The Moral Economy of Trade, Evers,H & H. Schrader eds. (London: Routledge, 1993),

Gibbon, P. "Merchantisation of Production and Privatisation of Development in Post-Ujamaa
Tanzania: An Introduction." In Liberalised Development in Tanzania, ed. Gibbon,P. (Uppsale:
Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1995), pp.9-36.

Hansen, K.T. Salaula: The World of Second Hand Clothing and Zambia, Chicago and London:
University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Hansen, K.T. "Commodity Chains and International Second Hand Clothing Trade; Salaula:
Salaula and the Work of Consumption in Zambia." In Theory in Economic Anthropology,
Ensmiger, J. ed. (Lanham: Altamira Press, 2002), pp.221-236.

Hart, K. "Swindler or Public Benefactor?: The Entrepreneur In His Community" In Changing
Social Structure in Ghana, ed. Goody. (International African Institute, 1975), pp.1-35.

Hyden, G. Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry, Berkeley
and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980.

Hyden, G. No Shortcuts to Progress: African Development Management in Perspective, London:
Heineman, 1983.

Hyden, G. "La crise africaine et la paysannerie non capture." Politutue Africaine, No.18, 1985,

Hyden, G. "Informal Institutions, Economy of Affection, and Rural Development in Africa." In
Tanzanian Journal of Population Studies and Development: Special Issue African Economy of Affection,
vol.11, no.2, Magimbi, S. Ed al. (Dar es Salaam: Demographic Training Unit, University of Dar es
Salaam, 2004), pp.1-20.

Liviga, J. & D.K. Mekacha, "Youth Migration and Poverty Alleviation: A Case Study of Petty
Traders Wamachinga in Dar es Salaam." In Research on Poverty Alleviation, Research Report No.
98, Dar es Salaam, 1998.

Macharia, K. Social and Political Dynamics of the Informal Economy in African Cities, New York:
University Press of America, 1997.

Marris. P. & A. Somerset, African Businessmen: A study of Entrepreneurship and Development in
Kenya, London: Routlege & Kegan Paul, 1971.

Matsuda, M. The City of Resistance, Tokyo: Iwanami-Shoten, 1999 (In Japanese).

Mitchell, J. C. Social Networks in Urban Situations, Manchester; Manchester, 1969.

Mwanza Municipal Council, Environmental Profile of Mwanza Municipality, Mwanza: Danida,
Kampsax International A/S, 1998.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

38 I Ogawa

Ngware, S. "The Status of Urban Research Policies in Tanzania." In Urbanizing Tanzania Issues,
ed. S. Ngware & J.M. Kironde (Dar es Salaam, Initiatives and Priorities, 2000), pp.7-20.

O'Conner, A. M. The African City, London: Hutchinson University Library, 1983.

Olomi, D. R. "Entrepreneur Characteristic and Small Firm Perfomance: Knowledge Gaps and
Priority Research Issues." In African Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development, ed.
Rutashobya, L. K. & D.R Olomi (Dar es Salaam, DUP LTD, 1996), pp. 265-282.

Ogawa, R. The National Monograph as Possibilities: People and religions in the modern African State,
Tokyo; Sekaishiso-sha, 1998 (In Japanese).

Rames, P. Karibu Geto Langu/ Welcome to my Ghetto-Urban Youth, Popular Culture and Language in
1990's, UMI Dissertation Servies, 1998.

Sayer, A. "Equality and Moral Economy." Paper presented to the Equality Studies Centre 10th
Anniversary Conference, University College Dublin, December 2000.

Scott, J. The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia, New Haven
and London: Yale University Press, 1976.

Scott, J. Weapon of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 1985.

Tanzania Revenue Authority, Value Added Tax (VAT): Tax Payer's Guide Complied Vat Puilic
Notices, Dar es Salaam, 2000.

Tripp, A. M. Changing the Rules: the Politics of Liberalization and Urban Informal Economy in
Tanzania, London; University of California Press, 1997.

Tripp, A. M & M. Swantz. What went right in Tanzania: People's Response to Directed Development,
Dar es Salaam: Dar es Salaam University Press, 1997.

Ueda, G. The Trend of the Informal Sector Studies" In The Trend of Informal Sector Studies in
African Countries, ed. Ikeno, J. (Tokyo: Institute of Developing Economy, JETRO, 1996), pp.1-20
(In Japanese).

Williams, G. "Primitive Accumulation: The Way to Progress?" In Development and Change, Vol.
18, 1981, pp.637-659.

Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article: Sayaka
Ogawa. "'Earning among Friends': Business Practices and Creed among Petty Traders in
Tanzania." African Studies Quarterly 9, no.1 & 2: [online] URL:

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issues 1 & 2 I Fall 2006

From Beer to Money: Labor Exchange and Commercialization in

Eastern Uganda


Abstract: This paper discusses how labor exchange and social ties among the Sabiny in
eastern Uganda have changed with increased commercialization in the area. It explains
the rationale for the original "beer party system" and how labor exchanges associated
with this system have been transformed in the light of social change affecting the area. It
also examines the new forms of social interaction and how they compare with the
original beer party arrangements. It concludes by arguing that although the market
economy has penetrated the area and the life of the Sabiny has changed in many
important respects, the short-term interactions in the market have not obliterated the
longer-term commitments to indigenous cultural values and vice versa. This continues to
be important for the rural inhabitants of this part of Uganda.

The aim of this article is to discuss the dynamics of the social relationships among African
peasantries through describing the changing process of labor exchange and social relations.
Labor exchange as a source of social safety and good neighborliness in village life has been one
of major topics in the study of 'moral economy' or 'economy of affection' of peasant societies.
Peasants in rural Africa pool their labor when they need intensive work on their fields such as
clearing, weeding, and harvesting. They gather people not only from their own family or kin-
group but from their neighbors too. Such kinds of co-operative labor often take the form of
'exchange labor' based on various degree of reciprocity and this co-operation lays the
foundation for their sense of neighborliness.' In many cases, as among the Sabiny of eastern
Uganda the focus of this article it is common practice to boost this spirit of cooperation
among workers by sharing meals and especially drinking beer after they have finished.2
Thus, as other ethnographical studies describe, locally brewed beer epitomizes the
symbolic medium of social ties among many peasant societies in rural Africa. For example, in
his study of the Iteso of Uganda, Karp describes how people drink beer together at various
occasions of their social life such as rituals and mere gatherings.3 Among the Iteso, he says, beer
is a symbol of diffuse solidarity. The Iteso have a saying that neighbors are 'people with whom
one shares beer' and 'the primary source of labor supply for large-scale tasks'. As in the case of
the Iteso, many other African peasant societies combine labor exchanges with social events like
the beer party. There are two aspects of the beer party system that are important here. First,
people reinforce and renew their we-feeling by drinking together at the beer party, and second,
people exchange their labor by the medium of beer.

Soichiro Shiraishi is a Ph.D. student at the Center for Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University.

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

40 I Shiraishi

In recent years, however, quite a few studies point out that farm labor tends to become
more individualist and 'traditional' social networks based on long term reciprocity like 'beer
party system' have declined the role as channels of access to labor.4 According to Ponte, after the
liberalization of economic markets and commercialization of rural life in Tanzania, people
utilize hired labor based on short-term contracts instead of relying on indigenous social
networks like the beer party.5
Like Ponte's study, most other studies begin from the premise that as the market economy
penetrates rural Africa, channels of access to labor are disembedded from social context and
individuated. This is a parallel to the classical view of modernization in the social sciences. For
instance, Simmel says that personal face-to-face relationships decline and become anonymous
once money mediates between people.6 As Parry and Bloch summarize, that kind of view treats
money as promoter of individualism and devastator of community solidarity.7 In Sabiny
society, there is a tendency for the beer party system to decline while other forms of labor
exchange and wage labor are becoming more common.
In this article I will describe the changes of labor co-operation in the research area and
examine how far the mainstream theory about the impact of economic liberalization of labor
holds.8 I begin by introducing the socio-economic background of the area. I then proceed to
discuss the 'beer party system' and the reasons for its decline. In the third section of the article, I
analyze present labor exchange patterns and how they have evolved since colonial days. Lastly,
I will discuss the significant points about the changes of social relationships in the area.


The Sabiny are a Southern-Nilotic people living on the north slope of Mt. Elgon in Eastern
Uganda and the population is about 110,000. They have their patrilineal, exogamous aret (clan)
system and a practice of virilocal residence. The research area is M Village, with a population of
360 divided into 57 households. People live on the terrace of the mountain. They grow maize,
bananas, beans and other crops for family consumption and sale in the market.
Until the first half of 20th century, Sabiny people were primarily agro-pastoralists, keeping
cattle and goats, and growing crops like sorghum, millet and yam for family consumption.
Many elders say the landscape of the area at that time was covered by bush and most of the
land was uncultivated, used for grazing their livestock. They also brewed beer from their
harvest and had beer parties. In the research area, people introduced ox-plow and maize
around 1950. Maize cultivation emerged gradually afterwards. In the last decades of the 20th
century they began to grow hybrid maize and nowadays the landscape is covered by fields of
maize and bananas. In recent years, maize has become the main crop. Sixty percent of the
households sell their maize in 100 kilo bags. Since the Ugandan government began encouraging
production of maize as a non-traditional commercial crop, the national production rose sharply
after 1990.9 Today, my research area is one of the main producing centers in eastern Uganda.
Weeding the maize fields is a labor-intensive task done by women. During the rainy season
they must weed their fields twice. When I did my fieldwork in 2002, I interviewed women
about this work and sometimes participated in some of the weeding while doing my interviews.
I gathered a good deal of my information about past and present practices from these

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

From Beer to Money I 41

interviews as well as with their husbands and other male residents in the area. Festive
gatherings were often good occasions for getting information. I was often invited as a guest and
those present requested to be photographed. It turned out that these gatherings were often
organized by women's credit and savings associations. They are very popular in the area today
and, according to elders, were not practiced several decades ago there were beer parties as
major festive gatherings in the community.


Moyket: the 'beer party system' in the colonial era

Labor exchange based on the 'beer party system' was very popular among the Sabiny in the
colonial era. People call it moyket, or isyeet ak komek (literally: work of beer). As late as the 1960,
moyket was the basic means of recruiting workers for major tasks, and beer parties were the
regular social gathering of the community. When a married woman wanted to organize moyket,
she brewed local beer called komek. Neighbors witnessing it would ask her for the date of work,
and through the word of mouth they would come on the day proposed by the woman. People
would work from morning to early afternoon. Around 2 pm, workers would return to their
homes, clean up, change their clothes, and gather again for beer.10
In this moyket system, there are two types of reciprocal exchanges. First, in the short term,
there is the exchange of one-day labor for beer. Second, hosts and workers take their turns
during the season so, at least in theory, in the long term the labor exchange through the
medium of beer involves every household in the community. Since every woman will be host
and guest, this system reinforces the mutual obligations among women." Borrowing
Goldschmidt's words, this moyket system socializes women's labor.12 In the years when it was
widely practiced, sharing works meant sharing a pot of beer, and people enjoyed that occasion.
Moyket was not just a way of saving labor or filling a gap in the family labor. It also rendered
work less irksome.
This form of labor exchange reinforced generalized reciprocity among the villagers.
Moreover, after work, they would talk about anything; sometimes gossip or quarrel, and inform
each other of news in the area while they were drinking together. The woman whose field they
have worked on served beer in a pot, from which 10-20 participants would drink using a long
tube. The 'beer party' after moyket work was always a festive event to which sometimes guests
who did not participate in the work during the day, called bendyo (literally: meat) would be
invited. Goldschmidt reports that there were 30 such guests out of 295 workers in beer parties
he observed.13 However, there was some restriction too. Firstly, the host would control the
number of guests per pot. Secondly, people at the beer party could not welcome a person who is
regarded as sorcerer or just selfish sokoronet. Such rules of the beer party helped sustain a form
of loosely generalized reciprocity.
During the colonial era there was another form of labor exchange, formed by three to five
women, called yemdoy. There was also a co-operative labor arrangement called kworishet which
used a special meal of sour milk and goat meat or chicken instead of beer. In rare cases, there
was ad-hoc hired labor in which workers were paid by cash or in kind (usually crops). Older
women among my respondents said that yemdoy and kworishet were the ways young wives

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

42 I Shiraishi

gathered unmarried youth of the same age, mostly for small-scale works. But neither system
would attract large numbers to participate. Regarding ad-hoc hired labor, they explained to me
that it would happen when they hired a few Gisu (a neighboring ethnic group) migrant laborers
who lived nearby. 14 An old women told me with laughter, 'you do not know how we were in
those years. We can neither eat nor drink money! Who could do anything for it?' What she and
others emphasized is that, although other ways were there, they put significance on moyket as
social events.

The decline of moyket

Moyket began to decline for two reasons. One is spread of religions like Islam and
Pentecostalism, a second is the commercialization of agriculture.
In 1970s a segment of the population began converting to Islam. Later, in the late 1980s,
people began joining the Pentecostal Church. Those who joined Islam or the Pentecostal Church
declined to drink alcohol and refused to attend beer parties. In 1980s, Muslims used to organize
their weeding work by kworishet, preparing a special meal such as sour milk, chicken,
sometimes goat meat instead of beer. In the earlier years, neighbors did not welcome them
because refusing to attend the beer party was the same thing as refusing neighbors. But by the
1990s, Muslims and Pentecostals had become the majority. People drinking alcohol had been
reduced to approximately twenty per cent of the population. This minority was now being
called 'piko ak komek (literally: 'people of beer').
For a long time, brewing was almost the only way to sell maize. Since maize became a cash
crop for sale in the market, most women have abandoned beer brewing. Only older women
continue the practice today. Those who still do it do so because it gives them an income. Most
sell their beer as wholesalers to the kurabut (club) or a bar in a neighboring village while some
confine their sales on a retail basis at their own compound. Kurabut is the beer party of the
savings and credit association.
The result is that the practice of drinking beer has changed in two important respects. First
of all, it is less common today because religion has marginalized it. Only elders who drink
really organize moyket today. In 2002, not a single woman organized moyket for the purpose of
weeding her field. At the same time, the savings and credit association had become a new
venue for socializing and drinking beer. For those still drinking, its club (kurabut) was taking the
place of the old beer party.


Two types of weeding labor

There are particular divisions of labor by sex in the area. For example, men do plowing
work with oxen.15 Weeding work belongs to women and married men never participate in it.
Married women basically depend on the labor of their own children and less often on their
mother or unmarried younger sisters. I call this family labor. Apart from family labor, there are
two ways women organize neighbors for weeding labor of their field. One is a form of labor
exchange calledfakiyet, the other is hired labor called kondaras.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

From Beer to Money I 43

Fakiyet is a rotational group exchange of labor. Some people explained that the term fakiyet'
comes from the Swahilli word '(ku)fagia', meaning 'sweep up'. Each fakiyet group has its fixed
members for the season, varying in size between three and twenty five workers bigger than
yemdoy and smaller than moyket of past years. Members of the same fakiyet exchange the same
amount of weeding work by measuring stints per worker, and they work in each field by
rotation. Reciprocity in this labor exchange is rigidly balanced. Unlike moyket, there is no
partaking of beer or special meal after work. Only sometimes do they take lunch together.
Kondaras, etymologically derived from the English word 'contract', is ad-hoc hired labor.
There are no seasonal wageworkers from outside the area, so the all hired workers are women
or unmarried youth from the local community. There is also no partake of beer or any meal
after work. According to the kondaras system, workers weed some stints at their own discretion.
After finishing their stints they take their wage and leave. Old women commented that this
kondaras is the best way of bringing a number of workers together as moyket was, and they
usually added, 'if one had money.' The stints of fakiyet and kondaras are called mutagara. The
husband or grown-up son of the woman usually measures the mutagara in paces before
weeding work. The size of one mutagara is six times twelve paces. Payment for kondaras is 300
Ugandan shillings (about 17 cents) per mutagara.16

Network of labor transactions

I studied the arrangements for weeding labor among all married women in M village. They
were sixty five in total; only three of them didn't have access to their own maize field. Table 1
shows that how women weeded their fields in 2002. Whereas twenty six women depended only
on their own family labor, thirty three out of sixty two women utilized labor from outside the
family for weeding their fields. They organized their weeding work either byfakiyet or kondaras,
or by a combination of both. Many also went to someone's field for weeding to be hired as
kondaras, wage labor.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

44 I Shiraishi

Table 1 : Type of labor on each fields (2002)

type of labor number of fields

kondaras 15

fakiyet 14 33

fakiyet + kondaras 4

moyket 0

family labour 26

no weeding 1

no data 2

Total 62

*except for 3 married women who do not have maize field

Women who earn their own income tend to organize kondaras labor for weeding their
fields. Fiffteen women organized kondaras labor in 2002. Table 2 shows their sources of wage
payment for kondaras workers. Five women with banana fields are especially well placed
because harvesting bananas is something that women do. They can sell bananas any time they
wish. Another five women have their own petty businesses. They trade charcoal from other
villages to town, sell homemade sour milk or locally brewed beer within the area. Some also sell
other seasonal crops like sweet potatoes or tomatoes that they grow in their small vegetable
gardens. But not all married women have chances to join these businesses. There are many
others who do not have enough banana fields or kitchen gardens to sell crops. Some women
complained that they do not know how to make sour milk well; some do not have their
donkeys to carry charcoal. Another five women were helped by their husbands or sons because
they were sick or had recently given birth to a child or merely refuse to weed. Husbands or
sons in these cases are shop owners in the village or work for a local NGO.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

From Beer to Money I 45

Table 2 Sources of wage for contract labor (2002)

(number of women)

(A) Sell bananas 5

(B) Petty 'business' 5

(C) Husband/son pays 5

Total 15

(A) Women who have 0.5 1 acre ofbanana fields.

