Underdevelopment in Kenya. The POlitical Economy of Neo-Colonialism 0435834908, 0435834916

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in Kenya THE












Heinemann Educational Books ii-et l

48 Charles Street, London WIX SAH n P.M.8.


5205 Ibadan P.O. 3966 Lusaka


45314 Nairobi

P.O. Box





0 435 83490 8 0 435 83491 6




© Colin Leys 1975 First published 1975

Reprinted 1976

Printed in Great Britain by Fletcher 65" Son Ltd, Norwich

Contents vii










and Neo-colonialism


The Colonial Economy and the Transition to Neo-colonialism in Kenya



Continuity and Change in Agriculture



Foreign Capital



African Capitalism



Neo-colonial Society



The Politics of Neo-colonialism



Contradictions of Neo-colonialism -


Selected Social and Economic Statistics for Kenya








4 6



For Gudrun, Tom, Patrick and SQZQI

Acknowledgments Several institutions and many individuals helped me to write this book. The universities of Nairobi, Glasgow and Sheffield provided me with rewarding intellectual contexts, and the Rockefeller Foundation in New York and the Social Science Research Council in London also supported me financially. I am specially grateful to Professor James S. Coleman of the Rockefeller Foundation for

encouragement and endless kindness, and to Professor W. J. M. Mackenzie of Glasgow University who went out of his way to help me write up my material after leaving Kenya. Many people have contributed to this study whom I cannot thank individually here as I should like; my obligation to them all is very great. But it is a pleasure to be able to acknowledge the stimulus I received from cole agues in Kenya, and in particular Henry Biencn, Michael Cowen, Frank Furedi, GOran Hyden, Kenneth King, John trellis, .John Okumu, Lawrence Smith, Tony Somerset, Gary Wasserman and Rodney Wilson. Three people, Professor Mackenzie, jitendra Mohan and my brother Roger Leys have also helped me very generously in trying to think more

clearly about the significance of what has been happening in Kenya and elsewhere in the third world. though the final product will satisfy none of th they have taught me a great deal and saved me from many errors. T should also like to thank Selina Coelho and Festus Geoffrey for limith kind practical assistance, and Mrs Shelagh Clark for skilfully typing the text. One debt which every student of Kenya incurs is to a number of very able and hardworking people in public life who are very much alive to the implications and importance of the main issues raised in this book. Many of them will disagree with much of what I have written (and I must absolve them and anyone else I have named from any responsibility for either the views or the errors it contains) J but I am none the less deeply grateful to them all.





2.1 White Settlement in the Kenyan Highlands 3.1 Agricultural Loans to Individuals and Groups down to 1970 4-.1 Approximate Distribution of Private Non-Farm Assets (but including plantations), 1971 4.2 Companies Offering Shares to the Public 1969-70 4.3 Recorded Inflows and Outliows of Private Capital 4.4 Industrial Disputes in Kenya 5.1 Government Loans to African Business to 1971

29 100

120 136 137 142 167

6.1 African Salaried and Wage Employment and Rural Households in 1969 Average Annual Earnings in Rural Areas, 1969 6.3 Some Economic Variations in Fourteen Districts of Kenya


172 182 185

List of Abbreviations ADC AFC COTU DFCK DN EAS

Agricultural Development Corporation Agricultural Finance Corporation Central Organization of Trade Unions Development Finance Company of Kenya Daily Nation (Nairobi)


African Standard (Nairobi) Federation of Kenya Employers


Housing Finance Company of Kenya


Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation



Kenya African Democratic Union


Kenya Kenya Kenya Kenya

African National Union African Union Co-op elative Creameries Federation of Labour Kenya National Farmers' Union Kenya National Trading Corporation Kenya People's Union Kenya Tourist Development Corporation National Construction Corporation

New Kenya Group (later New Kenya Party)


National Housing Corporation


Sunday Nation (Nairobi)


