The global Covid-19 pandemic will be one of the major defining moments for development. In Africa, the syndemic, which the Global Landscape Forum refers to as a ‘synergy of epidemics’ will have a long-lasting impact on the continent. Whilst Covid-19 started as a health crisis, it has cut across all facets of life. This webinar grounds the discussions within this multifaceted crisis and draws an understanding of what they mean for the common natural resources in Africa such as atmospheric commons (climate), land, water, forests, fisheries, pastoralism, urban and knowledge commons.
The webinar will seek to discuss aspects such as:
Africa’s rural areas are currently undergoing dramatic changes: the expansion of wildlife conservation areas, including transboundary, private, and community-based initiatives; booming mining activities and other forms of resource extraction; massive infrastructural developments; and major global investment in large-scale agricultural schemes. Land intensification is mostly concentrated in high-potential areas with favorable resource bases, resulting in the establishment of capital-intensive agro-hubs, the growth of development corridors, and the emergence of new urban agglomerations. Over the past years, parks and protection zones have mushroomed across Africa, some of them have grown to an enormous size, with the biggest of them, the transboundary KAZA Park on the borders between Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, already almost the size of France. Many large national and transnational parks, game reserves, and nature conservation areas have been implemented under the guidance of international organizations and programs. Zones of conservation are not only seen as attractions for tourists but are also presented as carbon sinks and response to climate change or biodiversity loss. Against this background, rural Africa has emerged as a battleground for ambitious high-level national and international visions and development agendas and global concerns over climate change, biodiversity conservation, and food security. These mega-trends have stimulated debates on the trajectories of agrarian change and the protracted implications for the futures of African commons, food systems and rural livelihoods in contemporary Africa within the ambit of the rapidly modernizing world. The panel will explore different aspects of these important debates in different African contexts, particularly from the young African academics’ perspective. Using diverse theoretical, conceptual and political perspectives, the panel will document some substantive issues and controversies in relation to the destinies of African Commons in the context of climate change and increasing commodification of agrarian resources across the continent.
The panel will focus on approaches that introduce a dimension of commons into different sectors. These approaches are distinguished by the fact that users or citizens play an active role, and that this role is clarified and structured. The aim here is to open up a reflection on how the dynamics of the commons are linked, even hybridized, with public action and regulation. The commons approach then constitutes a conceptual framework for thinking and structuring local communities’ involvement more assertively in an alternative between the all-private and management by the State. We then open up the range of possibilities in how the rights, obligations, functions, and resources are distributed within the coalition of actors at work in decentralized electrification and drinking water service project or securing land: users (households, businesses, communities, and public services), other community members, local civil or customary authorities, regulatory authorities, State, private operators, etc.
Several questions will be addressed in this panel:
To prepare for the webinar you could watch the following video.
Governing the commons is profoundly a question of political economy. We want to start the conversation and build momentum around an agenda towards engaged scholarship within and across African universities that addresses struggles not only over natural resources but over political authority and competing notions of development.
We will have a conversation with African academics on the prospects for the African commons in the midst of the current conjuncture of converging capitalist crises: precipitous global economic decline; climate crisis; a crisis of legitimacy in inequality; and a Covid-19 pandemic. These interrelated and intertwined crises underscore the role of the commons in providing livelihoods and resilience, yet also the re-valuation of common property and its commodification. Among the issues that we wish to highlight is a politics of extractivism, in mining, forestry, water, energy and agribusiness, as central to the fortunes of national governments, state-society alliances and transnational elite interests. Beyond the ‘land grab’ and ‘resource grab’ issue we wish to seed a more visionary conversation about alternatives: about reclaiming, expanding and democratising the commons, as a way to reframe and re-politicise the ‘governance’ agenda.
Such an agenda requires us also to reflect on and reinvigorate engaged scholarship. The demise of the intellectual left in many parts of the continent over the past 40 years has proceeded alongside market liberalisation, the detachment of universities from political struggle, and the rise of authoritarian governments. At this time, an urgent intervention is needed to provide a common platform for progressive and engaged scholarship.
A discussion with editors-in-chief of 3 prominent journals that regularly publish articles on African commons. They will provide advice on getting published based on their editorial experience, and discuss challenges and opportunities for academic publishing.