(B) Brewing and selling beer to the bar, selling sour milk, and
trading charcoal.

(C) Due to sickness, childbirth, and refusal to weed. In any case,
a woman's husband or son had some regular income.

Kondaras and fakiyet are intertwined. The former is the way to access labor and to earn a
wage. People in the area who do not own their business are ready to be hired as kondaras labor
on the fields. Sometimes the owner of a field informs or asks neighbors in advance, at other
times people who like to be hired as contract laborers come to the filed to be recruited because
they have heard from someone else that the opportunity exists. In the busy farming season
young women can be seen roaming the area in search of kondaras work. Some of them come as a
fakiyet group and convert their group labor to work kondaras.
An example of how women divertfakiyet to kondaras labor may be instructive. Suppose
three women A, B, and C make up the fakiyet group. They fix their stint by mutagara, for
instance, each worker agreeing to weed one mutagara per day. Each woman's field is of different
acreage. For example, the field of A is equal to 5 mutagara, B's equals 8 mutagara, and C's equals
12 mutagara. In a first round, they weed each other's field. In a second round, A finishes her
weeding with her own family labor because only a small portion is left to weed on her plot. A
now exchanges her fakiyet labor for a wage labor contract on someone else's field in the area. She
takes B and C to this field where the holder organizes weeding work by kondaras, and is allowed
to get not only her own but also the wages of B and C. This means that A can get 900 Ugandan
shillings because the stint of theirfakiyet group is 1 mutagara per head and payment of kondaras
weeding is 300 Uganda Shillings per mutagara. Afterwards, the three women weed the fields of

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

46 I Shiraishi

B and C. B and C will also divert fakiyet labor for a contract after a third round, the same was as
A did in the second round.
Table 3 shows the actual process of fakiyet and kondaras are intertwined. The field of C is
larger than that of A and B. After the first round, both A and B diverted theirfakiyet labor into
kondaras and got 7,200 Uganda Shillings in total.

Table 3 Case: Diverting 'fakiyet' into 'kondaras'

Turn of Weeding for A/B/C Payment
fakiyet or kondaras for someone of kondaras

1st B B
C C 1st

A kondaras 3,600U.Sh. for A weeding
2nd B kondaras 3,600U.Sh. for B season
C C -
3rd B B -
A kondaras 3,600U.Sh. for A weeding
4th B kondaras 3,600U.Sh. for B season

Thus, women can organize their weeding work in three ways: (a) their own family labor,
(b) exchange labor (fakiyet), and (c) wage labor (kondaras). These three ways complement each
other. Women have several channels of access to labor for their own fields, and also have
channels of access to wage labor.
My point is that although the 'beer party system' has declined and hired labor has become
the main way of access to labor, it is still embedded in the local context. Work arrangements
among women are nested in other daily social interactions. Women help each other in their
respective businesses, they participate in the same religious services and they engage in
conversations as they fetch water, wash clothes or just chat in their compounds. In short, there
are many different ways by which they can retain social ties among themselves. Perhaps no
other venue, however, in recent times has become more important than the rotating savings and
credit association. As Hyden notes, this form of association is one of the most common informal
institutions in both rural and urban Africa. Its role among the Sabiny women deserves more

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

From Beer to Money I 47



Many married women in the area have been eager to join a rotating savings and credit
association. Table 4 shows the type, size and activities of such associations in 2002. These
associations are the place for regular social gathering among people just as the beer party was

Table 4 Type, size and activity of the credit associations

Type of number of Activity
associations members

'gruup ut'

Pool deposits every week,
pay dividends (mostly gifts)
once in 3 weeks.

Pool deposits twice a month, pay
'paatyit' C 21 dividends (gifts) once a month.


pUarty) Pool deposits every week, pay
D 12 dividends (money) once in 3 weeks.
Pool deposits every week, pay
Wurahut' E 13 dividends (money) once in 3 weeks.


Pool deposits every week, pay
dividends (gifts) once in 3 weeks.

Each association has its fixed members. Members of each association come from both M
village and other neighboring villages. People classify these associations to three types: (a)
gruuput (corruption of the English word 'group'), (b) paatyit ('party'), and (c) kurabut ('club').
Each association meets once a week and pools deposits. Each member gets to take saved
deposits in the form of gift or a lump sum of money on a rotational basis. It takes more than two
years for large associations to give a gift or money to all its members while it takes seven
months for the smaller associations to do so.
Three associations have their own name: 'Gas Tai Women's Group', 'Gas Tai Mixed Group'
and 'M Village Women's Party'. The words gas tai mean 'looking forward' and have a

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

48 I Shiraishi

'development' connotation. Another characteristic of these larger associations is that they give
dividend by gifts, not by cash. Among the biggest two gruuput ('group' type of associations)',
gifts of dividend are usually construction items like roofing materials and timber, blankets, bed
mattresses, etc.18 Traditional thatched roof round houses are still common in the area but
tinned-roof square houses have become much more common. Before the 1990s, only a small
number of villagers had built tinned-roof houses. Such houses are one of the barometers of
good living. Before, only a few people with a regular wage income like policemen, soldiers or
watchmen and some rich men who were able to sell their coffee or cattle, could afford to build
them. Gruuput is popular among villagers because it enables them to build new modern houses
like their better-off neighbors already have.
These associations have a chairperson, secretary, and bookkeeper just like the Local
Council under the decentralization policy of the current Ugandan Government. Some members
request to receive their dividend by cash. In such a case, the person must justify why she needs
that amount (use of that amount) and members would give approval. Reasons are, for example,
to pay a family member as patient at the hospital, or school fees of a son in secondary school. As
far as I could gather, in the smaller paatyit or kurabut types of associations that give their
dividend by cash, recipient must also declare for what purpose the money will be used.
I analyzed how these associations relate tofakiyet labor groups. There were six fakiyet
groups for weeding in M village in 2002. Four are sub-groups of different saving associations to
which they belong, which means each member of afakiyet group also finds fellow members in
the meetings of the savings and credit association. In these meetings, members not only make
their deposits but also talk about problems each member faces. In addition, they often report the
weeding condition in their fields and call on members to join their weedingfakiyet group at
those meetings.
In short, the savings and credit association has become a venue for conducting a range of
different activities. Membership also tends to have the effect of ensuring priority to such
income-earning opportunities as kondaras. A woman belonging to a paatyit type of association
(D in Table 4) is a case in point. Although nine other women in the same association formed a
fakiyet group in 2002, the woman was too busy to join because she had her own charcoal trading
business. She has to walk to a village at the foot of the mountain with her donkeys and buy
charcoal by the sack and then proceed to town to sell her bags the next day. She hired those nine
members of the same association for weeding her field. Among those nine, three of them
converted fakiyet group labor to kondaras and each of them got 5,400 Uganda Shillings.
According to the woman, there was a kind of agreement that when a member would organize
kondaras for weeding, she should hire the members of the same association. For some members,
the deposit of 3,000 Uganda Shillings once every three weeks is not easy to manage because
they do not have a business of their own or sufficient sources of income. The agreement to hire
members of the same savings and credit association is aimed at helping those who are poor.
Because members can infer the economic condition of each other, and furthermore, any person
can tell just by looking which woman has a daily income from some business, members who do
not have enough income for deposit can legitimately approach those who have income to hire
them for money.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

From Beer to Money I 49

Membership of a particular association reflects daily relationships and also social category.
People are keen to explain what kind of persons belongs to what kind of association. Members
of the two biggest gruuput type of associations are supporters of different local politicians. There
are two opposing candidates for Member of Parliament from the district and the supporters of
each candidate formed two associations in 2001.19 The paatyit type is the most common in the
area. Members of this type are only women. They usually have a chat over milk tea while
meeting and their meeting is brief compared with that of other types of associations. Members
of the kurabut type are all drinkers. They are the successor of the beer party today, however they
rarely organize moyket.
In sum, people put a certain label on each type of association. For example, members of
gruuput are 'people who like talking politics', members of kurabut are 'drunk', 'dirty' or 'immoral'
etc. Thus these classifications between associations imply some nuance of social segments in
their society though not every co-operative relationship in daily life reflects these segments.


Is farm labor in rural Africa becoming more contractual as Ponte insists? He argues that
with commercialization of rural life, the social negotiation over access to resources such as land,
labor becomes contractual.20 Thus, according to him, in respect to farm labor, people tend to
choose short-term labor exchange rather than a long-term 'beer party system', and furthermore
are likely to choose ad-hoc contract labor instead of labor exchange.
I basically agree with his analysis, because in the research area most women choose fakiyet
or kondaras rather than moyket. Women, however, combinefakiyet and kondaras, and make
complex networks of labor transactions. Furthermore, the solidarity of savings and credit
associations is also connected to networks of labor transaction. That is, festive gatherings like
beer party and labor exchanges are seemingly separated, but they are in fact linked to a certain
degree. To be sure, today's network is different from the 'traditional' one that sustains and
reinforces their social order. At the same time, this network is not a mere collection of ad-hoc
dyadic transactions as a perfect contract society would be.
The difference between Ponte's and my conclusions stems at least in part from our choice
of research location.21 In his research area, many seasonal laborers came from neighboring
ethnic groups and were hired temporarily during the farming season. In my research area, by
contrast, women keep their networks of labor transactions partly because there are almost no
seasonal laborers from outside the area. Even if there were such seasonal laborers, however, it is
unlikely that the current networks would disappear because they are grounded in their long-
term transactions.
Ponte also argues that farm labor increases inequality. As contractualization of farm labor
progresses, people who have access to off-farm income can easily afford to hire labor. At the
same time, women who do not have enough access to off-farm income hardly hire farm labor
for their fields. My research shows that the situation is more complex and varied. Even if a
woman does not have an income from off-farm business for organizing kondaras and her own
family labor is not enough, she can joinfakiyet. Furthermore, a woman can join kondaras as a
hired labor at any time in a busy farming season.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

50 I Shiraishi

Women embrace the idea of reciprocal help for other members of the samefakiyet or
association. When a woman joins fakiyet, she can divert group labor to kondaras for her income.
As long as she belongs to an association, she can report her hardships in the meetings of the
association. Members will assess whether she should get income from the funded deposit. As
suggested above, a member who has her own off-farm income is expected to help other
Summing up, I would say that my work indicates that the penetration of the market
economy does not transform peasant society to the same extent that Ponte argues. Nor does my
work confirm the point that Parry and Bloch make that social relations based on long-term
transactions are so deeply embedded in culture that they subordinate all short-term
transactions. Instead, I conclude that the activity of associations links both long-term and short-
term transactions thereby sustaining ties among members while also generating new social
orders. This is evident in my research area in the way savings and credit associations
popularized the tinned-roof houses and changed the meaning of it from the symbol of rich man
to symbol of solidarity. These associations also created new forms of associational life that are
based not just on kinship or neighborliness. My study, therefore, shows the creativity or vitality
of short-term transactions. They have the potential of changing long-term transactions and even
the social order itself. This unending competition between short-term and long-term
transactions explains the real dynamics of transformation of the peasant economy.


1. See Moore (1975) and Swindell (1985): Chap.5, although they distinguish small scale
labor exchange between individual from festive labor. On festive labor such as beer
party system, they summarize reciprocity was comparatively weak. Also McAllister
reviews, 'festive work parties have been thought to involve net transfers of labor to
wealthier households, while exchange labor has been associated with relatively equal
economic status among households (McAllister 2004, 101p)'. I am preparing another
paper about this issue. See endnote xi of this paper too.
2. Co-operative labor with festive consuming of beer were mentioned in many
ethnographic studies in Central, East and South Africa, for example, see Bruce (2000),
Gulliver (1971), Heald (1998): chap. 8, Karp (1980), Mayer (1951), McAllister (2004),
Pottier (1985) and Suehara (1983).
3. Karp (1980).
4. e.g. Berry (1993), Chap. 6.
5. Ponte (2000).
6. Simmel (1990).
7. Parry & Bloch (1989), p. 4.
8. Englund (1999) also stands the same suspicious view to former studies on changes of the
form of labor exchange in Africa.
9. See Bibagambah (1996), pp.51-52.
10. Goldschmidt (1976).

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

From Beer to Money I 51

11. This kind of view emphasizes ideal 'community' under beer party system, explaining
that individual households are even and exchange their labor on long-term
reciprocity. But it is doubtful whether each household organizes moyket. This kind of
festive labor practice usually co-existed with other types of labor practice in colonial
Africa (e.g., see Mayer 1951), and wealthier households organized festive work while
others organize small-scale labor exchange. It is very persuasive that beer had
ambivalent implication, both the public symbol of communal social-tie and status
differentiation (see Pottier 1985, p.110). I am preparing another paper on this issue. Also
see endnote ii above.
12. Goldschmidt (1986).
13. Goldschmidt (1976), p.159.
14. The Gisu are a Bantu-speaking people who live on the foot of a mountain. Also some of
them live on mountain with Sabiny but mainly around the small trading points. In
history, Sabiny chased them away by force three times, in 1965, 1980 and 1986 (see
Heald 1998: p.47, p.53). People in the area called those as 'wars'. Those Gisu whom the
old women told me were also fled from the area in wartime and are not in the area now.
15. Men, borrowing plow and oxen each other, usually do plowing work by exchange
labor. Harvesting is usually done by family labor.
16. The measure of stint is different by crops, and payment for kondaras per stint also
different by areas within their society.
17. Hyden (1980, 2004:p.9).
18. Different from thatched roof roundhouse which is a room, inside of tin-roof square
house is divided into three or four rooms. Usually people arrange those rooms one for
their bedroom, one for guest room, one for let to tenant villager for running shop or
19. Beginning from when Museveni got reelected as president in March 2001, in June of the
same year government held the national election of MP. Following that, while I stayed,
they held the elections of assembly member of Parishes in January 2002, of assembly
member of Districts in February. People were in election fever. Candidates of assembly
members of those Local Councils also could be politically marked into two by people
depended on which MP from their District they follow.
20. Ponte also notice that the process of 'traditional' negotiation gave way to 'contractual'
negotiation has not taken place in the same manner in different conditions or
locations. See Ponte (2000), p.1019.
21. The data used in Ponte (2000) are the one he obtained in Morogoro and Songea in


Berry, Sara. No Condition is Permanent: The social dynamics of agrarian change in sub-Saharan
Africa. Madison WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993.