Special Rural Development Programme

Preface This book began as an enquiry into the relationship between the

'private sector' of the Kenyan economy and the pattern of national development since independence was formally attained in 1963, a subject which seemed curiously neglected in comparison with the literature on Kenya in the inter-war years. _But the work nrogressed it became clear that it really posed some fundamental questions about the significance of independence for the mass of the people, and that instead of filling a gap in the existing literature it was necessary to try to disengage oneself from many of its presuppositions.1 First it was necessary to realize that the relation between the 'private sector' and the pattern of post-independence development could not be understood in purely Kenyan terms, but was the outcome of international forces as they had operated over several generations, and continued to operate, on the land

area and collection of peoples we know as Kenya, as Baran put it, the question of 'whether there will be meat in the kitchen is never decided in the kitchen'. Secondly, the original formulation of the problem in terms of 'the private sector', and even more funda-

mentally, in terms of 'the economy' as something distinct from 'the political system', soon appeared not merely artificial but as a positive obstacle to grasping the reality involved. This was not merely a question of being willing to transgress 'disciplinary' boundaries, but of trying to establish a standpoint from which all the concepts in terms of which the Kenyan experience had hitherto mainly been described could be critically reconsidered. But this meant, thirdly, that to try to answer the questions which posed themselves appeared as an unavoidably political act, involving a decision about the interests and the political practice which the 1

I . In this respect I have followed in the footsteps of E. A. Brett whose Goionialirm and

Underdevelopment in East Africa (Heinemann, London 1972) is a landmark in the . reinterpretation of Kenya's pre-independence experience.



framework of enquiry should try to embody. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that the comparative neglect of the topic in the existing literature, i.e. not asking these questions, was also a political act, however reluctant most social scientists might be to accept this. anyone in openly abandons the Difficulties SOOI arise _ For _ convenient Nctioii of 'value-ilreedoln', according to which the social scientist's analysis is if de erodent of his political commitments. Howevg -the: ii-eed to so has become increasingly hard to escape as the result of the actual record of conventional 'development theory', whose supposedly neutral concepts (such .n


as 'modernization', 'political development', and the like] have proved not only to embody the dominant relationships of advanced capitalist societies but also to be largely sterile as tools for understanding what is happening in the third world? Among their major dehcieneies both 'political development' and 'economic development' theories have had in common a marked disinclination to distinguish clearly between the different interests at stake in the countries of the third world, let alone to make the antagonisms between them into the central focus of enquiry. Their focus has rather been on 'nations', and even more on the 'leaderships' of 'nations', seen as confronting various obstacles to 'development' 'development' being treated as an ultimately universal good. This perspective presupposes that the 'leadership' is more or less representative, or at least more or less benevolent, or


failing this, it presupposes that there is no 'serious' alternative to the existing 'leadership', or at any rate none with which it is the business of 'development theory' to be primarily concerned. And

since it does not start out from an analysis of the way in which different 'patterns of development' embody the dominance of different combinations of class interests, in practice it tends to take as given the interests which the 'leadership' represents, and more or less thoroughly reflects these interests in the concepts it uses, the questions it asks and the answers it oilers. Some people have concluded that the trouble lies in not having tried hard enough to find a social scientific standpoint truly 2. For a recent critique of these concepts see Jose F. Ocampo and Dale L. Johnson, 'The Concept of Political Development', in James D. Cockroft, Andre Gunder Frank and Dale L. Johnson (eds), Dependence and Underdevelopment (Doubleday, New

York 1972), pp. 399-424. Frank's more general earlier critique, 'Sociology of Development and Underdevelopment of Sociology', is reprinted at pp, 321-97 of the same volume.



independent of all the interests involved in the predicament of the

third world. Others, however, have come to the conclusion that Marx and Mannheim were right in arguing that the 'eategorial apparatus' of social knowledge necessarily reflects and embodies personal and class interests, and that the researcher in effect chooses which interests his concepts and methodology shall try to embody and reflect. This is also my position. It does not of course restrict the range of choice. One may choose a conceptual framework which embodies the dominant relationships and class interests more or less frankly. Anyone who doubts this may consult, by way of illustration, an on-the-whole well~informed article

on Kenya by an anonymous contributor ('The Looker-On') to Blackwoods Magazine in March 1971, which begins : Seven years after casting off the gyves of the oppressor, Kenya is still standing up to independence better than any other country south of the Sahara. There has been no breakdown of law and order, no revolution or military coup, no economic collapse . . . there is a good atmosphere in the country#

And it ends: 'Provided they keep their mouths shut and a suitcase packed, Europeans can still live there with great pleasure and a fair profit. One is tempted to say that 'Looker-On' reveals the 'inner secret' of conventional development theory as it applies to Kenya. The alternative, it seems to me, must be to try to adopt a conceptual framework which as far as possible embraces the interests of those who are exploited and oppressed in the third world, and tries to disclose 'the necessity and at the same time the

conditions of transforming industry as well as the social structure' 3. The expression 'categorial apparatus' is Karl Popper's, but his attempt to refute Mannheim by showing that the view that social knowledge is conditioned by the personal and class situation of the social scientist involves a paradox, i.c. is strictly

nonsense, seems to me unconvincing; and the widespread acceptance of this supposed refutation has helped to stifle the serious study of the social and material determinants of social knowledge. See Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its

Enemies (Routledge, second edition, London I952}, Vol. II, Ch. 23 and Ch. 24, notes 7 and 8 (2) (a}; also Martin Landau, Political Theory and Political Science (Macmillan, New York 1972), pp. 34-4-2. On the other hand Popper's solution to the problem of achieving 'objectivity' is much less unacceptable than Mannheirn"s.

