David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage and its implication for development in Sub-Saharan Africa : a decolonial view

18 Nov 2016

The Euro-American predominance of understandings and narratives of development has produced the current global world order, where African-centered solutions and alternatives to the problems of poverty and underdevelopment on the continent are ignored or inferiorised. Drawing awareness from a decolonial view and deploying the concept of the decoloniality of power and knowledge itself, this article seeks to conduct a thorough interrogation of David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage. According to Auriacombe (in Schurink and Auriacombe 2010:435 and Auriacombe 2012:98) “due to the different ontological and epistemological beliefs of researchers belonging to different paradigms, the criteria for trustworthy, credible research can never meet everyone’s approval”, therefore, given this reality, the aim of the article is to show that another worldview exists which could help Africa out of its development quagmire. Using the theory of the coloniality of knowledge in particular, this article illustrates how the notion of increasing returns helped in the economic transformation of Spain. It will also show how countries in sub-Saharan Africa can learn from the Spanish example about the importance of adding value to its natural resources. This article argues that the full liberation and development of the continent will only come to fruition with the implementation of African-centered policies, such as increasing returns and adding value to the natural resources which we export to other parts of the world. It is through this policy that jobs can be created and poverty alleviated on the continent, which will kick-start Africa’s journey towards overall development.