Bibagambah, Josiah. Marketing of Smallholder Crops in Uganda. Kampala: Fountain Publishers,

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

52 I Shiraishi

Bruce, Roberts. "Always Cheaply Pleasant: Beer as a Commodity in a Rural Kenyan Society." In
Haugerud, Little, et al. eds. Commodities and Globalization: Anthropological Perspectives. Boston:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000, 179-196.

Englund, Harri. "The Self in Self-Interest: Land, Labour and Temporalities in Malawi's Agrarian
Change." Africa vol.69 no.1: 138-159, 1999.

Goldschmidt, Walter. Culture and the Behavior of the Sebei. Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1976.

Goldschmidt, Walter. The Sebei: A study in adaptation. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,

Gulliver, P. H. Neighbours and Networks: The Idiom of Kinship in Social Action among the Ndendeuli
of Tanzania. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.

Heald, Suzette. Controlling Anger: The Anthropology of Gisu Violence. Oxford: James Currey, 1998.

Hyden, Goran. Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and Uncaptured Peasantry. Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1980.

Hyden, Goran. "Informal Institutions, Economy of Affection, and Rural Development in Africa."
Tanzanian Journal of Population Studies and Development. Vol. 11, No.2 (2004).

Karp, Ivan. "Beer drinking and social experience in an African Society: An essay in formal
sociology." In Exploitations in African Systems of Thought. eds. Karp, Ivan and C. S. Bird
(Washington D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980).

Mayer, Philip. "Agricultural co-operation by neighbourhood groups among the Gusii." In Two
Studies in Applied Anthropology in Kenya. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office for the Colonial
Office, 1951.

Moore, M. P. "Co-operative Labour in Peasant Agriculture." The Journal of Peasant Studies, vol.2,
1975, 270-90.

Parry, Jonathan. & Bloch, Maurice. "Introduction: Money and the morality of exchange." In
Money and the Morality of Eexchange, Parry, J. & Bloch, M.(eds.) Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1989).

Ponte, Stephano. "From social negotiation to contract: Shifting Strategies of Farm Labor
Recruitment in Tanzania Under Market Liberalization." World Development vol.28, no. 6 (2000).

Pottier, Johan. "Reciprocity and the beer pot: the changing pattern of Mambwe food
production." In Food Systems in Central and Southern Africa. London: School of Oriental and
African Studies,1985.

Scott, James C. The Moral Economy of The Peasant. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1976.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

From Beer to Money I 53

Simmel, Georg. The Philosophy of Money 2nd ed.]. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1990 1900.

Suehara, Tatsuro. "The labor exchange system in the Tembo" African Studies Monographs vol 3:

Swindell, Ken. Farm Labor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article: Soichiro
Shiraishi. "From Beer to Money: Labor Exchange and Commercialization in Eastern Uganda."
African Studies Quarterly 9, no.1 & 2: [online] URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v9/v9ila4.htm

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issues 1 & 2 I Fall 2006

Labor Exchange Systems in Japan and DR Congo: Similarities

and Differences


Abstract: In this essay, I attempt a comparison of two labor exchange systems employed
respectively by Japanese and Congolese (Tembo) peasants. The Japanese system is
known as yui, while the Tembo system is called likilimba. Yui and likilimba have several
basic principles in common: (1) mutual assistance, (2) exchange of equal amount of labor,
and (3) no use of money or hired labor. At the same time, they are completely different in
several points. The most distinctive difference between the two systems is in the basic
unit between which labor is exchanged. In the case of the yui system, it is between
households that labor is exchanged, while, in the case of the likilimba system, it is between
individuals that labor is exchanged. In the closing part of this essay, I argue that, with the
development of the market economy, these non-monetary systems of reciprocal labor
exchange will become more needed, rather than disappear, by demonstrating the recent
revival of yui in Japanese society.


What is labor exchange?

Labor exchange is a common phenomenon that can be observed in different peasant
societies throughout the world. It is a way of exchanging one's labor for another's labor without
using money. To put it another way, it is a way of exchanging labor for labor as a gift. Today,
when the market economy has spread to every corner of the world, we are inclined to think of
labor as a commodity to be bought and sold in the market. In fact, however, there are still many
agrarian people in the world who still engage in labor exchange without buying and selling
Among different labor exchange systems in different agrarian societies of the world, this
article focuses on two examples, one from East Asia and the other from Africa, and attempts a
comparison of the two systems by carefully taking into account the difference in farming
systems between the two regions. The example from East Asia is a labor exchange system
known as yui practiced among Japanese farm households, and the example from Africa is a

Tatsuro Suehara is Professor in the Division of Natural Resource Economics, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto
University, Japan. His main research interests relate to food production and labor organizations in agrarian societies.
Since the late 1970s he has conducted anthropological research among agrarian peoples in Central and East Africa,
mainly the Tembo, the Lega, and the Shi in DR Congo, formerly known as Zaire, as well as the Kaguru in Tanzania.
Apart from research in Africa, he has carried out extensive fieldwork in rural communities in Japan and France. His
current area of interest is the history of urban agriculture in Japan, particularly in Kyoto, one of the oldest cities in the

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

56 I Suehara

labor exchange system called likilimba practiced among the Tembo living in the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly known as Zaire.

Labor exchange as a measure against labor shortage

Why do many agrarian societies need some sort of labor exchange system? There are
several reasons for this. In the first place, it should be noted that in most agrarian societies, labor
exchange is often employed during the busy farming seasons in which farming households
temporarily need an expanded labor force.
In rural Japan, for example, cooperative work parties known as yui are formed most
frequently at the time of rice-transplantation and second most frequently at the time of rice-
harvesting. During these two seasons of the year, most Japanese farm households come to be
faced with a serious labor shortage, and thus become obliged to procure extra labor force
through labor exchange, because both rice-transplantation and rice-harvesting are not only
highly labor-intensive work, but also need to be completed up within a very short term
(preferably one day per paddy field).
When a yui work party for rice-transplantation is formed by, for example, five households
(A, B, C, D, E), the exchange of labor is normally done in the following way. On the first day, all
the households work together on A's paddy. On the second day, all work on B's paddy. Then,
all work on C's on the third day, on D's on the fourth day and on E's on the fifth day. In this
manner, all households' paddies will have been transplanted when one cycle of labor exchange
ends. Chie Nakane, Japanese social anthropologist, describes the yui system as follows:
Exchange of labour, such as at the time of transplantation in spring, was normally done
with the co-operation of two or three households. This form of exchange is known throughout
rural areas as yui. The term yui signifies literally 'co-operate' or 'unite'.
The work team would be formed by more than two households by yui, though theoretically
the yui contract is established on the basis of two households. The labour given to X household
by Y household should be similarly reciprocated by X to Y. It is borrowing in the form of labour
with the obligation of future repayment. One day of work should be repaid by one day of work,
not by money or in kind.'
Normally, Japanese rice farming households employ this yui system of labor exchange
almost exclusively in the work of rice-transplantation and rice-harvesting; in less labor-
intensive stages of rice cultivation, such as at the time of tilling or weeding, they use household
labor alone. Moreover, the formation of yui groups is not limited among rice farmers alone. It is
reported that yui groups were once widely formed also among Japanese shifting farmers (who
survived in mountain areas at least up to the 1960s) at the time of labor-intensive work, such as
opening a field by felling the forest or harvesting crops. In many agrarian societies, as in the
case of rural Japan, labor exchange is required particularly in the busy farming seasons when
individual farm households come to be faced with a labor shortage.

Labor exchange as a form of reciprocal cooperation among smallholders

Labor exchange is normally done among smallholders of equal social and economic status.
It is a form of mutual help or reciprocal cooperation, especially in the busy farming seasons.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Labor Exchange Systems in Japan and DR Congo I 57

However, there are some cases where labor exchange is done between large-scale and small-
scale farmers. In these cases, it is highly questionable whether the exchange of labor between
the two sides is actually done on precisely equal terms. Between farmers of different economic
status, a so-called patron-client relationship is often established. In such cases, we must consider
the possibility that large-scale farmers (patrons) and small-scale ones (clients) may exchange, in
fact, not labor for labor, but labor for something else, even if on the surface they seem to
exchange labor with each other. This possibility is extensively discussed, for example, by
Japanese sociologist Kizaemon Ariga (to whose studies of labor organizations in Japanese rural
communities I will refer later in more detail).

Labor exchange as a beer party

There is another view of labor exchange, that is, a view of labor exchange from its aspect as
a beer party. This view is shared particularly among European scholars who study labor
exchange systems in African societies. William Allan, for example, describes them as follows:
Further evidence of the general existence of a grain surplus is to be found in the practice,
almost universal throughout Africa, of the working 'beer party'. Beer-making played an
essential part in the economies of most of the traditional systems of food-production, and the
changes of recent years have not greatly diminished its importance.. De Schlipe has described
the role of the working beer party among the Zande of the southern Sudan and pointed out that
the practice tends to maintain some degree of social inequality.2
In most labor exchange systems in the world, the recipient of labor normally has to
organize a feast after the work, in order to entertain the providers of labor with beer in return
for their help. In Africa, for example, it is common that not only beer, which is normally brewed
from millet, banana, palm, etc., but also food, such as the meat of goat or chicken, or ugali, a
porridge-like meal made from the flour of cassava, millet, maize, etc. are served at such feasts.
When dealing with a labor exchange system, European scholars tend to focus their
attention on its aspect as a beer party, rather than on the exchange of labor itself. On the other
hand, such a strong interest in the festive aspect of labor exchange cannot be found among
Japanese scholars. In this clear contrast we can see a critical difference in approach to the issue
of labor exchange between European and Japanese scholars. In addition, under most labor
exchange systems in the world, including the yui system in Japan, it is not rare that attendants
at a communal work party work together while singing songs or playing music instruments like
drums, in order to keep pace with one another. In these cases, we may say that a cooperative
work party is not an occasion for mere hard labor, but also an occasion for pleasure.


Labor exchange between Ooya (patron) and Nago (client)

Japanese rural sociologist Kizaemon Ariga, made an empirical study of cooperative labor
organizations in rural Japan known as yui (or sukeai), through the method of writing a detailed
ethnography of one rural community, namely, Ishigami village in Iwate Prefecture of northern
Japan. In his work titled, Daikazoku-seido to Nago-seido (Large family system and tenant system),

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

58 I Suehara

Ariga analyzed yui work groups in Ishigami village, which were formed by a set of households
of different types: the original household and landowner called ooya; branch households called
bekke; and tenant households called nago, which were in most cases former servants of ooya.3
Ariga's study of yui has two distinctive features. First, Ariga did not see yui as a mere
cooperative labor organization formed solely for agricultural tasks. Rather, he thought that such
a limited view would make it difficult to understand the entire social relationship between the
households of patron (ooya) and client (bekke and nago). Then, by introducing Marcel Mauss's
concept of "prestation total" into his analysis, Ariga made a full investigation of the exchange of
labor and goods that occurred between ooya and bekke and nago on various occasions in the
village life, such as at ceremonies, like weddings, funerals and festivals as well as at times of
non-agricultural tasks, such as roof-thatching and house-building.4
Second, Ariga analyzed social relations in Japanese rural communities almost exclusively
in terms of the ooya-nago (landowner-tenant or patron-client) relationship. He asserted that the
formation of yui had taken place at first between households of different status, such as between
ooya and nago, and later had spread between smallholders of equal status. In short, Ariga
considered that the ooya-nago relationship was the very basis of social relations in Japanese rural
Ariga's theory that social relations in rural Japan were organized on the basis of
hierarchical inter-household relationships represented by the ooya-nago (landowner-tenant)
relationship, soon achieved wide recognition in the Japanese academic world of that time, and
continued to have extensive influence on later scholars of Japanese society. For example, in her
book Japanese Society Chie Nakane refers to Japanese society as a "vertical society", arguing that
the most distinctive characteristic of Japanese society is that various kinds of personal relations
are vertically organized on the basis of a fictive parent-child relationship called oyabun-kobun or
oyakata-kokata.6 Nakane further argues that this vertical, fictive parent-child relationship still
persists in modern Japanese society as the basic organizing principle of various kinds of modern
institutions, such as factories or schools. Of course, Nakane's argument in Japanese Society is not
based solely on Ariga's rural sociology, but these two scholars share the same view that social
relations in Japan are organized along a vertical line.
My view about the basic principle of social organization in Japanese society is in marked
contrast to that of Ariga and Nakane. Through my own research on yui working groups in
different rural areas of Japan, I have reached an understanding that not vertical, but horizontal
social relations based on the norm of reciprocity are of great importance in Japanese rural
Why did we arrive at such opposing understandings of Japanese rural society? A possible
reason is that each of us conducted fieldwork at different periods of time. Ariga's fieldwork was
done from the 1930s to the 1960s, and Nakane's was done from the 1950s to the 1960s, whereas
mine was done from the 1970s to the 1980s. Considering the fact that rural Japan had undergone
great changes from the 1930s through the 1960s to the 1980s, it is reasonable for us to suppose
that those historical changes that had actually happened in rural Japan were directly reflected in
the opposing views of Japanese rural society- Ariga's and Nakane's view of it as a vertical
society and my view of it as a horizontal society.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Labor Exchange Systems in Japan and DR Congo I 59

Another possible reason is that each of us carried out fieldwork in different parts of Japan.
As contrasted to Ariga, for example, who conducted fieldwork exclusively in the northeastern
part of Japan, I conducted fieldwork mainly in the central and western parts of the country. In
particular, I conducted intensive fieldwork in the Okinawa Islands during the 1970s.

Yui-maaru: The Okinawan system of labor exchange between smallholders

In Okinawa, instead of "yui" in the standard Japanese, "yui-maaru" in the Okinawan
vernacular is widely used as a term signifying labor exchange. The yui-maaru contract is
normally established between small-scale peasant households for the purpose of mutual help,
and is rarely established between large-scale and small-scale peasant households connected by
the patron and client relationship.
In Tarama Island, where I conducted fieldwork, yui-maaru was practiced strictly according
to the basic principle of exchange of equal amount of labor. However, there existed one
exception to this rule: that is, if a yui-maaru group included a physically weak old person, the
labor given to the old person by other members did not have to be reciprocated, which means
that old persons were allowed to receive labor one-sidedly from other younger and physically
stronger members.
In addition, it should be noted that, in Tarama Island, yui-maaru was employed most
frequently at the time of sugar cane harvesting, but is also arranged in various non-agricultural
occasions. From these observations, I agree with Ariga and thus with Mauss from whom Ariga
borrows key concepts, that yui or yui-maaru must be understood not as an organization for labor
exchange in agricultural tasks alone, but as an organization for "prestations totale"


Tembo people and their land

This section examines the likilimba system among the Tembo as an example of labor
exchange systems in agrarian Africa. The Tembo are an agrarian people numbering less than a
hundred thousand who live in the eastern part of DRC. They occupy a mountainous area at an
altitude varying between 800m and 2000m above sea level, where they practice shifting
agriculture. They grow more than twenty kinds of crops, the main being cassava, maize, kidney
beans, and bananas. Their staple food is ugali, stiff porridge made from cassava flour.
The Tembo have a labor exchange system called likilimba, which they employ in all stages
of their shifting farming. Before proceeding to an analysis of the likilimba system itself, I would
like to give an outline of Tembo agriculture. The area has two rainy seasons and two dry
seasons, and the Tembo sow crops in each rainy season, thus twice a year. The long dry season
starts in May and lasts until August, while the long rainy season starts in September and ends
in the beginning of May. Then, in the middle of the long rainy season, there is a short period of
no rain (from the end of December to the beginning of January), which is referred to here as the
"short dry season". The annual rainfall of the mountain area in which the Tembo live can be
estimated at more than 1400mm from the fact that Bukavu, a big town in the region, has a

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

60 I Suehara

rainfall of around 1400mm per year.

