The Ghana TransNet research program
The Ghana TransNet research program examines how migrants’ transnational
networks affect the principles and institutions on which
local economies are based. Migrants form transnational networks
through their physical movement between countries, as well
as through the flows of goods, money and ideas they create
through the use of modern information and communications
technologies. These flows change values, knowledge, economic
opportunities and means of social assistance, ultimately
impacting the institutions that shape local economies at
home and abroad.
The program studies 30 transnational networks, or 134 people,
by simultaneously interviewing Ghanaian migrants based in
The Netherlands as well as their friends and family members
in Ghana with whom they transact. The program has a multi-sited
research design consisting of four projects (one postdoc,
two Ph.D.s and one M.A. student) based in Amsterdam, Accra,
the rural Ashanti Region and Kumasi, respectively.
The Ghana TransNet research program is an interdisciplinary and inter-institutional endeavor. The scientific committee consisting of economist Prof. Jan Willem Gunning from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, geographer Prof. Ton Dietz from the University of Amsterdam, economist/anthropologist Dr. Valentina Mazzucato from the Vrije Universiteit and University of Amsterdam, and anthropologist Dr. Rijk van Dijk from the Centre for African Studies Leiden in The Netherlands, and has a collaborative agreement with the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research at the University of Ghana where Dr. Ernest Appiah is our collaborator. The program is directed by Dr. Valentina Mazzucato and takes place from July 2001 to June 2006.
Transnational networks in the Ashanti Region, Ghana
The central research question in the rural project is how rural dwellers with social networks that include migrants shape their social security and how they use relations in their social networks to achieve this. This question is addressed at both the individual level and at the level of the rural communities where they reside and which are in need of migrant support for development.
Sub questions include basic questions about the volume of remittances and the shape of the social networks of respondents, and about reasons for differences in support receipt, both in absolute terms and in relation to the needs of respondents. Crisis support receipt receives particular attention. Also at the community level the question is asked why some rural communities are able to successfully involve migrants in development and why are other communities not able to do so.
Forty-nine respondents residing in five rural communities are studied. The ego-centric social networks of these respondents are drawn using a name generator questionnaire. Transactions that respondents engaged in are recorded in a year-long transaction study. Life histories of all respondents are drawn up and informal observations of respondents’ activities and their social contexts are made. Thematic interviews, both at the individual and the community level are conducted to understand certain relevant aspects of people’s lives, such as engagement in funerals, church or community development. Monthly reports on general events and developments for each of the five rural communities are also collected to know about general happenings in the communities. Additionally, a survey amongst JSS students is conducted to assess how widespread transnational networks are in the Ashanti Region.
The influence of transnational networks on urban actors in Accra
In this research we seek to understand how transnational relations of urban actors with migrants influence activities of these urban actors in the economy of Accra, the capital of Ghana.
In our research we explore this question by investigating the role of transnational ties in three different economic domains: (1) transnational investments in houses, (2) transnational investments in businesses and (3) transnational influences on social security arrangements of urban actors.
We conducted research with 38 respondents, all of them based in Accra or the nearby town of Tema. These respondents were identified by migrants in Amsterdam as people in Accra with whom they maintained active relationships. After receiving permission and contact details from the migrants in Amsterdam we were able to approach these people and ask them to participate in the research and become our respondents. Nearly all responded positively.
We used a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods to explore the scope of activities in which urban actors were involved, but also the of others, notably migrants, in these activities. With a name generator we were able to gain insights in social networks of respondents. With a monthly transaction study we asked respondents to provide an overview of transactions they had been involved in. This study lasted 12 months and we used a standardized questionnaire. We also conducted thematic discussions with respondents discussing their involvement and interests in various economic domains. These discussions generally followed a list of semi-structured questions. We also conducted life histories with respondents with a focus on important moments –positive and negative- and the role of others. Finally we also participated in various events with respondents, mainly in Accra but some elsewhere. These included: church services, business trips, visits to building sites and funeral ceremonies.
June 22, 2007
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