4. Blacfcwoods Magazine, March 1971, p. 273.

5. ibid., p. 284.



through which their poverty and subordination are perpetuated." This is certainly not easy, and it is not made any easier by the fact that so many people see it as a departure from the sort of academic 'irnpart.iality' which includes among its virtues the fact that it hardly ever involves saying anvtlfing upsetting, Unibrtunately once one sees that that kind of impartiality is suspect, this ""'a


cannot really be helped. Since not all the interests involved are

mutually compatible, everyone must choose those which he would like his work to try to serve! While we are on this subject it may be appropriate to mention the question of certain words and concepts used in the book.

People who can swallow words like 'charisma' and 'integration' (or indeed 'modernization') without :Hinching sometimes have a surprisingly strong aversion to some others, such as for instance 'class', or 'oppression'. It is true that many of Marx's central concepts have suffered from crude usage and dogmatic repetition, and that the accounts of Marxism familiar to many people are deformed versions, produced by both sides in the Cold War. But some of these concepts we need, and one of the most striking pieces of evidence that dogmatism is not the exclusive prerogative of Marxists is the extraordinary resistance that still exists to the idea that there are classes and class struggles in Africa, let alone that they may be of central importance. I have tried to use a minimum of technical terminology of an kind, but where, for instance, the sense of the situation requires one to refer to people who own particular means of production and exploit the l a b o r of others, and who act politically to defend this relationship and ""'/

the advantages it gives them, I have referred to them as part of a



A theoretical framework which does address itself directly to the questions with which this study is concerned, is to be found in 6. The quotation is from The German Ideology in the version published by L. D. Easton and K. H. Guddat (eds), Writings of the Young Marx (Doubleday, New York 1967), p. 419. 7. Impartiality is of course not the same thing as objectivity; c£ Hugh Stretton, The Political Sciences (Routledge, London 1969), p. 157° 'Won't the interventionist's hopes and fears, his values and his ideological blinkers, distort everything he does . ? I concede that they can, and that they often do, and further, that the way to guard against these ill effects is to practise about one half of the conventional wisdom on the subject of scientific objectivity. But it is difficult, as Mr Wanamaker said of the wasted half of his advertising budget, to know which half'

. ..


8. One is sometimes tempted to adopt Eric Berne's device of writing obscene words backwards or sideways (thus: ssalc, is-iocgruob, noisserppo, etc.) so that it becomes possible tO maintain a rational discussion about what they denote



the work of 'underdeveloplnent' and 'dependency' theorists. The perspective of' 'underdevelopment' is largely derived from Marxism but those who have adopted and contributed to it include non-Marxists, and 'neo-Marxists' as well as Marxists with differing conceptions of the nature of Marxism and differing conceptions of the relation between theory and practice, not to mention specific differences about the interpretation of particular situations and about political strategy and tactics." We may therefore speak of 'underdevelopment theory' (or 'dependency theory'), but not yet of 'a theory of underdevelopment' (or even of 'theories of underdevelopment', in the proper sense of the term 'theory').

What we have is rather a 'perspective'


a way of looking at the

predicament of the third world which directs our attention to structures, mechanisms and causal relationships largely or wholly neglected by, and mostly contradictory to, conventional development theory. To my mind underdevelopment theory represents an immense advance, politically and intellectually, over conventional development theory, in spite of some very serious defects of its own. But whether it leads in fact to better understanding and valid strategies of development can only be known by applying it to particular situations, which is~ what is attempted, in an admittedly halting fashion, in this book. In view of the rather general nature of most 'underdevelopment theory' it seemed necessary to begin by trying to outline its main theses and their implications, and this forms the main subject of Chapter l. During the years since 1970, when this study was begun, the relevant literature has expanded rapidly, and much that was then relatively inaccessible has been published in various collections." There have also been some important theoretical