Tembo agriculture and likilimba

There are two types of fields in Temboland. One type is opened in the short dry season,
and the other type is opened in the long dry season. The former type is almost twice the size of
the latter type.
During the long dry season, forest trees and bushes are cleared to open new fields, and this
task is exclusively the work of men. In the work of forest-clearing, Tembo men rarely practice
likilimba, and even when they do it, they normally form very small work parties of two or three
persons. At the time of bush-clearing, by contrast, they often form large likilimba work parties of
twenty to thirty persons. In the case of the latter, it is possible for a man to finish clearing the
bush in a day with the assistance of the work party, meaning that, if the work party consists of
twenty members, it takes twenty days until all members' fields have been opened. After the
work, the man who has received labor services on the day has to provide all the workers with
banana beer and some food.
After having been opened, the fields are left unattended for three to four weeks until they
are burned. Usually, at the time of field-burning, likilimba is not employed. This task is normally
carried out separately by individual households. Then, comes the work of field-cleaning, which
is also done on a household by household basis. After having been cleaned up, the fields are
cultivated with hand hoes, and this task is also performed by individual households with
family labor alone. Then, crops are sown in the fields. This task is almost exclusively associated
with women. Only sorghum is sown by men. But men just sow it in their respective fields,
without any cooperation with each other or with women. On the other hand, women organize
large-scale likilimba for sowing. Twenty or so women form a work party to jointly sow maize
and groundnut in their fields. This group-sowing is done everyday in a different member's
field, and continues for thirty to forty days until all members' fields have been sown with the
two crops. After the work is done, meals are offered to all the participants by the woman who
has received assistance on the day. However, unlike at male work parties, beer is never
provided at female work parties. For this simple reason, we cannot call women's work parties
"beer parties."
After sowing the crops comes the work of managing and weeding the fields. This activity is
performed on a household-by-household basis and is carried out by both men and women. One
or two months after the sowing of maize and groundnut, cassava is planted in the fields.
Planting of cassava is the work of women. Tembo women perform this task by organizing small
likilimba work parties of two or three members who have close relations with each other in most
Harvesting is also the work of women. In the case of maize, they form likilimba work parties
of about ten members. In these work parties neither food nor beer is offered to the participants
after the work by the day's host woman, but the participants are allowed to take with them a
small portion of the day's harvest. In the case of groundnut, on the other hand, women usually
form larger likilimba parties of about twenty members. In this case, too, the participants are
allowed to take a small portion of the day's harvest with them. These female work parties for

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Labor Exchange Systems in Japan and DR Congo I 61

the harvesting of groundnut normally last for twenty to thirty days, everyday moving from one
member's field to another member's field. As for cassava, since this crop can be harvested once
in a week, Tembo women do not form large likilimba parties to harvest it. It is harvested by
small female likilimba parties established among two or three close friends.

The principles of likilimba

The Tembo, as stated above, frequently form work parties known as likilimba in various
stages of their shifting agriculture. The way in which they organize likilimba is quite in
accordance with their farming system. That is, they form likilimba work parties of different sizes
and gender compositions, according to the kind of crop, as well as the kind of farming practice
(in this regard, whether it is men's work or women's work is especially important). In addition,
the reward for labor takes different forms, depending on the type of likilimba: in some cases, the
host rewards the participants with both food and beer and in other cases, the host provides
them with food alone. In some cases, the host does not offer them food or beer, but instead gives
them permission to take away with them a small portion of the harvest from his or her field.
Large-scale likilimba is practiced almost exclusively during the busy farming season. By
contrast, small-scale likilimba is often employed even in everyday farming activities. This small-
scale likilimba may more accurately be viewed as Tembo's means to bring an atmosphere of joy
and conviviality into their otherwise lonely and tedious routine work, rather than their means
to raise the efficiency of the farm practice.
As we have seen so far, the Tembo employ different types of likilimba in different
agricultural tasks. However, what should be emphasized here is that every likilimba is organized
according to three basic principles: (1) mutual assistance; (2) exchange of equal amount of labor
(one day of work should be repaid by one day of work); and, (3) no use of money.
Here, let me briefly touch on the third principle, no use of money. Today, of course, money
is widely used among the Tembo. For example, if a foreigner hires a Tembo man as a worker,
the foreigner must pay him money for his services (I actually did so when I hired some Tembo
workers to transport my baggage). Besides, nowadays not a small number of Tembo people are
working as wage laborers in nearby plantations. However, the Tembo never use money as the
reward for labor services they have received from their fellow villagers. Likewise, any kind of
meal can never be exchanged for money between Tembo peasants of the same village. Within a
Tembo village, meal is never sold. It is always given to or shared with fellow villagers.

Kwanza and lukoo: sub-systems of likilimba

In the case of likilimaba that is arranged between women, the three principles mentioned
above are almost always strictly observed. The reason is that there are no great inequalities of
wealth among Tembo women. In the case of likilimba that is arranged between men, by contrast,
those three principles are not always observed, but are sometimes abandoned. This can be
explained by the fact that the Tembo society is a polygamous society. A husband with two or
more wives has to work at least twice as hard as his monogamist fellows; otherwise he cannot
open a new field for each of his wives. If he is a young, sturdy man, he can do this. However,
the fact is that the majority of polygamists are old men. For very old polygamists or polygamists

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

62 I Suehara

with more than three wives, it is in fact impossible to participate in normal likilimba and
continue to reciprocate one day of labor with one day of labor. It is in cases like this that a sub-
system of likilimba, which is called kwanza in Tembo language, has an important role to play.
Kwanza is a form of work party that only rich old men can organize at the time of bush
clearing. If a rich old man needs assistance in clearing the bush for opening a new field, he
forms a kwanza work party by giving a costly feast as an incentive for fellow villagers to work
for him. To prepare the feast, he buys goat meat and chicken in large quantities at a nearby
marketplace and buys a lot of banana beer from women in the village (banana beer is the only
locally-produced food that is sold in Tembo villages). By this arrangement, he can mobilize
many village men to assist him in work. In this sense, we may say that kwanza is a form of
festive work party or working beer party. Normally, kwanza work parties are willingly
participated in by a large number of male villagers, who have few opportunities to eat meat in
their everyday lives.
However, in the case of old men who are not rich enough to organize kwanza and, even
worse, have no grown-up children to support them, what can they do? In this case, another sub-
system of likilimba known as lukoo is used. Lukoo literally means "compassion" in Tembo
language. It is a form of communal work party that is organized to help old men who are no
longer able to participate in normal, thus reciprocal likilimba for bush clearing. In this lukoo type
of work party, participants offer their labor for nothing. They do not expect anything in return
for their labor service. Normally, it is a very small field that a lukoo work party opens for an old
man in need of help. However, once a new field has been opened, it becomes possible for the
old man to carry out all the remaining farm work with family labor alone. It is clear that only
with the assistance through the lukoo system can old aged Tembo men continue to lead their
lives as independent peasants. Finally, it is worth noting that both sub-systems of likilimba,
kwanza and lukoo, are never employed by Tembo women.


Similarities and Differences between Yui and Likilimba

Agriculture in Japan and that in Temboland of DRC are of a completely different character.
The former is based on paddy rice farming, while the latter is based on shifting farming with
mixed cropping practice. Despite this fundamental difference in agriculture, both Japanese and
Tembo societies have similar systems of labor exchange: the yui system in Japanese society and
the likilimba system in Tembo society.
Yui and likilimba have some characteristics in common. First, both systems follow the same
basic principles: that is, exchange of equal amount of labor (one day of labor should be
reciprocated with one day of labor) and labor exchange with no use of money. Second, both are
systems of mutual assistance and thus are most frequently employed in highly labor-
demanding stages of agriculture. Third, both have sub-systems within them, including a system
of one-way giving of labor without seeking return.
At the same time, however, yui and likilimba are different in several respects, and these
differences seem to originate in differences of the social system in Japanese and Tembo societies.
The most distinctive difference between yui and likilimba is in the basic unit between which

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Labor Exchange Systems in Japan and DR Congo I 63

labor is exchanged. In the case of the yui system in Japan, labor exchange is done between
households, not between individuals. Thus, if household A sends both husband and wife to a
yui work party held at household B's paddy, the labor given by the husband and the labor
given by the wife are summed up into the labor given by household A, and this total amount of
labor given by A to B is later reciprocated by B to A. It is not between individuals, but between
households that yui contracts are established.
In contrast to this, under the likilimba system among the Tembo, labor exchange is done
between individuals, not between households. Thus, even husband and wife (or wives) in one
household form separate likilimba work groups, using his or her own network of relatives,
friends, and neighbors of the same sex.
As stated above, both under the yui system and under the likilimba system, labor must be
exchanged for labor, not for money, meaning that hired labor is never employed in both yui and
likilimba. So, if the market economy grows more widespread, are these non-monetary systems of
labor exchange being replaced by the buying and selling of labor in the market?

Yui in revival

In Japan, the practice of yui had sharply declined in the 1970s and 1980s. The reason was
not that yui had been replaced by hired labor, but that the mechanization of paddy rice farming
had advanced swiftly during this period. The decline of yui was accelerated particularly by the
invention of various kinds of small-size agricultural machines, by which all stages of rice
cultivation, including transplanting, harvesting, threshing, and bundling of rice straws, were
mechanized. In this robotization process of Japanese agriculture, it became possible for even
small-scale farm households to own different kinds of agricultural machines, because of the
smallness of those machines. This rapid spread of agricultural machines enabled Japanese
farmers to carry out all stages of paddy rice farming with family labor alone. In this way, rural
Japan saw the sharp decline of mutual labor exchange without undergoing the formation of the
agricultural labor market.
Then, is yui going to completely disappear from Japan? I think the answer is no. The reason
is that a wave of new types of yui is now gradually spreading throughout Japan. This is evident
from the fact that, from the 1990s onward, the word "yui" has been reviving in Japanese society.
The word is now widely used across the country, not only in rural areas, but also in urban
areas. In practice a number of different kinds of organizations have the word "yui" in their
names. The following are some examples of such organizations: a group for supporting the
handicapped in finding employment in Okinawa Prefecture; a not-for-profit organization for
mutual help in Aichi Prefecture; a center for promoting civic activities in Kiryuu City, Gunma
Prefecture (a public institution); a public corporation for nursing-care services in Yokohama
City, Kanagawa Prefecture; a group of members of a consumers' cooperative society for mutual
help in Kanagawa Prefecture; an NPO for life-long education in Okinawa Prefecture; a group of
teachers of social studies in Shizuoka Prefecture; a group for promoting the use of community
currency in Fukuoka Prefecture; and, a private farm for organic agriculture in Nagano
Prefecture. As is clear from this list, groups whose names include the word "yui" are diverse in

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

64 I Suehara

type of organization, ranging from private individual to cooperative society to NPO to public
Most of these new types of yui groups have been organized for the purpose of mutual
exchange of volunteers, rather than mere exchange of labor. In Japan, until the mid-1990s,
volunteer activities were shouldered by a very narrow circle of people. In my view, however,
Japanese people dramatically changed their attitude toward volunteer work when the Great
Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake hit the country in 1995. Indeed, immediately after the earthquake,
many people, young and old, from all over the country voluntarily rushed to the struck area to
help the victims of the disaster some were students, some were workers of private companies,
some were public officials. Before then, Japanese society always gave the highest priority to
economic growth. However, I think that when the country was hit by this earthquake many
Japanese people must have felt that a terrible disaster like this could happen to themselves at
any time. This was why so many people rushed to the struck area to work as disaster-relief
While acts of one-way charity do not awake much sympathy among the Japanese, acts of
mutual assistance are, as the above case clearly shows, understandable and acceptable to most
Japanese people who have a long tradition of yui. Let me add another example. When another
big earthquake struck Niigata Prefecture of northwestern Japan in 2004, a number of people
living in the area struck by the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji Great Earthquake, including the cities of
Kobe, Nishinomiya and Ashiya, hurried to Niigata to work as disaster-relief volunteers. I think
that these people's actions must have been motivated by their "otagaisama" ("all in the same
boat") mentality, as well as by their wish to help the victims by their own labor, not by money.
It is against this background that various kinds of Japanese organizations, including
volunteer groups, self-help groups and NPOs, have recently begun to include the word "yui" in
their names, seeing the word as a symbol of the spirit of mutual assistance. I suppose that from
now on these new types of yui will spread more widely and play more important roles in
Japanese society, where the development of market economy seems to be still advancing with
increasing intensity.
This article has shown that the moral economy phenomenon exists in societies of very
different economic backgrounds. It is not merely part of the past or confined to backward
societies. The principles of moral economy exist side by side with the market economy and
bureaucratic organizations. It keeps being reinvented and reenergized as the yui case of Japan


1. Nakane, 1967, p.144.
2. Allan, 1977, p.44.
3. Ariga, 1967a.
4. Mauss, 1950, p.151.
5. Ariga, 1957, 1967b.
6. Nakane, 1984.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

Labor Exchange Systems in Japan and DR Congo I 65


Allan, William. 1977. The African Husbandman, Westport: Greenwood Press.

Ariga, Kizaemon. 1957. "Yui no imi to sono henka (The meaning of "yui" and its change)", The
Japanese Journal of Ethnology, Vol.21, No.4.

1967a. Daikazoku-seido to Yig' ..- id. (Large Family System and Tenant System), Tokyo:

-- 1967b. Nihon Kazoku-seido to Kosaku-seido (Japanese Family System and Tenant System),
Tokyo: Miraisha.

Mauss, Marcel. 1950. Sociologie et anthropologie, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Nakane, Chie. 1967. Kinship and Economic Organization in Rural Japan (London School of Economics
Monographs on Social Anthropology No.32), London: The Athlone Press.

-- 1984. Japanese Society, Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co. Publishers.

Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article: Tatsuro
Suehara. "Labor Exchange Systems in Japan and DR Congo: Similarities and Differences."
African Studies Quarterly 9, no.1 & 2: [online] URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v9/v9ila5.htm

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issues 1 & 2 I Fall 2006

The Changing Practices of Kibarua Employment: A Case Study

of the Sagara, Tanzania


Abstract: This article analyzes the process in which the "economy of affection" in rural
Africa transforms the nature of wage labor and thereby induces a phenomenon we may
call "communal sharing of cash" among African peasants, through a case study of Sagara
society in Tanzania. In Sagara society, which is now deeply involved in the money
economy, a form of wage labor employment (called kibarua in Swahili) is frequently
arranged by the rich at the request of the poor for cash. Contrary to the general view that
wage labor is evidence of rural differentiation, kibarua reproduces an egalitarian world
within the society by functioning as an effective social leveling mechanism.


The purpose of this article is to describe the cultural characteristics of kibarua from the point
of view of the life structure of the peasants and the relationship that exists between the
employer of kibarua and the laborer as a kibarua him/herself. The presence of wage labor in
peasant societies in Africa has to a certain degree been highlighted in previous studies, such as
those of Kasfir and Hanzawa.1 The phenomenon of wage labor, together with the phenomenon
of peasant differentiation, have been regarded as some of the contributing factors towards the
penetration of capitalism into the African peasantry.2
Hyden, however, commented on the uniqueness of African capitalism, from the point of
view of the differences between advanced and less advanced societies.3 Firstly, the peasant
differentiation phenomenon in advanced countries is basically supported by the differentiation
of private land holding in contrast to the communal land holding system found in many
societies of Africa.4 Secondly, differentiation within the African peasantry remains at a low
level, even in the most capitalist societies of Africa, e.g. Kenya.5 Thus, African capitalism can't
be equated with that of capitalism found in advanced
It is important to consider not only the presence of wage labor and peasant differentiation
but also to look at a society's cultural attributes. Studies focusing on the life structure and the
value system of the peasants have been carried out in southeast Asia, for example by Geertz
and Scott.6 There are fewer such studies, however, with specific reference to Africa. My study
was carried out to fill this gap by examining the kibarua concept as a wage labor arrangement
among the Sagara people and explore its social, economic, and cultural significance.

Kazuhiko Sugimura has a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Kyoto University. He is currently Professor at the
Center for Arts and Science, Fukui Prefectural University, Fukui, Japan. His research interests include the African
peasant economy, the moral economy and mixed cropping systems.

