This article explores the relation between industrialisation and labour mobilisation in Ethiopia under the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Addressing the recent history of the textile and garment industry in Tigray, the article discusses key moments of continuity and rupture in the way the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leadership attended the historical question of how to diversify employment out of smallholder agriculture. Based on fieldwork conducted in Tigray’s capital city Mekelle between 2015 and 2018, I argue that in the course of the 2010s rapid industrialisation under the impulse of the Ethiopian “developmental state’ generated the question about how sourcing industrial poles with workers that were dispersed across the countryside, and with the prospect of initial salaries below reproduction. This generated a paradox: the coexistence of labour shortage and a large population seeking employment. This paradox reflected a situation in which industrial labour was inscribed in complex reproductive dynamics which had the rural household at its centre. The article engages with discussions about the role of global production networks in supporting the transition from agrarian to industrial capitalism in Africa. It suggests that rapid industrialisation under the impulse of global value chains leaves open an agrarian question of labour which reproduces significant dynamics of exploitation and subordination of young female workers.

Manufacturing and Labour Mobilisation in EPRDF Ethiopia. A Household Perspective on the Rise and Uncertain Prospects of the Textile Industry in Tigray

Chinigò, Davide
2020

Abstract

This article explores the relation between industrialisation and labour mobilisation in Ethiopia under the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Addressing the recent history of the textile and garment industry in Tigray, the article discusses key moments of continuity and rupture in the way the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leadership attended the historical question of how to diversify employment out of smallholder agriculture. Based on fieldwork conducted in Tigray’s capital city Mekelle between 2015 and 2018, I argue that in the course of the 2010s rapid industrialisation under the impulse of the Ethiopian “developmental state’ generated the question about how sourcing industrial poles with workers that were dispersed across the countryside, and with the prospect of initial salaries below reproduction. This generated a paradox: the coexistence of labour shortage and a large population seeking employment. This paradox reflected a situation in which industrial labour was inscribed in complex reproductive dynamics which had the rural household at its centre. The article engages with discussions about the role of global production networks in supporting the transition from agrarian to industrial capitalism in Africa. It suggests that rapid industrialisation under the impulse of global value chains leaves open an agrarian question of labour which reproduces significant dynamics of exploitation and subordination of young female workers.
textile industry, developmental state, Tigray, labour mobilisation, household reproduction
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12071/30311
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