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Author Kapoor, Ilan. Metadata Show full item record. Abstract This article reads dependency alongside and against postcolonial theory in an attempt to reinvigorate and re-validate some of the insights of the former while at the same time supporting the latter's current ascendancy in the field of Third World politics. Indeed as part of this effort the centre has, for the past twenty years, successfully waged war against the very idea of the state intervening in the economy, undeniably diminishing, through ideology and regulation, active state involvement from developing countries.

My own research looks at efforts towards industrial policy implementation in Namibia, and again and again I have found the idea of certain dependency writers to offer useful explanations around the difficulties Namibia have faced in diversifying their economy. There are a number of constraints that help to explain this failure.

Dependency Theory

Prime amongst these are: a lack of interest or staunch resistance from the capitalist elites in transforming the economy; that large sections of the ruling political class who are content with the status quo; and the regional power of South Africa. In this blog entry I will just outline the final issue though I consider all three to be comprehendible through a dependency approach.

For instances, many companies in Namibia have commented on the difficulties of exporting to South Africa, with South Africa, in spite of apparent free trade, willing to impose restrictions on Namibian products entering their market. The successful Namibian pharmaceuticals firm Fabupharm has been unable to export its products to South Africa because South African regulation apparently stipulates that medical goods can only be imported through certain airports and harbours.

The Fabupharm trucks have therefore been literally turned around at the South African-Namibian border. This is but one of many incidences where South African industry has sought to quell industrial development in Namibia, as well as in the other SACU-member states.

Richard Gibb counts among these the closure of a television assembly plant in Lesotho, car assembly plants in Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia, and a fertiliser plant in Swaziland. Moreover, Namibia have found their efforts towards infant industry protection IIP through tariff-protection thwarted by South African and other foreign corporations, which have challenged it legally over its imposition of protection. Namibia has attempted IIP on four occasions for milk , pasta , cement and poultry For three of these incidences Namibia has been taken to court the exception being the now highly successful pasta industry.

The consequences of these court cases, beyond actively hurting the prospects for the industries in Namibia, has been to diminish government expectations that infant industry protection can be viably used as a tool for fostering growth. Dependency approaches, more so than other approaches, can incorporate in their analysis the importance of this sub-imperialist execution of power by South Africa on the development processes in Namibia. In the Namibian experience their relation to South Africa is of quintessential importance in explaining economic life, and it would be reckless not to include a consideration of this in a political economy analysis of the country.

Bringing capitalist relations back into our research, through an appreciation of economic interconnectivity and a nuanced understanding of the tangible economic system at play, can help us to assess developments more acutely. The case of Namibian industrial policy demonstrates the need to understand economic developments through an appreciation of power relations that do not stop at the border. Beyond the above example of the influence of South Africa, it is also the case in Namibia that efforts towards industrial development are undermined by the lack of interest in economic transformation from the powerful trading and mining elites in the country, and further by the contentedness that the majority of the political elite feel with the system that prevails.


The aim of this blog entry has been to ask whether the perspective offered by the dependency school is still of relevance to how we should try to understand developmental processes today? It is my view that subtle versions of dependency writing, which do not see dependency as destiny but rather as an acceptance that difficulties associated with economic development are in part a consequence of domestic and global power relations, can be a valuable analytical tool.

The dependency school, more than any other approach in economics, tried to understand economic development in a given location through an understanding of global capitalism; and it seems that such an international dimension is often lacking in contemporary economics of Africa today. His research interests include the political economy of economic growth, Southern African economic history, institutional economics, international trade, and the role of natural resources in economic development.

Amin, S.