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

68 I Sugimura

The next section covers the general characteristic of the contemporary dynamics of the
peasant economy in Sagara society before I proceed to analyze the kibarua phenomenon. The
third section discusses the implications for the life structure of the peasant. In the conclusion, I
address the issue of the extent to which the African peasantry is unique.7


Description of the study area

Morogoro region, in which the Sagara community is found, has a population of 1,222,237
people, in five districts with 458 villages. Annual rainfall in this region ranges from 600mm to
1200mm. Kilosa is one of the districts in Morogoro region located at about fifty km from
Morogoro town center (see Map 1). While the northern part of Kilosa district is dominated by
the Kaguru ethnic group, the southern part is occupied by the Sagara people. The Mkudi and
Chogoali rivers divide Sagaraland from Kaguruland to the northeast. Sagaraland is lower and
hotter with more rain than Kaguruland.
Given these different ecological conditions, the Kaguru people are found to have many
cattle (and mainly indigenous breed) while the Sagara people traditionally keep small animals
such as goats. This difference has made them experience different lifestyles. However, despite
such differences, both of them are truly agricultural people dependent upon the cultivation of
staple food crops like maize, compared to the people surrounding them, namely the Masai and
Gogo who live in drier areas.
Nyameni village, one of the villages of Ulaya division in Kilosa district of Sagaraland was
selected as the site for this study (see Fig.1). This village is located along the main road from
Mikumi to Kilosa. According to the 1988 population census, the population of Ulaya division
was 10,107 people and Nyameni village was 2,188.

Subsistence agriculture in Nyameni

Nyameni village is located near Morogoro town and from the point of view of transportation is
very convenient for commercial agriculture production. There are many plantations along the
main road and these have attracted many immigrants who have subsequently intermingled
with the indigenous people.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

The Changing Practices of Kiburua Employment I 69

F i.1. Outline of the Study field



main trunk road
0km 31'kr, lrr'
I I distance

Fig i

Number of
Ethnicity Rate
Sagara 22 (58%)
Goni 6 (16%)
Kaguru 3 (8%)
Luguru 2 (5%)
Nyakusa 1 (3%)
Gigua 1 (3%)
Others 2 (7%)
Table 1. Ethnicity of Inhabitants in Sagara Community -in the case of 38
persons in Nyameni

Fig.1 shows the distribution of the people according to ethnicity. According to Table 1,
forty two percent of the people interviewed had immigrated from other areas. Among the
immigrants are the Goni, Kaguru, and Luguru. Generally, Sagaraland is regarded as the most
suitable area for cultivation in Tanzania. Most of the immigrants not only come from nearby
areas like Ukaguru and Uluguru, but also from far away areas like Goni and Ugogo. They came
to this area in order to look for agricultural field.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

70 I Sugimura

In spite of the availability of arable land, someone living far from the main road faces
transportation difficulties, as there is no person in that village with a truck. They are dependent
on traders from the urban area and other neighboring villages to transport their goods to the
market. A poor transport system and low prices for agricultural products (which they cannot
control, as they are mainly determined by the world market) have discouraged the Sagara
people from expanding their agricultural fields. An example is the fall of price of cotton, which
the government had earlier encouraged. For this reason peasants value and prefer to stick to
their subsistence agricultural production.
As a testimony to the above, one immigrant of the Sukuma origin pointed out as follows,
"Sagaraland is fertile and people could extend the scale of their agriculture if they want to but
they don't want to extend the field. Instead of expanding their agricultural field, they accept
immigrants generously."
The Sagara type of agriculture is an example of shifting-cultivation in the miombo forests of
equatorial Africa. Traditionally, it is characterized by the opening up of new fields in the
original forest and the use of long-term fallow. Land availability, however, has decreased year
by year, and recently peasants keep the same land under cultivation for several years, in some
instances for more than twenty years. Another recent feature of land use in Sagaraland is the
practice of farming on different plots that are separated from each other. On average, peasants
manage three to four plots per household. In Nyameni village, while most peasants have plots
in the low lands, as it is more suitable for rice production, some peasants have farm plots on the
slopes of the hill under the slash and burn system of agriculture.

s (acre)




2.0 14 (37%
2.5 2 (5%)
3.0 1 (18%
4.0 5 (13%
5.0 4 (13%

Combination of Frequenc
Crop y
kindney bean R
kindney R
kindney bean
Maize+ cassava C
Maize+rice C
Maize+banana R
Maize+cow pea R
Iaize+sesame C
Maize+finger CC
Maize C
Sweat potato C



Sugari 40

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

50 50

Soap 0 70

Oil 10 60 15 15 45

Tomato 20 30 20 20 5 30 30 50 50
Onion 30 30 20 20
Kindrey 10
bean 0
Dried 15
fish 0


10 10
Food oil 50 50 50 50 50 50
0 0

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006


2 (5%)

The Changing Practices of Kiburua Employment I 71

Cotton R
Rice CC

Coconut 10 5
tree 0 0

Tomato C Tea 150

Tobacco 1560 60

Soda 15
monetary unit= Tanzania shilling by
Hussein Hassan
Table 2: Scale of Land Table 3: Combination of
Management Area -in the Crops and Frequency in
case of 38 persons in Sagara (CC: very common; Table 4: Daily Trend of Cash Utilization
Nyameni C: common; R:rare)

Table 2 shows the distribution of the respondents according to farm size. Farm size ranges from
one to eight acres. Sixty percent of the respondents have farm sizes ranging from two to three
acres. Large-scale peasants managing 8 hectares or more make up only five percent of the
respondents. The main food crops of this area are maize, sorghum, rice, banana and sweet
potatoes, as indicated in Table 3. However, maize is the most popular crop and is regarded as
the staple food crop. Before maize was promoted by the national government in 1972 under the
National Maize Project, the staple food crop of the area was sorghum. Government wanted the
Sagara people to plant maize only and adopt a mono-cropping system contrary to their mixed
cropping system. The latter, however, has survived and is popular among many peasants as
they wish to avert the risk of crop failures due to various factors (cf. Table 3).

Cash economy and everyday life

Although peasants stick to subsistence production, they strongly recognize the importance
of cash. This is clearly shown by the types of commodities brought into the village and the
lifestyles of the people. The practice of drinking tea with sugar (and sometimes with milk) is
another. Most of the commodities flowing into the village come from the outside world and are
basically consumer goods, which are not produced inside the village like radios, bicycles,
clothes, medicine, batteries, lamps, and many other things. They also include canned food,
dried fish, sugar and salt. While they use money to buy commodities mentioned above,
peasants still use cash to purchase some of the foodstuff, which they need for their daily
consumption, especially tomatoes and onions.
Table 4 shows the items for which cash is being utilized by one of the peasants living an
ordinary life in Nyameni. The peasant buys salt, sugar, soap, oil, tomatoes, onions, dried fish,
and cooking oil. He buys food little by little on a daily basis. Peasants often purchase tomatoes

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

72 I Sugimura

and onions and other staple foods like cassava, as shown in Table. 4. Sometimes peasants buy
soft drinks like soda (Coca-Cola) in order to have a glimpse of urban life within the village.
Under these circumstances, they try to get more money in their everyday life in order to
maintain the above life style. Among the peasants, some get money by hunting and through
keeping livestock. However, hunting activity is decreasing suddenly due to deforestation and
shortage of animals. Livestock is limited to small animals like goats.
Among the richest peasants in villages of Sagara society, some of them get money through
rental business of machines like maize milling machines, although the number of peasants who
own such machines is very limited. Due to the fact that income -generating activities are very
limited, most Sagara people are also dependent on wage labor. Such labor is confined to
agricultural work although carrying luggage (porters), logging (cutting trees), scaring birds,
building houses, weeding, breeding goats, building toilets, etc. may also yield a cash income.
All these activities grouped together are commonly referred to as kibarua.8 The analysis of these
phenomena helps one visualize the key features of the peasant economy as a whole in Sagara


This section discusses the current practices of kibarua labor among peasants and the relationship
that exists between employer and worker in this system.

Utilization of kibarua

Kibarua (plural: vibarua) generally means casual and seasonal labor in Kiswahili.9 The
typical kibarua worker migrates from region to region or from area to area. Although there are
laborers from other ethnic groups like the Gogo and Goni in Sagara society, most casual
laborers are from among the Sagara themselves. Kibarua is the most convenient way for
peasants to get cash in the village. More than half of the able-bodied members in the village are
generally employed a few times a year. There are two types of employers: (a) the plantation
estates and (b) the peasants themselves.
There are two plantations in Nyameni, one growing sugar cane owned by an Arab family
and another growing coconut trees that is owned and managed by a Luguru family. In addition,
both plantation owners have agricultural fields, which are normally planted with maize and
rice. On the plantations there is usually a regular demand for kibarua work. If peasants want to
work, they can easily find it. When they do, peasants work 2-3 days a week before returning to
their own domestic agricultural work. Peasants who accept to work as vibarua receive an
advance payment to allow them to meet subsistence expenses such as food. Because most food
items are costly, the kibarua worker typically has little cash at hand.
The other type of employer are the Sagara peasant themselves. Within the local
community, there is a custom promoting the use of vibarua workers. Hiring a person takes place
once a farmer has enough money. There are minor differences between the rich and the poor in
terms of utilization of kibarua. Under normal circumstances, the villager who employs someone
has a purpose of extending his or her farm size and to ease the burden of agricultural work.
Thus, the utilization of the kibarua does not only concern or take place among the rich peasants,

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

The Changing Practices of Kiburua Employment I 73

but also the poor ones. In reality, even the rich peasant in the Sagara community has only little
capital to employ a kibarua. Therefore, comparing the two venues of kibarua employment, the
plantation surpasses overwhelmingly the rich peasant in terms of employment power, and
peasants usually find themselves working on the plantations.

The kibarua phenomenon among the peasants

In order to understand the kibarua phenomenon among the peasants in Sagaraland, it is
necessary to look at the seasonal fluctuation of wage laborers and the role of Sagara peasants as
employers. The use of kibarua fluctuates in accordance with the agricultural season.

Fig. 2. Agricultural calender in Sagara society

rain season dry season rain season
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
I I I I I I I I I I I I t

sweet potatoes . . .

periodical management
unperiodical ma gement * * * * *

As shown in Figure 2, peasants plant maize in December when the rainy season begins and
harvest maize at the end of March. Generally speaking, the peasants manage their subsistence
life by selling maize products. From September when the dry season begins, peasants spend
much of their money on marriage ceremonies and other forms of private consumption. This
situation leaves the peasants with little maize or money to allow them to purchase some maize
in the market.
Interest in working as kibarua laborer also fluctuates according to needs within the
household. For instance, in April and May peasants concentrate on domestic work and don not
want to work as vibarua. Around December when money and food supply is short, their interest
in doing so increases significantly. When peasants have money and can meet most of their
needs they see no reason to work as vibarua and concentrate on domestic work. According to an

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

74 I Sugimura

interview with the manager of the Arab plantation, the management understands the changing
needs of the peasants and can take advantage of their needs by hiring them at a low
remuneration. It is mainly interested in fulfilling its own production plan and hires a large
number of peasants at reduced wage level at times when they are in dire need of cash. In
comparison, employment provided by peasants is more flexible and can be extended according
to the peasants' needs for work around December without reducing the wage like the plantation
manager does. Peasants, however, have their own limitations when it comes to hiring a kibarua
worker and they cannot do so as easily as the plantations can.
At this preliminary stage of my study, I am unable to conclude what the origin of seasonal
kibarua relation among peasants might have been, but according to interviews with elderly
peasants, it is related to traditional work practices in Sagara society before the introduction of a
cash economy. According to this traditional custom, poor peasants have a right to work as
vibarua (or look for wage labor) during times of difficulties while rich peasants have an
obligation to give poor peasants work. This kind of moral economy plays a key role of
maintaining the relationship between the kibarua worker and the employer as discussed in
detail in the following section.


What about the concrete relationship between the villager employer and kibarua worker? In
Nyameni village, the relations between employer and kibarua are not in terms of ownership of
means of production like those found among landowners in agriculturally more advanced
countries. As shown above, most of the peasants in the village have 2-4 acres. Therefore, there is
no clear social stratification among peasants in the Sagara community. The utilization of kibarua
is not something exclusive for privileged people as many peasants hope to do so whenever
possible. A peasant who works as kibarua may employ some one else on those terms once he
gets enough money from some of the source of income. There is no constancy in the relationship
between the kibarua employer and worker. It is re-established afresh every year. Thus, even if
the peasant performs kibarua work every year he initiates the relationship with the employer
very selectively depending on the circumstances that exist in any given year.
It should be clearly understood that it is the kibarua who looks for work and not the
employer who seeks wage laborers. It is not the role of the employer to look for a kibarua. This
arrangement, as suggested above, is based on the belief that rich peasants cannot refuse
employing someone as kibarua whenever such a need arises. Rich persons hold a special status
in their community and they cannot afford to lose it by refusing kibarua.
Peasants recognize that kibarua work is a means to avoid a crisis or difficulty like hunger. It
is not uncommon to find people in Nyameni suffering from hunger due to unfavorable weather
and outbreak of pests or insects. Under such circumstances, peasants think of kibarua as the only
alternative to get them out of that situation. According to interviews with the Nyameni
peasants, 22 out of 25 persons responded that they depend on kibarua work during the time of
food shortages. There is, therefore, a distinct sense of reciprocity among the peasants that helps
them sustain their livelihoods even at times of crises. They have the same expectations of the

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

The Changing Practices of Kiburua Employment I 75

plantation management and they claim that they allow these enterprises in their midst only as
long as they show generosity of employing them when they need money.
Because the plantation management operates on commercial principles, it cannot
necessarily satisfy these expectations as well as the richer village farmers can do. Most villagers
regard the latter to be more helpful because they do show an understanding of the customary
principle of reciprocity to a greater extent than the plantation managers do. The village farmers
who are best placed to hire kibarua labor often have another source of income as well. For
instance, the village chairman and the village secretary are among the better off members of
Nyameni village. So are those who do some handy work on the side, e.g. carpentry. Even
though these people often have large families, in some cases more than one wife, they are ready
to hire vibarua as a way of maintaining their status and respect in society. It is not strictly a
business relationship in the formal sense of the word but rather a clientelistic relationship
involving the pay for work rendered.
Persons who employ vibarua resemble the figures discussed by Sahlins in his discussion on
"primitive exchange": persons who assist others reap great social and political benefits from
their actions.10 Nyameni is no exception. People getting elected to village government are
typically local patrons who have carefully attended to local customary principles of reciprocity.
These people are expected to spend more money than others at formal occasions. Poor families
in the village regard rich persons as people who will take care of them by providing kibarua
employment at times of need. The kibarua phenomenon, then, is not generating capitalism but
helps distribute cash within villages of Sagara society. In this respect, it cannot be equated with
wage labor in more developed countries and other Third World countries.


According to Kasfir, the presence of kibarua labor would be evidence of capitalist
penetration and a social differentiation between rich and poor peasants." Such a conclusion,
however, is too simplistic and misleading, because kibarua is initiated not by employers but
those in search of temporary work. This is the kind of moral economy that can also be found in
many parts of southeast Asia where a poor person is regarded as having the right to be
employed, however briefly, to earn some cash. Because the social stratification among the rural
population in Sagara society is less marked than it is in southeast Asia, the kibarua worker can
often exercise more pressure on the employer to offer him temporary work.
While it is possible to find landless peasants in Asia it is hard to find a person without land
in Africa. The moral economy, therefore, tends to survive in African societies even where
capitalism has made definite inroads, e.g. Kenya. A study by Hanzawa, for example, shows the
existence of African peasants who, though having surplus domestic labor, nevertheless hire
jobless fellows as wage laborers with the intention of giving them employment.12
Another such example is Sugiyama's vivid description of the Bemba of northern Zambia. 13
According to her, commercial cultivation of hybrid maize using chemical fertilizers was first
introduced among the Bemba in the early 1980s. Since then, this highly commercial and
intensive agriculture has been rapidly spreading throughout Bembaland, even in the most
remote areas. At first glance, this rapid spread of modern commercial agriculture appears to

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

76 I Sugimura

demonstrate that Bemba peasants have been totally transformed into "rational farmers."
However, the facts tell quite a different story. According to Sugiyama, Bemba peasants have
preserved their traditional moral principle of "the haves must give to the have-nots." She
describes an interesting incident that occurred in a Bemba village. When a distributor of
chemical fertilizers refused to extend credit to a villager who had not cleared off his previous
debts to the distributor, another wealthy villager paid off all of the poor one's debts so that the
latter could buy fertilizers for the coming season on credit from the distributor. As this episode
clearly shows, a phenomenon that can be called "the sharing of cash" is widely observed in
Bemba villages. Even somebody's personal debt problem is treated as a common "hardship,"
and thus wealthy members are strongly required to shoulder debts of the poor according to the
traditional spirit of mutual help.
What we are witnessing in African societies is not the decline of the economy of affection
and its replacement by a capitalist economy. Rather what takes place is a modernization of the
economy of affection according to which cash is distributed to the poor through various
structural relationships.