9. An exceptionally clear and lively survey of many of the diHlerent strands involved is provided by Aidan Foster-Carter's 'Neo-Marxist Approaches to Development and Underdevelopment, in E. de Kadt and G. Williams (eds), Sociology and Development (Tavistock Publications, London 1974), pp. 67-105. Although I do not accept all the author's interpretations, his paper stands out in the literature by reason of its range and perceptiveness, and anticipates several conclusions arrived at much more laboriously and less incisively in the course of the present study. 10. These include: Roger Owen and Bob SutcliHle (eds), Sfudlles in the Haag of Imperialism (Longman, London l972); K. T. Fain and D. C. Hodges (eds), Readings in US Imperialism (Sargent, Boston 1972) ; Giovanni Arrighi and John S. Saul, The Political Economy of Africa (Monthly Review Press, New York 1973); and Henry Bernstein (ed.), Underdevelopment and Development (Penguin, Harmonds-

worth 1973). A valuable earlier collection is Robert I. Rhodes (ed.), Under-

development and Revolution (Monthly Review Press, New York 1970).



developments within underdevelopment theory, go that trying actually to make use of it for understanding an equally rapidly developing situation was often difficult and extremely uncomfortable, to the point where I felt a more than usual sympathy for the railwaymen in the story, who was asked how to get to Carlisle, and replied that if he were trying to get there, he would start from somewhere else. Today what is really called for is not an outline but an extended critique of underdevelopment theory, but that is a different and long-term undertaking." I have in the end left Chapter l substantially as it was originally written, partly as a benchmark for the subsequent analysis, and partly for the benefit of readers would like to remind themselves of" the main elements of underdevelopment theory, and some omits implications and shortcomings. It also briefly discusses the Marxist foundations of underdevelopment theory, and even more briefly indicates the way in which I have used the term 'neo-colonialism' to denote both the particular historical phase and the particular political and social relationships which obtained in Kenya in the 1960s. 'Underdevelopment' is actually a term I would be glad to do without. At one time "underdeveloped" meant, in UN parlance, 'insufliciehtly developed', or what is now called 'less developed'. The state of affairs in the 'underdeveloped countries' was thought of as being due to a lack of capital, know~how and other inputs which had led to 'developlnent' in the advanced industrial countries. Critics of this view argued that on the contrary, the predicament of the'underdeveloped' countries was due to the application to them of western capital, know-how and political power, often over several centuries, in ways which had structured umm-.w

(and continued to structure) their economies and societies so as to continually reproduce poverty, inequality and, above all, political and economic subordination to the interests of western capital. If Andre Gender Frank not the first to subvert the original meaning of "underdeveloped" by writing of the 'development of underdevelopment' he was certainly responsible for condensing the essential argument involved into this succinct polemical forIn.12 But as others have also pointed out, there are two important I I . A forthcoming study by jitendra Mohan will make a major contribution to this critique. 12. Andre Gunder Frank, 'The Development of Underdeveloprnent', in his Latin America: Undcrdevcfopment or Revafuiion (Monthly Review Press, New York 1969),

Ch. 1. See also Foster-Carter, op. cit. (note 9), p. 69.



reasons why we should really dispense with the term. One is that the historical circumstances of all the different countries exposed to imperialism have differed SO widely, according to the stage which capitalist development had reached, both on the world scale and within the particular imperialist power which imposed itself' on them, when they were first exposed to the imperial impact; and according to the situation which existed within each subject aww.including its scale, natural resources, the nature of Umiiw.. the previously existing social formation, and so on. Consequently in so far as 'underdevelopment' refers to the substantive consequences of imperialism, the resulting characteristics of the 'underdeveloped countries' economies, social formations, political structures, and so on, its connotation is almost impossibly wide. Chad is underdeveloped, and so is India and so is Brazil. Secondly, and even worse, in so far as it connotes a concept of development it is purely that of the capitalist development of the imperial powers ; yet their path of development is one which underdevelopment theory sees as being either undesirable or impossible (or both) for the underdeveloped countries of the third world today. It would be better to speak of various kinds of development under imperialism, such as colonial and extractive, settler-colonial, neocolonial, and so on, including many different contemporary forms of 'associated dependent' development," and of various kinds of more autonomous development, both capitalist and socialist. But for the time being we probably cannot do without 'underdevelopment', since it has acquired a definite currency. 13- For the last of these see especially the work of the Latin American 'dependence

theorists, for instance Fernando Henrique Cardoso, 'Dependency and Development in Latin Amen-ica', .New Left Review, 74, .July-August 1972, pp. 83-95


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