School of Built Environment and Development Studies Seminar

Title: On regional free trade and protection: the case for an African customs union

Speaker: Keith Hart

Time: 12:30-13:50, 5 March 2014.

Venue: Seminar Room F213, School of Built Environment and Development Studies, Memorial Tower Building, UKZN. Google maps: -29.866933,30.981963

Keith is currently co-director of the Human Economy Programme, Visiting Professor in the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship at the University of Pretoria, and Centennial Professor of Economic Anthropology at the London School of Economics. An anthropologist by training, Keith contributed the concept of the informal economy to development studies and has written at length on money, including the collapse of the twentieth century’s dominant form, national capitalism. He has taught in more than a dozen universities around the world, especially in Cambridge University where he was Director of the African Studies Centre. He runs a blog and website at and is a founder and member of the fast-growing Open Anthropology Cooperative (OAC).

About the presentation:

I first explain what I mean by saying that the informal economy, a concept I was associated with coining in the early 1970s, has taken over the world, largely as a result of neoliberal deregulation over the last three decades. After a brief account of my own early exposure to West Africa, I turn to the question of how and why Africa has long been a symbol of global inequality. Even after independence, Africans are still waiting from emancipation. Even so Africa’s development prospects in the twenty-first century are brighter than for a long time. In the course of the twentieth century, regional differences in the forms of African political economy converged on the model of agrarian civilization that was once known as the Old Regime. The antidote to the Old Regime is a liberal revolution. Accordingly I next consider the role played by free trade and protection in the revolutions that made modern France, the United States, Italy and Germany, with particular reference to the latter’s Zollverein (customs union) in the nineteenth century. Turning to the Southern African example, which includes the oldest extant customs union in the world, I examine the organization of international trade there. In conclusion I review the prospects for greater integration of trade regimes in Africa. Is an African customs union possible or desirable? How might it come about?

Paper available here:


Planned seminars (This is a provisional schedule. Events will be confirmed about a week before through the mailing list. If you would like to be added to or removed from the mailing list, please contact

19 Mar: Erofili Grapsa ‘Investigating the determinants of HIV infection risk: what is the role of an increasing ART coverage in South Africa?’

26 Mar: Colin Thakur ‘Digital Democracy in South Africa: Is it on or off?’

31 Mar: Paul Routledge ‘Networking the politics of climate justice’

23 Apr: Ernest Khalema (HSRC), Catherine Ndinda (HSRC), Mohamed Vawda (BEDS), Lungelo Bhembe (BEDS), and Ndoda Zondo (BEDS) ‘Situational Analysis of Sexual Reproductive Health Issues in KZN & EC:  Challenges in Achieving Health Related-MDGs Pre-2015’

30 Apr Peter Robinson ‘Future, Change & Choices. Strategic planning methods and issues for development professionals’

7 May: Derek van heerden ‘Recent Architectural work in Rural and Peri-urban SA with emphasis on creating effective Teaching and Learning space through ‘bottom up’ Processes’

14 May: Mvu Ngcoya ‘Topic to be confirmed’

21 May: Daniela Casale ‘The relationship between early nutrition and cognitive outcomes in children of preschool age: Evidence from the South African Birth to Twenty Study’

28 May: Balazs Nemeth ‘Competitiveness challenges facing the automotive industry in Hungary’

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