1. Debate on the African Peasantry developed in the journal of "Development and Change"
concerning the concept of "Uncaptured Peasant" or "Economy of Affection proposed by
Goran Hyden. In the above debate, Kasfir pointed out the existence of the wage labor
phenomenon as the index of capitalization linking with the World System into the
present society in Africa. According to the criticisms offered by Kasfir, Hyden's theme
hasn't developed through the analysis of the peasant economy at the micro level.See
Kasfir, Nelson's article, 'Are African Peasants Self-Sufficient? Development and
Change, vol.17, no. 2. (1986). On the other hand, Hanzawa, shows the possibility of the
existence of African peasants who, though having surplus domestic labor, nevertheless
hire jobless fellows as wage laborers with the intention of giving them employment
,which produces economy of affection in Kenya, the most capitalized country among
Africa. See Hanzawa's article, 'The Development and Characteristics of Commercial
Agriculture in Kenya' in Kodamaya Shiro (eds), Commercialization of Agriculture in
Sub-Saharan Africa, Chiba. The Institute of Developing Economics. (in
Japanese) (1993) .
2. Kasfir 1986, pp.335-357.
3. Hyden, Goran.Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and An Uncaptured
Peasantry. London: Heinemann Educational Books (1980).
4. Tama, Shinnosuke. Economics of Farm Household and Farmland,Tokyo:
5. Nobunkyo (in Japanese)( 1994).
6. Yoshida, Masao. "The Debate on Ujamaa Policy in Tanzania". The developing economies
,vol.23,no9. (in Japanese)( 1984).
7. Geertz, Clifford. Agricultural Involution. Berkeley CA: University of California
Press(1963). Scott, James C. The Moral Economy of the Peasant. New Haven CT: Yale
University Press (1976).

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

The Changing Practices of Kiburua Employment I 77

8. The data for this paper were obtained by using the following methods: (1) A
questionnaire (structured or semi-structured) covering aspects pertaining to the
dynamics of the peasant economy of the Nyameni village of Sagaraland. (2) Informal
interviews and discussion with key informants. (3) Observation. Fieldwork was carried
out between August and September 1994. My intensive research in Nyameni was also
carried out from the end of August to September in 1994.
9. Kibarua means wage labor and a wage laborer.
10. Sagara people has an original language, Kisagara ,but in the present day most of Sagara
speak Kiswahili in the daily life.
11. Sahlins describe the image of the rich man in the primitive society as generous people in
the discussion on primitive exchange.
12. Kasfir, 1986, p. 345.
13. Hanzawa, 1993, pp.193-195.
14. Sugiyama,Yuko. "Agricultural Policy in Bemba Rural Areas" in T. Takane (ed.). Political-
Economic Dynamics and Society.Chiba. The Institute of Developing Economics. (in
Japanese). 2001.


Geertz, Clifford.1963. Agricultural Involution. Berkeley CA: University of California Press.

Hanzawa, Kazuo 1993. "The Development and Characteristics of Commercial Agriculture in
Kenya." In Kodamaya Shiro (eds), Commercialization of Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, Chiba:
The Institute of Developing Economics (in Japanese).

Hyden, Goran 1980. Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and An Uncaptured Peasantry.
London: Heinemann Educational Books.

1983. No Shortcuts to Progress: African Development Management in Perspective.
London: Heinemann Educational Books.

1986. "The Anomaly of the African Peasantry," Development and Change, vol.16, no

Kasfir, Nelson 1986. "Are African Peasants Self-Sufficient?" Development and Change, vol.17, no.

Popkin, Samuel 1979. The Rational Peasant. Berkeley CA: University of California Press.

Sahlins, Marshall.1972, Stone Age Economics. Chicago: Aldine Atherton.

Scott, James C. 1976. The Moral Economy of the Peasant. New Haven CT: Yale University Press.

Sugimura, Kazuhiko 2005. "Urbanization and Islamization in the Kumu Society," Journal of Fukui
Prefectural University no.25

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

78 I Sugimura

2004. "African Forms of Moral Economy A Comparative Perspective," in
Tanzania Journal of Population Studies and Development (a special issue on The Economy of
Affection in Africa), vol.11, no.2.

2004. The Livelihood of the African Peasant. Kyoto: Sekaishisosha (in

1988. "The Indigenous Development of 'Mixed Cropping' Agriculture in
Equatorial Africa," in K. Sakamoto (ed.), The Structure, Economy and Society of Traditional
Agriculture in Equatorial Africa. Faculty of Agriculture, Kyoto University.

Sugiyama,Yuko 2001. "Agricultural Policy in Bemba Rural Areas" in T. Takane (ed.) Political-
Economic Dynamics and Society. Chiba: The Institute of Developing Economics (in Japanese).

Tama, Shinnosukel994. Economics of Farm Household and Farmland. Tokyo: Nobunkyo (in

Yoshida, Masao 1984. "The Debate on Ujamaa Policy in Tanzania." The Developing Economies
,vol.23, no9. (in Japanese).

Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article: Kazuhiko
Sugimura. "The Changing Practices of Kibarua Employment: A Case Study of the Sagara,
Tanzania." African Studies Quarterly 9, no.1 & 2: [online] URL:

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issues 1 & 2 I Fall 2006

The Economy of Affection and Local Enterprises in Africa:

Empirical Evidence from a Network Study in Burkina Faso and



Abstract: This paper, based on the results of a quantitative and qualitative survey,
investigates the role that networks play in the construction sector in Burkina Faso and
Senegal. The aim of this study is to uncover the effects of the economy of affection among
African owned-enterprises through a comparative study of networks. The results
indicate that the networks embedded in the economy of affection have both costs and
benefits to actors in the construction sector in Burkina Faso as well as Senegal. Moreover,
the degree of those costs is likely to vary according to socio-cultural attributes. Through
its informal institutions, the economy of affection facilitates business transactions and
fosters networking. At the same time, it encourages relatives and friends to become
dependent on the entrepreneurs and limits their chance of succeeding. They become, if
not parasites, at least a burden that entrepreneurs have to cope with. These extra
expenses may be compared with the legally imposed social expenditures that modern
corporations in Japan and Western countries have to carry.

In countries like Senegal and Burkina Faso, two of the world's least developed countries,
governments have consistently given a high priority to the improvement of basic social services
such as education, health and food security. Therefore, local enterprises are still struggling
without sufficient support from formal institutions. As a result, entrepreneurs use their own
networks, that give rise to what Hyden has called "the economy of affection", to substitute for
formal business supporting institutions.'
Due to their size and isolation, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (hereafter
referred to as SMEs) face various obstacles: the lack of specialized skills or equipment,
inaccessibility of formal financial institutes, and difficulty of obtaining relevant information.2 In
order to find the key to reducing these hindrances, in recent years the aggregate efficiency of
clusters and networks has become a considerable tool and drawn increasing attention.3
However, after the implementation of numerous experimental projects, the results show that
the aggregate efficiency is not present among African clusters and networks.4 The question is
why not in Africa? Referring to six case studies in Africa, McCormick concluded that the small
size of markets, over-supply of labor, and weak institutions characteristic of many African
countries make external economies and joint action inefficient and non-functional. She also laid

Tomomi Tokuori is a doctoral student at the graduate school of Economics and Business Administration of
Hokkaido University. She is also a visiting researcher at the Hokkaido Development Engineering Center in Japan.

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

80 I Tokuori

stress on the absence of "complex industrial clusters," which produce strong aggregate
efficiency with diversified size structure and inter-firm linkages.5 Similarly, Pedersen pointed
out that the absence of very efficient large-scale enterprises may be one of the crucial causes.
This is because small enterprises often obtain access to non-local resources and markets via the
large enterprises.6 Those two opinions explained what is commonly referred to as the "missing
middle" in Africa.7
This study was designed to investigate further the socio-economic role that networks play
in the construction sector in Burkina Faso and Senegal.8 The discussion is based on the results of
a quantitative and qualitative survey carried out in 2004 and 2005, sampling construction
enterprises of various scales. The aim of this study is to uncover the effects of economy of
affection among African owned-enterprises through a comparative study of these networks.
The author's working hypothesis is that the growth constraints on the private sector in Africa
may grow out of the economy of affection. Therefore, this is a preliminary study for clarifying
several aspects of networks that may explain the collective inefficiency of African entrepreneurs
as well.

Implications of the network in Sub-Sahara Africa

Since Hyden stated that "there are no studies that have attempted to measure the
quantitative and qualitative impact of the economy of affection on the national economy of a
given country," many scholars have been trying to full this gap in different ways.9 Since Hyden
defined the economy of affection as being formed by differently attributed networks, any
examination of networks should focus on these differences. Many efforts by scholars
notwithstanding, the amount of empirical economic evidence still remains small.10 This paper
borrows from the existing literature to illustrate the characteristics of entrepreneurs' networks
in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Several case studies have been carried out. For the past three decades, Van Dijk has been
working on the informal sector in Burkina Faso. His study concludes that "innovations,
clustering and subcontracting are not yet the key characteristics of a dynamic informal sector
entrepreneur."" Van Dijk, however, also found that skilled women entrepreneurs are better
adjusted and benefit more from cooperative types of business development than men.12
Generally speaking, the present situation of informal entrepreneurs in Burkina Faso favors a
good location, personal relations, and a number of other variables (such as initial investments,
the choice of activity, and the chosen technology). Such elements are still more important than
clusters of enterprises and networks of entrepreneurs for achieving collective efficiency.13
One of Van Dijk's studies among small enterprises in Accra showed that in many cases, as
can be seen elsewhere in Africa, access to employment opportunities and participation in a
mutual co-operation are highly influenced by ethnic affiliation rather than professional
association.14 McCormick examines family and professional networks in the garment markets of
Nairobi based on three characteristics of the firms' owners: ethnicity, level of education, and
gender. He concluded that poorly educated small-sized garment manufacturers tend to use
their networks. Besides, social networks are generally sex-segregated and women's networks
tend to have less power and resources to stimulate a business than men's networks. In many

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

The Economy of Affection and Local Enterprises in Africa I 81

cases, networks lead back to rural markets where incomes and profit margins are present, but
they cannot change their business performance significantly. Furthermore, these networks
appear to be based not on clustering, but on the entrepreneurs' other social and professional
contacts.15 Additionally, she explained theoretically how social relations are implanted and
influenced in the entrepreneurs' economic relations: 1) different processes of development are
used according to specific and interrelated historical, social, and cultural factors; 2) socio-
cultural attributes create grounds for trust and reciprocity in inter-firm relations; and 3) the
social environment, in which people live or work, strongly influences and is influenced by the
processes of innovation and technological change.16
With econometric analysis, Fafchamps underlined that in a flea market economy, the
emphasis on relationships and the sharing of information in communities and networks
minimizes large-transaction expenditures and raise productivity. For instance, when it is
difficult to identify reliable trading partners, relationships become their own security or
guarantee and start to function as a business referral system.17 However, his research on
agricultural traders in Madagascar showed that once family members are involved in trade, it
reduces a productive component of social capital.18 His latest study (2002), a comparative
survey in Benin, Malawi, and Madagascar, also investigated the effects of ethnicity, religion,
and gender in agricultural trade. Many earlier sociological studies had stressed the importance
of cultural attributes in African trade. Fafchamps, however, found that ethnicity and religion
have only limited effects on start-up networks and the accumulation of network and capital
over time. Gender matters more.19 Although they cannot be generalized to all African countries,
his results ran counter to the stereotype of strong ethnic, gender, and religious bias in African
trading and business.
Noteworthy results have also been generated by numerous recent studies of Barr, which
demonstrated econometrically the role played by entrepreneurial networks in the Ghanaian
manufacturing sector.20 Her study identified two types of networks: 1) innovation networks that
are large, diverse, less cohesive and best suited to providing access to information about
technology and market; and 2) solidarity networks that are small, homogeneous, cohesive, and
best suited to reducing information asymmetries and supporting informal credit and risk-
sharing arrangements. Using data from the Ghanaian manufacturing sector, she found that in
contrast to innovation networks, solidarity networks may have a marginal effect on enterprise
productivity which can be seen in the smaller sized enterprises. This is because small
enterprises are more likely to focus on reducing uncertainty rather than enhancing enterprises
Besides the above studies, moving from theory to practice, the United Nations Industrial
Development Organization (UNIDO) has undertaken many initiatives to promote development
projects based on networking.21 However, compared to those in Asian countries, most of these
projects in Sub-Saharan Africa have not been implemented successfully.
Thus, the above studies have produced detailed new evidence of networks in Sub-Saharan
Africa and raised several important questions in the context of development policy: (1) Do
networks help local enterprises to overcome the growth constraint? (2) Do networks negatively
affect the larger leading enterprises?

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

82 I Tokuori

The Structure of the Construction Industry in Burkina Faso and Senegal

The importance of the construction industry in developing countries as a contributor to
socio-economic development has been addressed by policy organizations and several
researchers.22 The author's previous researches have focused on understanding segmented
urban labor markets and the presence of horizontal networks and vertical linkages among
differently scaled enterprises in specific sectors of Burkina Faso.23 Although, the research was
not detailed enough to illustrate the structure of strong linkages and networks among
enterprises, it showed that particularly in the construction sector, larger local enterprises
commit a large part of labor-intensive operations to micro and small enterprises through
subcontracting. A recent study of Mlinga and Wells (2002), which was carried out in the
construction industry in Tanzania, proved that there were strong links between formal and
informal contractors in terms of labor, material and equipment supply.24
In this paper, due to a lack of time series data in both Burkina Faso and Senegal, only the
recent role of construction sector from a macro-economic point of view is briefly discussed. A
detailed discussion of situations and definitions of the construction industry in Sub-Saharan
Africa can be found elsewhere.

Burkina Faso

Data from the past decade clearly indicates a low demand for construction in Burkina Faso.
For the fiscal years 1998-2002, the average contribution to GDP from the construction sector,
which is comprised of both the building and the civil engineering sub-sector, was only 4.2%.25
A very recent official document showed that the total production of the modern sector of
building and construction works more than doubled in value from 10.6 billion CFA Francs in
1999 to 25 billion CFA Francs in 2000.26 This contribution is important for the secondary sector,
which increased from 7% in 1995 to 10% in 1999, and stabilized at 12% in 2000.27 This dynamism
has been boosted by certain events, e.g., Sommet France-Afrique, Sommet de I'OUA, Coupe
d'Afrique des Nations de Football de 1998.
The construction sector in Burkina Faso has seen an increase in informal employment
opportunities within the sector from 10,682 in 1985 to 13,836 in 1995.28 The decline in formal
employment could be caused by a conversion to a flexible production strategy such as labor-
only subcontracting. Whereas this kind of shift counterbalances the unstable construction
demand, it cannot change the fact that the industry has, over the past decade, experienced a
significant reduction in employment opportunities.


