The 'Glocalization' of Mobile Telephony in West and Central Africa

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This book examines the ‘glocalization’ – the adaptation of a global telecommunication technology to local particularities – in West and Central Africa. Through case studies in Cameroon and Guinea, the research presented evinces how local agency leads to the appropriation of mobile telephony, and the extent to which telecommunication companies acculturate their marketing strategies to consumer preferences and local realities. The book interrogates the presumptive neutrality of technology and presents evidence of agency superseding supposedly fixed limitations of use for mobile phones. In opposition to the notion of an Africa ‘lagging’ behind, the book also nuances the development discourse so often associated with the ‘leapfrog’ and spread of mobile telephony south of the Sahara. Overall, this study highlights ways in which agency leads to modernity being refracted locally in West and Central Africa and reflects on the tension at play between ‘globalizers’ and ‘globalized’.

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Publié par
Date de parution 17 septembre 2018
Nombre de visites sur la page 0
EAN13 9789956550401
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0055 €. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

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The ‘GLOCALIZATION’ of MOBILE TELEPHONY in WEST and CENTRAL AFRICA
The ‘GLOCALIZATION’ of MOBILE TELEPHONY in WEST and CENTRAL AFRICA: Max A. Smith Consumer Appropriation and Corporate Acculturation A Case Study in Cameroon and Guinea-Conakry
Max A. Smith
The ‘Glocalization’ of Mobile Telephony in West and Central Africa: Consumer Appropriation and Corporate Acculturation A Case Study in Cameroon and Guinea-Conakry Max A. Smith L a ng a a R esea rch & P u blishing CIG Mankon, Bamenda
Publisher:LangaaRPCIG Langaa Research & Publishing Common Initiative Group P.O. Box 902 Mankon Bamenda North West Region Cameroon Langaagrp@gmail.comwww.langaa-rpcig.net Distributed in and outside N. America by African Books Collective orders@africanbookscollective.com www.africanbookscollective.com
ISBN-10: 9956-550-39-6
ISBN-13: 978-9956-550-39-5
©Max A. Smith 2018
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical or electronic, including photocopying and recording, or be stored in any information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher
For Serge Atangana
Table of Contents Introduction: Unexpected Twists and Turns...........................................viiChapter 1: Terminology and Literature Review ................................................. 1A. ‘Glocalization’ – A Brief History of the Concept .................................................................. 1 B. The Presumptive Neutrality of Technology ................................................................... 8 C. Game of Mirrors: Appropriation and Acculturation ............................................................. 14D. The Leapfrog of Mobile Telephony in West Africa.................................................................... 20 Chapter 2: Case Study of Consumer Appropriation in Cameroon ........................................ 25A. Introduction ...................................................................... 25 B. Setting for the Field Research ......................................... 26 C. The Informal Cellular Economy .................................... 31 D. Consumptive Appropriation .......................................... 45 E. Creative Appropriation .................................................... 57 Chapter 3. Corporate Acculturation: Case Study of MTN-Guinea........................................ 77A. Introduction ...................................................................... 77 B. Setting for the Field Research ......................................... 78 C. Local ‘Interconnection’.................................................... 80 D. The Call-Box System and Credit Distribution Chain................................................................. 82 E. Sim Registration and ‘Sim-Box’ Frauds......................... 85 F. Oral Traditions and Customer Loyalty .......................... 94 G. Community Engagement and Growth-
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Inducing Services of Mobile Operators....................... 96 H. ‘MTN-Cool’ and the Value of the Youth ..................... 100 Chapter 4: ICT4D and Ungrounded Optimism..................................................................... 111A. Mobile Phones for Development: Africa’s Success Story............................................................ 111 B. ‘Saving Africa’ and Overloading Mobile Expectations ............................................................. 115 C. African Modernity ............................................................ 122 Conclusion ................................................................... 129 A. ‘Globalizers’ and ‘Globalized’......................................... 129 B. Limitations and Future Research.................................... 132 Bibliography ................................................................ 137
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Introduction Unexpected Twists and Turns In the mid-1990s, an unsettling story was circulating in the northern communities of Togo. One night a plane landed at the Niamtougou airport which wasbuilt in the 1970s in a place notorious for its mystical powers. The man in charge of the airport – a European – was taken aback as he had not expected any aircraft that night. He approached the plane and found only Africans on board, who happened to be endowed with magical powers. They surrounded him and seized a book in which he had been writing. Then they released him, and the aircraft disappeared into the night (Piot 1999: 176). In this tale, Africans with magical powers are in command of a technology that was invented by Westerners (the plane) and they are attempting to appropriate another of the colonizer’s powers (the written word/books). Instead of killing the European and rejecting his technology, these technology-savy Africans make his powers their own. This story about power and appropriation relates well to the concepts that are explored in this book. Rather than interpreting the appropriation of mobile telephony as a form of rendition, a defeat, this study highlights the ways in which technology from the outside, mobile telephony, can be reconfigured and altered in locally meaningful ways through the processes of appropriation and acculturation. Implicitly if not explicitly, scholars of Africa often associate the West with ‘modernity’ and Africa with ‘tradition’. Sociologists, such as Max Weber, view societies organized on the basis of kinship – as is often the case in Africa – as preoccupied with the ‘eternal yesterday’ and therefore as tradition-bound and unchanging (Bates 2010: 15). Similarly, some anthropologists have categorized these societies as encapsulated in a ‘timeless present,’ as if the lives of their populations were suspended in
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