Making neoliberal states of development: the Ghanaian diaspora and the politics of homelands

Mohan, Giles (2008). Making neoliberal states of development: the Ghanaian diaspora and the politics of homelands. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 26(3) pp. 464–479.




For impoverished African states the attraction of inward flows of capital is vital and migrants are one such source of finance. Some governments actively encourage this, which brings out tensions between national affiliation and more particularistic forms of identification. This paper examines this in the context of Ghana. Between the mid-1970s and the late 1990s there was large-scale out-migration from Ghana, creating what has been termed a ‘neo-diaspora’. The migrants have mainly settled in cities in Western Europe and North America where they have developed institutional networks linking them to other diasporic locations and to Ghana. These migrants have complex identities forged from multiple meetings in numerous places. Some of these are rooted in hometown, clan, and family attachments and the obligations this brings. The current government (in line with many developing countries) is making a major play to ‘harness’ the diaspora for political support and inward investment. Tensions are being played out about dual citizenship and whether the migrants’ economic commitments to Ghana are matched by rights as full citizens. The Ghana government has to tread a careful path between attracting investment and garnering the right sort of political support, since people in the diaspora often have an ambivalent relationship to domestic politics. One of the vehicles through which the Ghanaian state seeks to square this is through encouraging hometown associations in various cities in the global North to fund development at the local level through various local – local partnerships. Hence, the nation, the national good, and development are being promoted through particularistic ethnic and locality-based organisations, which brings to light multiple and overlapping political communities.

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