The construction sector in Senegal contributes an average of about 4.6% to GDP with an
annual average growth rate of 11% for the fiscal years 1998-2001.29 Although the current
contributions are still low, the progressive increase should be seen over the next few years
because of the following big construction projects: 1) a new airport; 2) modernization and
extension of the port in Dakar; 3) a new industrial zone and residential area; 4) a new road

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

The Economy of Affection and Local Enterprises in Africa I 83

between Dakar and Thies; and 5) a hotel and conference center and urban road rehabilitation,
maintenance and new construction (40km) for the Islamic Conference (OCI 2007).30
The construction sector employs 44,161 people, and about half of them (22,973) are from the
informal sector.31 More than half (58.7%) of total salaries (about 49 billion CFA Francs) go to the
permanent employees, whereas temporary employees and assistants receive almost identical
proportions: respectively 21% and 20% of the total salaries (about 17.7 billions CFA Francs and
16.8 billion CFA Francs respectively).32
The production of the construction sector was valued 479.5 billion CFA Francs in 2000,
with intermediate goods at 323.5 billion CFA Francs and added value at 156 billion CFA Francs,
which is 33% of total production. The account details are as followings:

Production of construction sector: the modern sector contributes 59% of the total
production against 41% for the informal sector (284 billion CFA Francs and 195.5 billions
CFA Francs respectively);
Intermediate consumption goods (ICG): the modern sector contributes 59% of ICG with
41% for the informal sector (192.2 billion CFA Francs and 131.3 billions CFA Francs
Added value: like ICG, the modern sector created 59% and 41% for the informal sector
(91.8 billion CFA Francs and 64.2 billion CFA Francs respectively);
Workers' expenses (wages): the modern sector contributes 52.4% with about 44 billion
CFA Francs and 47.6% for the informal sector with 39.7 billion CFA Francs.33

What has been said above leads several conclusions. The construction sector in both Burkina
Faso and Senegal has the same level of low contribution to the GDP with gradual progress.
However, thanks to the current remarkable international attention to African problems, the
amount of investment for physical infrastructure can be expected to increase dramatically at
least over the next five years. Regarding the value of the volume of production, the modern
sector in Senegal generated about four times more than that of Burkina Faso (91.8 billion CFA
Francs and 25 billion CFA Francs in 2000). Additionally, the great contribution of informal
employment to the construction labor market was remarkable in both counties.

Findings of questionnaire survey

This study employed a questionnaire survey in order to identify characteristics and the role of
networks in the construction sector of Burkina Faso and Senegal. This survey is a preliminary
survey for networks. In the near future, a further detailed survey will be carried out according
to the result of this survey.

Survey Site

In case of Burkina Faso, the data collection was carried out in Ouagadougou, the capital
city, which has a population of 1,200,000 (2005) with a rapid growth rate of 9.8% per annum.34
For the past couple of years, the production of construction and public works has been visibly
active in Ouagadougou. Recently, there has been a remarkable presence of the informal sector,
due to the crisis in the Ivory Coast and new city planning. Local construction material

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

84 I Tokuori

producers have profited from the decline of imported construction materials from the Ivory
Coast. Thus, the activities of construction and public works increased at a rate of 9.6% in 2002.35
Additionally, the business district recently moved to a new area (Ouaga 2000), which is part of
an urban development project. Many heavy constructions were carried out in order to prepare
for the Francophone Conference held on November 2004.
In Senegal, research was conducted in Dakar, which is known as the most sophisticated
and cosmopolitan city in West Africa. After the conflict in the Ivory Coast, Dakar became the
center of West Africa economically and politically, both in name and in reality. Dakar had an
estimated population of 1.9 million in 2002.36 It covers only 0.3% of the country's surface area
but accounts for 22% of its total population, with 4800 inhabitants per square km.37 Due to its
dense population, the city faces a serious shortage of potable water and electricity and suffers
urban transport dysfunction. Like Ouagadougou, Dakar has experienced a dramatic increase in
the number of projects dealing with construction and public works. In particular, a rush on
building houses for the upper-middle class was very visible in certain new residential areas.
However, since last summer, activity in this sector has fluctuated because of the disclosure of a
bribery case with the former minister of construction being eventually arrested. Therefore,
implementing the questionnaire in Dakar was much harder than Ouagadougou and many
entrepreneurs were quite nervous to respond on subjects dealing with financial matters.

Classification of Samples

All classifications of enterprises in Sub-Saharan countries are somewhat determined by
subjective conceptualism, due to the lack of accurate statistical data and standard typology.
Particularly, for the construction sector, ministries that deal with a construction project have
their own classification system, which is governed by criteria such as 1) quality and quantity of
qualified engineers, assistant engineers, and workers; 2) quantity of construction machinery and
equipment; 3) financial capacity, and so on. Therefore, this study does not address questions of
definition pertaining to each segment. The author has classified enterprises simply according to
their way of taxation and registration, and their annual turnover, based on the standards used
by each ministry. In particular, the maximum annual turnover in each segment varies from
ministry to ministry and from Senegal to Burkina Faso. Thus, the author modified the
maximum turnover and divided enterprises into two groups: (1) small and medium-sized
construction enterprises (SMCE) with a maximum turnover of 500 million CFA Francs; and (2)
informal construction enterprises (ICE) with a maximum turnover of 25 million CFA Francs.
As there is no large-sized construction enterprise in Burkina Faso, after the liquidation of
two public construction companies, this category was excluded in Senegal as well.38 In this
study, ICE refers to the micro enterprises, which submitted a taxation form for the informal
sector. In addition, those who don not register with the taxation office and don not have a
formal accounting record are also included in ICE.


Data were collected with structured questionnaires in Burkina Faso (from February to August
2004) and Senegal (from April to June and from October to December 2005). A total of eighty

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

The Economy of Affection and Local Enterprises in Africa I 85

five and sixty five enterprises in Burkina Faso and Senegal respectively were interviewed for
this study with the assistance of two graduate students from University of Ouagadougou and
ISM (Institut Superieur de Management) in Dakar. The numbers of small and medium-sized
enterprises were obtained from DGR in Burkina Faso and DCH in Senegal.39 Informal
enterprises were identified and interviewed at the construction sites in both countries.
The first part of the questionnaire (Table 1) covered respondent's background
characteristics (age, sex, birthplace, tribe, religion, marital status, number of children, level of
education, number of employees) and their company's features (number of employees and


In addition, Table 2-3 summarizes the second part of the questions, which ascertain
characteristics of entrepreneurial networks and social networks.40

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

1. N

86 I Tokuori

Table CharacteristicsofEntrepreneurialNetworks
Entrepreneurial Networks/Senegal
No, of firms 40 25
Men no, of full-ie employees 3 7
Men no, of part-time iployees 7 30
Mm no. of quilled enagners 0 2
Iern moniunll) urnowrtli3 11111i11111 C FA Frrii : "'ii 16,700,070
M R no, orfalmy or ravs in cIn radlon Mn ry
(range0-20)4 2

Mean no, or close Rimeds in constridilon Indutry
(rqenK20) 5 5
Coopratn wih local terprises In constructle Industry(%)
Ys _92 87
No 8 13
What kinds of cooperaions(#)
I Ladingoirowing machinery 19 5
2 rfulnln in 'ineli 21 6
3 Lediug/boirowing automobile 9 3
4 LLiding i,,n' 4 ilit. 4 d1idI t,. 20 4
5 Product development 5 5
6 Marketing Rsearch 15 4
7 P1chaseofinptsM 6 3
E.Ntwork Is Important for your business or not(%)
Yes 87 96
No 13 4
Source: Authoios Suivey

Entrepreneurial Networks/ Burkina Faso
No. of firms 43 42
Mean no, of fll-time employee 3 10
Mean no, of part-time employees 16 30
Mea no. of qualified qeiners 0 1
e \l nihornli)h urrioifrtif12I5,1Nl,11iK,iI Ct Fiiny lllll "R, Il!ii
Mea no. 1 rally or reatives in costrdon iniOustry
(range 0-5) 1

Mea no. of dose flenidsin constraucliindustry
(range -25) 4.5 5
Cooperaon with local nterprles In construct l industry% )
Yes 80, 805
No 20 15
What kinds of cooperaliouns(
1 Lendiglbotrowing machine 14 22
2 LedingATowing equipment 10 18
3 Lendiug/boowing automobile 12 15
4 ltn.' t,. ,niIing4 il tii Ate 5 14
5 Product development 1 1
6 Meeting Research 25 18
7 Purchaseofiouts 0 9
ENetwork is important for your business or not(%)
Yes 92 90
No 10

The questionnaire was partially borrowed from Barr's study and modified in accordance
with the purpose of this study, viz., an interpretation of the essential mechanism of networks.41
Her questionnaire module was designed particularly for inclusion in an econometric model to
clarify the economic role played by entrepreneurial networks in the Ghanaian manufacturing
sector. The present study focused on the construction sector. In addition, Barr emphasized that
to identify general patterns linking enterprises and network characteristics, a case study
methodology is not an appropriate tool.42 However, since the author's goal is to uncover the
more profound parts of cultural endowment, a case-study methodology was employed

Characteristics of Samples

Table 1 indicates that characteristics of the samples in Burkina Faso. Data from eighty five
construction enterprises, including forty three of ICE and forty two of SMCE, were successfully
gathered. Respondents' average age was about thirty six for ICE and forty three for SMCE, and
most of them were married with an average of 2.5 and 3.5 children, respectively. Given the fact
that most of the enterprises selected for this study were male-dominant, the proportion of men
in the sample is relatively high: 100% of ICE and 93% of SMCE were male. About 80% of ICE

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

The Economy of Affection and Local Enterprises in Africa I 87

and 60% of SMCE belonged to Mossi, the main tribe in Burkina Faso. Levels of education for
ICE were quite high compared to the average level of education for urban informal sector in
Burkina Faso where more than 50% are illiterate.43 Characteristics of firms are shown in the first
part of Table 2. Sampled ICE had three full-time workers and sixteen part-time workers,
compared with ten full-time workers and thirty part-time workers for SMCE. The mean
monthly turnover was 300,000 CFA Francs for ICE and 7,300,000 CFA Francs for SMCE.
In case of Senegal, the number of samples was sixty five construction enterprises, including
forty of ICE and twenty five of SMCE. Respondents' average age was about thirty six for ICE
and forty eight for SMCE, and more than 80% of samples were married with an average of two
and five children, respectively. Like Burkina Faso, 100% of ICE and 92% of SMCE were male.
Concerning ethnic and religious attributions, about 49% of ICE and 67% of SMCE belonged to
Wolof, the main ethnic group in Senegal while 100% of ICE and 92% of SMCE are Muslim, the
main religion (more than 90% of the population). Regarding to the level of education, about 40%
of ICE were either dropouts from elementary school or completely illiterate. On the other hand,
more than 70% of SMCE had higher educational backgrounds. The internal conditions of firms
are as followings: Sampled ICE had six full-time workers and seven part-time workers,
compared with seven full-time workers and thirty part-time workers for SMCE. The mean
monthly turnover was 1,750,000 CFA Francs for ICE and 16,700,000 CFA Francs for SMCE.

Characteristics of Entrepreneurial Networks

To identify characteristics of entrepreneurial networks, first of all, respondents were asked
how many people they knew in each of eight groups: governmental organization, foreign
consulting construction enterprise, large construction enterprise, small and medium sized
consulting construction enterprise, small and medium sized construction enterprise, registered
informal construction enterprise, unregistered informal construction enterprise and informal
construction day labor. After this question, the entrepreneurs were also asked how long they
had known these people.
In case of Burkina Faso, both ICE and SMCE have quite a similar pattern of widespread
networks with a range of one to ten acquaintances in each groups. However, around 40% of
SMCE know more than twenty people in governmental organization. Moreover, the majority of
ICE have a one to five-year relationship with all the groups, while SMCE have six- to ten-year
relationships. In Senegal, the diversification of networks is very much like Burkina Faso.
However, in terms of the length of relationships, SMCE have more profound relationship with
formal larger enterprises, while ICE have a much weaker link with all the groups.
One of the findings indicated that the networks of both ICE and SMC in Burkina Faso
tended to be created by the same groups, such as: 1) family members or relatives; 2) friends
from school; and 3) people from the same village or area. However, in Senegal, the networks of
two stratified groups seem to be generated by different criteria. For instance, ICE mentioned the
groups in this order: 1) friends from school; 2) the same religious group; and 3) from the same
village. SMCE responded differently: 1) same business association; 2) former colleague; and 3)
friends from university.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

88 I Tokuori

The entrepreneurs were also asked how many members of their close family and close
friends were in the construction industry. ICE had a mean of one close family member and
SMCE had none in Burkina Faso. ICE had a mean of four close family members and SMCE had
two in Senegal. Both ICE and SMCE had a similar result of five close friends in the construction
industry in Burkina Faso and Senegal.
The questionnaire also asked about the types of cooperation with local enterprises. For both
countries, ICE and SMCE showed strong cooperation in lending and borrowing necessities
including machinery, equipment, automobiles, and skilled workers. At the end, respondents
were asked whether entrepreneurial networks were important for their business. 92% of ICE
and 90% of SMCE in Burkina Faso and 87% of ICE and 96% of SMCE in Senegal replied
affirmatively (Table2).
These results lead to the conclusion that the entrepreneurial networks for ICE and SMCE in
both countries are very much diversified in the same way, but with a different degree in terms
of the number of acquaintances. In Senegal, 50-60% of SMCE know more than twenty people in
all formal larger enterprises, (except the foreign consulting construction enterprises), while
SMCE in Burkina Faso know more than twenty people only in governmental organization. In
addition, relationships for SMCE in Senegal are much more profound with all the other groups,
compared with SMCE in Burkina Faso. However, ICE in both countries have relatively weak
relationship with other groups. Moreover, the places where they established these relationships
vary greatly. The networks of both groups in Burkina Faso tend to be established through
family members or relatives, friends from school, and the same village. A couple of interesting
results appeared from Senegalese respondents. While friends from school, the same religious
group, and people from the same village are the main tools for making the entrepreneurial
networks for ICE, SMCE emphasized the importance of the same business association, former
colleague, and friends from university. As Senegal is a Muslim country, the religious groups are
one of the tools to create smaller-sized entrepreneurial relationships. On the other hand, larger-
sized entrepreneurs may count on professionally interrelated groups rather than effectively
interrelated group. Within these networks, both ICE and SMCE had strong cooperation for
lending or borrowing requisites in order to pursue construction works. Lastly, most
entrepreneurs in both countries considered that entrepreneurial networks were important to
stabilize or improve their business performance.

Characteristics of Social Networks

The features of social networks were examined with several questions, and the results are
presented in Table 3. In the first place, respondents were asked how many people came to see
them with social problems. While both ICE and SMCE in Burkina Faso received around five
visitors per month, ICE and SMCE in Senegal had sixty two and twenty visitors per month,
respectively. In the second place, respondents were also asked how much time they spent
consulting about social problems. In Burkina Faso: ICE spent sixteen hours per month and
SMCE thirty one hours per month. In Senegal: ICE spent thirty one hours per month and SMCE
sixteen hours per month. The third question asked the amount of money respondents spend
solving social problems. While ICE spent 15,OOOCFA per month, and SMCE spent 50,OOOCFA

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

The Economy of Affection and Local Enterprises in Africa I 89

per month in Burkina Faso, Senegalese ICE spent 77,500CFA per month, and SMCE spent
137,500CFA per month.
In addition to the above questions, firms were asked who brought social problems and
what kinds of problems. In the case of Burkina Faso, both ICE and SMCE gave almost the same
answers. Most cases concerned a family member or relatives, people from the same village, and
friends from school (in that order). The three most common problems were health, work, and
money. In Senegal, both types of entrepreneurs handled problems with similar groups such as
family members or relatives, people from the same village, and former colleagues. Besides,
many respondents mentioned that their neighbors very often came to see them for social
problems. The top three social problems in Senegal were health, daily expenses, and transport
for ICE with money, health and ceremony for SMCE. The last question was whether social
networks affected their business negatively. While 23% of ICE and 18% of SMCE in Burkina
Faso answered affirmatively, 55% of ICE and 35% of SMCE in Senegal also answered "yes".
To conclude and emphasize the above information, respondents were also asked about
their working hours and working days. The aim was to calculate total hours worked and total
hours spent for social problems.44 In Burkina Faso, ICE and SMCE worked an average of six
hours and eight hours per day, respectively. Both ICE and SMCE worked an average of eight
hours per day in Senegal. As a result, ICE and SMCE spent about 2.6 and 3.9 working days
respectively for social problems in Burkina Faso and about 3.9 and 2.0 working days in Senegal.
Furthermore, ICE and SMCE spent about 5% and 0.7% of monthly turnover respectively for
social problem in Burkina Faso and about 4.4% and 0.8% in Senegal. These social problems are
overwhelmingly brought by family members or relatives. Under these circumstances, the
majority of entrepreneurs in Burkina Faso did not feel that social networks affected them
negatively, whereas 55% of ICE and 35% of SMCE in Senegal felt a negative effect from social
networks on their business. Interestingly, this discrepancy does not seem to be reflected in the
statistics shown above. In spite of money and time they spent for social networks, 78% of ICE
and 82% of SMCE in Burkina Faso responded that social networks do not have a negative affect
on their business. An explanation of this discrepancy between respondents' opinions and reality
is offered in the next section.

