Gatekeepers of financial power: from London to Lagos

Elizabeth Cobbett

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The main premise of this paper is that, until recently, African elites did not regulate or control financial flows moving across the continent. They were not financial gatekeepers. In Africa Since 1940, Cooper identified African elites as gatekeepers regulating access to resources and opportunities passing through strategic sites. This paper makes a case for revision of existing notions of the gatekeeper state in an ongoing effort to (re)negotiate the continent’s colonial past through two new arguments. The first is that financial power was never located at a ‘peripheral’ African gate, but resolutely held onto within leading financial centres, circumventing any opportunity for African elites to control financial flows. Failure to distinguish between types of flows distorts analysis of African political economic power under colonialism. It is only in the post-2000 period, that we see powerful African states driving the integration of African markets into the global financial system. The second argument is that these African goals to control financial flows correspond more to ‘gateway’ strategies than to gatekeeper. Drawing on the case of Lagos, I demonstrate how this ‘gateway’ concept better captures trans-scalar processes of new financial clustering in Africa’s emerging markets than a concept associated with ‘gates’ under Empire.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-380
Number of pages17
JournalThird World Thematics: A TWQ Journal
Issue number3
Early online date16 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • gatekeeper
  • Finance
  • Lagos
  • gateways
  • London
  • Africa
  • colonialism

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