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Accepted Paper:

Unwrapping export dependance from the colonial built environment  
Clara Mathews

Paper short abstract:

Global supply chains require mass infrastructure investment. This built environment was foundational to colonial projects; today it shapes these export economies through its impact on urbanization. We see this in colonial railroads’ continued influence on Ghana’s cocoa production and urban growth.

Paper long abstract:

Urbanists and geographers have long known that our world economic system is rooted in the built environment. Infrastructure built to facilitate urban life and livelihoods not only influences the jobs we take, the housing we can access, and the communities we build; it shapes the way economies interact with one another through trade and transport access. This is no accident.

The funding, building, and maintenance of urban structures requires capital, labor, and political power. Historically, those with access to all three have been able to shape the world economy to their advantage, reinvesting wealth gained through favorable trade in their continued economic growth. Over time, this pattern has evolved, but not fundamentally changed.

Dependency theory identifies this pattern and centers it in the built environment of the Metropole. Colonial infrastructure investment built the cities of today, and through them, the world economy as we know it: today’s global commodity chains are built upon and rely on the continuation of these lopsided trade dynamics.

Understanding the history of colonial urban development illuminates the relationship between this pattern of labor devaluation and resource extraction and the built environment.

Our case study centers on the history of Ghana’s now-defunct rail lines. Built by the British colonial project between 1896 and 1923, their placement, maintenance, and utility were foundational to both Ghana’s current rural-urban divide and the creation of the Cocoa industry. Ghana's role as a major cocoa exporter today comes from these investment and their continued impact on urbanization.

Panel P08
The colonial roots of commodity dependence
  Session 3 Thursday 27 June, 2024, -