Findings of interview survey


Only a small number of in-depth qualitative interviews (summarized in Table 4 and Table 5)
were conducted to supplement or confirm the questionnaire survey.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

90 I Tokuori

A total of eight respondents (four samples from ICE and four samples from SMCE) were

interviewed. These samples were selected from respondents to the quantitative questionnaire

survey, which was carried out in advance. This survey was piloted and then administered

solely by the author in order to gain a better understanding of the characteristics of networks.

The following questions were asked:

Table4 Negathd and Poshii'e Aspects of Entrepreneurial and Social Networks

Burkina Faso Senegal
Nep adw PosiLve Nepgtlw Posiive
*'udlpayat *toomucha hmeon diffct a ofi&l *dffit waesa oidk *n mizay o minina myon a rapid aoactin *amion like lobby
somtoe'St Mp cpuionct & etployt eqipmdt & taloyce Bnacial md pby'esd fuincial and physical
c an1it-y capbility

'no rccd PfcoulBct Iac ofn ntivation i aduncaCfailof yuig 1mmiUMing 006 chce N raped of&deinc 'uflmanIC obitamid avalability oif cc 'dsort-cut to slv cslain
uty make an cffat cmotrctn f rtming nial if tio i u ollctt pflm

*norewad ocr llral *nesded bunn solv finuciam t or qp ca k *tqpmclb *aorcingthePcaaciyof I ravaJilaityofacds
EllNW ifdfic-ity utade ctB4x 'ath ddective lraud withadefectivme arcprocmwrip
condilion condlition

r*%nally bnefidA ^dtnfinof afAwinda A meiime. iqt et ng prafitfrm I* obiining ofntea muhi
rsourts oblgidin to take ons lading cqipnt s qpcicmat,madmay
ques vAyoumar andl plree

4tl uprflasn *tting some Wk
dclayorlackof los oflime & mcney uiw.allybaicfidl *mfn to nub &pendance loss oftime *5wl pb ovingcatinprUomic
rcimbinumcn onparitid person easily

4iW nttrst fw t0ing *cmpwingf4panys i 0ing)apdiX n I sclf- aMsfwioM Nibr adqoilyof tdingpeopictikAit o&valpetaid for Idf.-s.6sfaietion
micfy displijne repaymt ting moneyis easy idividds

'Wrliiity Oqismfgb ''mtwasaunit v'pafni atig Iof time d h tI wL mw &pm=u I If ydou dv snonudlg WuAWu =a be Pwd
budgets Mony gwd,somEconcprayfor oforplesurchclpingt
yeOL posrw orfmilynemiGr

#dIhdity O mating a too inh ntimacy can caib s somwe of relipous ecumdaon
dAiy 5dwmdu or vmitl bimufid coalt to hl4 Mah W=
plan for biniss

*nMpnsiblMc to ignore *rciprocation is anys *mnci can be pu-d of
becneii ii damtits oe' expected orpleat re helping pai
reptiaioninsociety orfamilymeuber

Source: Aithors Survey

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

The Economy of Affection and Local Enterprises in Africa I 91

Table Selected Keywords of Entrepreneurial and Social Networks

Burkina Faso Senegal
Entrepreneurial network Poaive Negative Positive Negative Positive Negative Positive Negative
tinmp card \lobby soldarity difficulty sdicate Burden
support partnership muurlid resistance mnutualinterest
mutual help informal institute cooperation partnerhip
.:,gaizjtin additional tool ada e solidarity
relation lobby
Social netNork Postive Neativetive tive Negative Positive Neptive Positive Negatve
xonfiddeu b, mden mutil a.:i5tat constraint miilur ai d iffiulty social b eana
motivation obligation social security duty solidarity waste God's recommendation
help moral contract negative progress Hunmanresponsibility
bli_______i__n chaine Mutual aid
____________ _________ support ___Line I__
Source Aulhor's Szrei

What is the negative aspect of using entrepreneurial networks?
What is the positive aspect of using entrepreneurial networks?
What is the negative aspect of using social networks?
What is the positive aspect of using social networks?
Do you think that social networks affect your business negatively? (Yes/No)
Describe the entrepreneurial network in a few words?
Describe the social network in a few words?

Negative and Positive Aspects of the Entrepreneurial Network

ICE and SMCE in Burkina Faso expressed quite different opinions. Concerning negative
aspects, many respondents from SMCE felt that the presence of networks made people too
dependent on other's assistance and caused them to lose motivation. Instead of being mutually
beneficial, most of these relationships are burdensome and one-sided. More simply, if you help
someone, the gesture is unlikely to be reciprocated. The ICE seems to have faced some problems
with contractors. As most of the contracts with ICE are "unwritten" and "tacit consent," very
often contractors do not respect the contractual clauses. Consequently, it causes delay or refusal
of payment. On the other hand, one of positive aspects of the network for both ICE and SMCE
was the effective usage of idle equipment and employees. Although they do not have formal
contracts, they can earn money by temporarily employing their staff and equipment.
Additionally, they consider that entrepreneurial networks help them overcome obstacles,
especially financial difficulties.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

92 I Tokuori

In the case of Senegal, unlike Burkina Faso, lending equipment or materials can be a
negative factor causing a reduction of the enterprise's physical capacity. In many cases
equipment was reportedly returned in a defective condition. Moreover, respondents said that
lending money reduced their financial capacity as well. In other words, they are facing some
difficulties of availability. Delaying or failing to return equipment and returning defective
equipment deprived them of use for their own work. Regarding the positive aspects, most
respondents stated that using their networks is an easier and faster way of fulfilling their needs
and solving their problems.
We can conclude from what has been said above that unwritten and tacitly consented to
contracts were both positive and negative for entrepreneurial networks in both Burkina Faso
and Senegal. As respondents of Senegal stated, it is an easier and faster way of reaching
agreement by eliminating complicated formalities, which are normally time-consuming and
costly. Informal institutions reduce transaction costs. Furthermore, in many cases lending or
borrowing construction-related materials and equipment seemed to function as an important
support institution and complement entrepreneurs' needs. On the negative side, lack of care
and maintenance of equipment, lent on an informal basis, was the most frequently cited

Negative and Positive Aspects of the Social Network

Interviewees were asked about the negative and positive aspects of their social networks.
Respondents from ICE in Burkina Faso said that, as in entrepreneurial networks, underpayment
affects their businesses negatively. The view of SMCE was that the presence of social networks
affects their profit, plan, and their company's discipline. These factors make it difficult for
entrepreneurs to budget their time and money. The only positive aspects found seem to be the
"self-satisfaction" of SMCE. This means that they can feel satisfied for having fulfilled their
social obligations (such as lending money or materials to participants of their network). This
achievement enables them to secure their reputation and present position in their society.
However, for ICE, just like the entrepreneurial network, the social network is mutually
beneficial in terms of reciprocated financial aid and encouragement in the continuation of
In the case of Senegal, both ICE and SMCE mentioned that too much dependence or too
much intimacy might hurt both the recipient and the provider of help. In addition to this, they
felt that sometimes it is a waste of time and money to deal with the social network. On the other
hand, the positive aspects mentioned by ICE were very much related to their religious beliefs.
All respondents of ICE stated that mutual aid is a religious obligation and what they do
normally in their daily life.
The difference between Senegal and Burkina Faso is in the degree of religious influence on
the social network. Compared to Senegal, a Muslim-dominated country, no religious bias is
found in Burkina Faso, where Muslims represent only half of the sample. In particular, some of
the SMCE respondents in Burkina Faso questioned why they were asked about their religious
and ethnic attributes, implying that these criteria make little or no difference.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

The Economy of Affection and Local Enterprises in Africa I 93

Do Social Networks Affect their Business Negatively?

Additionally, interviewees were asked whether social networks affect their business
negatively. Six respondents answered "no". However, there were some exceptional views in
response to this question, for instance "Answer is No, but I wish I didn't need to deal with such
networks." OR "Answer is No, because if I don't want to cooperate, I do refuse. It all depends
on me." These answers reflect what Hyden asserts, "There are many who reject it because it is
such a burden or it goes against their professional belief. It is sufficiently pervasive, however,
that those who reject it find it very hard to live and work in their country."45 These two
respondents are highly educated and very skilled engineers. However, as it is hardly possible to
make a clear-cut distinction between personal affairs and business affairs in African society,
people very often have a hard time working professionally and independently. The author also
realized that respondents from ICE expressed very similar viewpoints of the negative and the
positive effects of both networks. We may say that entrepreneurs of ICE tend to intertwine their
personal and business matters.
In Senegal, six respondents answered "No" as well. However, the reasons are quite
different. Most of those respondents who said "No" gave the following religious reasons:
"helping the poor or family members is something we are recommended or obligated to do by
God"; "if you do something good, you will get a reward from God"; "we are Muslims so we
have to help each other"; "helping others is like helping myself." Two respondents who
answered "Yes" commented as follows: "Even though I myself face some financial problem, if
someone asks me to help, I have to spend what little money I have. It undoubtedly affects my
business. Money I contribute to social networks is a kind of sacrifice to the society. But it very
often blocks my business." Besides those questions, the author spontaneously added another
question which is related to their religious brotherhood. Two respondents of ICE, out of eight
including SMCE, remarked that the brotherhood (Mouride) to which they belong affects their
business somehow. For example, friends from the same brotherhood gave them some work to
do or a workshop. However, the rest of the respondents, especially SMCE, emphasized that
brotherhood cannot do anything for their business and has no influence at all.
Strong informal social pressures shape the role that social networks play in Burkina Faso.
This situation reflects the society in Burkina Faso as described in the literature. For instance, the
Mossi (the main ethnic group), are known as a feudal and highly hierarchical society. Their
mutual solidarity derives from a sense of common identity, belonging, unity and kindness.46
Additionally, communal sharing is typical within lineages, especially in the extended-family.
Within one lineage, seniority forms the basis of ranked authority and has a good deal of
influence upon people in both rural and urban areas.47 Consequently, this kind of cultural
endowment is likely to exercise a definite degree of social pressure to entrepreneurs. On the
other hand, the existence of numerous religious practices and beliefs seems to have little
pressure on entrepreneurs in Burkina Faso. Therefore, we can say that in Burkina Faso, ethnic,
kinship and family ties have stronger influence and pressure on social networks there than any
other attributes, while religious ties have a greater effect in Senegal.

Description of the Entrepreneurial Network and Social Network

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

94 I Tokuori

Respondents were also asked to describe the entrepreneurial network and social network
in a few words. Table 5 shows that in contrast to the negative effect of the entrepreneurial
network, half of the respondents described social networks as "obligation," "burden,"
"constraint," and "duty." What has to be noticed here is that even though six of the
interviewees said social networks do not affect their business negatively, they are not willing to
get involved with the network. One interviewee added that "personal affairs are already
included in my business schedule and no matter how busy I am, it is my obligation to deal with
them." To put it another way, entrepreneurs accept negative effects on their business and try to
incorporate this reality into their routine as "obligation." Of course, a few respondents
answered positively, using terms such as "confidence," "motivation," and "social security." But,
this is because these respondents also accept assistance. There are takers and givers in the
network. In reality, however, distribution through the network is not really equal or well-
balanced. Table 5 also indicates that while entrepreneurs of SMCE make a clear-cut usage
between two networks, respondents from ICE do not distinguish between them.
In the case of Senegal, ICE described both the entrepreneurial network and the social
network with similar words. For instance, "solidarity" and "mutual aid" are common positive
words and "difficulty" is a common negative word that they used for both networks. In
contrast, most of SMCE respondents used different words for the two networks. "Syndicate,"
"mutual interest," "partnership," and "lobby" were mentioned for the entrepreneurial network,
and "social balance," "God's recommendation," and "Human responsibility" were used to
describe the social network.
Even though the social value of equity and solidarity are deeply rooted in both countries,
informal social pressure on participants of the networks in Burkina Faso seems to be much
stronger than in Senegal. As proof, Senegalese described their "social network" with fewer
negative words and with a more moderate meaning. As social involvement and contribution
are among the religious sanctions in a Muslim country, "obligation" may not be a forced
pressure in Senegal. It is a kind of deep habit in their society.


In conclusion, it may be worth returning to Van Dijk (1997), who writes: "many people
seem to face a psychological barrier in the sense that, in many instances, they depend on
relations. They lack the initiative to search for other opportunities and rely totally on family and
friends."48 In the middle of the survey in Burkina Faso, the author also started to realize that
their reluctance to answer according to their actual beliefs in a sense shows that entrepreneurs
recognize the existence of Van Dijk's "psychological barrier." They understand that over-
reliance on social networks can negatively affect their business, but to say so would run
contrary to the African concept of how society operates. It means that social pressures can
conceal the reality of the situation and in the case of Burkina Faso a significant source of this
pressure comes from kinship and family relations.
However, in the case of Senegal, even though the socio-cultural components are much
more complicated and interwoven, religious affiliation has the most striking influence on the
networks. As several findings from the literature demonstrate, the influential Islamic economic

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

The Economy of Affection and Local Enterprises in Africa I 95

organization called the Mouride Brotherhood contributes significantly to the Senegalese
economy and has a strong linkage with the informal sector in Dakar.49 However, due to the
limited time for fieldwork in Senegal, more extensive research on this matter needs to be done
in the future. Assuming though that religious affiliation is something people can choose,
whereas ethnic, kinship, and family relation are givens, the conclusion is that the degree of
social pressure on entrepreneurs is stronger in Burkina Faso than in Senegal.
Social networks and entrepreneurial networks become more active when public
institutions do not function efficiently. Instead of getting support from public institutions, the
management of social and business problems fall directly on the person who is capable of
solving the problems. This is an unavoidable reality that may cause the deterioration of their
business performance. Entrepreneurs have to accept even negative effects and try to incorporate
this reality into their routine. In the construction sector of Burkina Faso and Senegal, there is a
"missing middle" between large and small enterprises. Those individuals, who studied abroad
and gained enough experience in the governmental sector or in a foreign company, are usually
technically capable of dealing with a big public tender offer. However, as local enterprises they
have difficulties competing independently against foreign enterprises, due to size, lack of
skilled employees and equipment, and the inaccessibility of financial institutions. Thus, highly
skilled entrepreneurs subcontract with foreign companies as the local expert or as the local
representative of a foreign company. Only a few construction companies can participate in
public tender offers in their own capacity in Burkina Faso and a few more in Senegal. Therefore,
the only option left to local construction companies is using entrepreneurial networks, lending
or borrowing skilled engineers and good equipment, in order to be eligible for tenders. Yet,
because of shortage of capital, they are rarely capable of competing with foreign companies.
Finally, as this study has shown, the economy of affection has both costs and benefits to
actors in the construction sector in Burkina Faso as well as Senegal. Through its informal
institutions, the economy of affection facilitates business transactions and fosters networking.
At the same time, it encourages relatives and friends to become dependent on the entrepreneurs
and limit their chance of succeeding. They become, if not parasites, at least a burden that
entrepreneurs have to cope with. These extra expenses may be compared with the legally
imposed social expenditures that modern corporations in Japan and Western countries have to
carry. The issue for further research may include more detailed studies of how these informal
social burdens can be regularized or kept at such a level that their adverse impact on business is


1. See, Hyden, G. No Shortcuts to Progress:African Development Management in Perspective.
Berkeley: Universty of California Press, 1983, p.8. In this book, Hyden defined the
"economy of affection" as "a network of support, communications and interaction
among structurally defined groups connected by blood, kin, community or other
affinities." See also, Barr, A.M. "Do SMEs network for growth?"Enterprise in
Africa:Between Poverty and Growth. London: Intermeiate Technology Publications, 1999,

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 9, Issue 1-21 Fall 2006

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs