International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 45: Globalisation, development and the empowerment of women: the case of African traders
Nagar et al. (2002) have argued that there are very few studies that investigate the impact of economic globalisation on workers in the informal economy in the developing world. Indeed, much of the writing on women focuses on workers in the formal economy, specifically factory workers. As a continent that contributes less than 1 per cent to global export flows (Meagher, 2003), Africa rarely features in these discussions. This chapter seeks to redress this dual imbalance by focusing on the impact of the processes of globalisation on Ghanaian women workers in the informal economy, specifically traders. I do so for a number of reasons. First, focusing on traders moves us away from the dominant conceptualisation of women in the third world as participating in globalisation processes largely as factory workers. Secondly, unlike factory workers, traders are much more likely to be either self-employed or employers. An analysis of traders therefore allows us to interrogate the impact of globalisation on women as employers or self-employed workers as opposed to as employees and to uncover the extent to which the impact of globalisation is dependent on one’s location in the labour market as employee, employer or self-employed. Finally, because Africa contributes little to the global export of manufactured goods and receives minuscule amounts of foreign direct investment, it is in trade flows that Africa’s insertion into the global economy is made evident.
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