Week 9

This week’s readings were on the Isaacman’s (2013) Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development. Cahora Bassa and its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965-2007. Cahora Bassa Dam on the Zambezi River was built in the early 1970s during the final years of Portuguese rule. It was the last major infrastructure project constructed in Africa during the turbulent era of decolonization. Engineers and hydrologists praised the dam for its technical complexity and the skills required to construct what was then the world’s fifth-largest mega dam. Portuguese colonial officials cited benefits they expected from the dam — from expansion of irrigated farming and European settlement, to improved transportation throughout the Zambezi River Valley, to reduced flooding in this area of unpredictable rainfall. The project, however, actually resulted in cascading layers of human displacement, violence, and environmental destruction. Its electricity benefited few Mozambicans and instead fed industrialization in apartheid South Africa.

Chapter 3 opens with the role of the Portugese government on African land as they began explaining the benefits of the dam to locals. Indigenous people of the area view the Zambezi River as a sustaining life source that must be respected as it holds cultural values for them, whereas, the Portugese viewed the river as a beneficial natural resource that must be extracted to reap benefits for the advancement in human lives. Chapter 4 of the book discusses the “promises” made by the Portugese to the Mozambicans with the construction of the dam. It was portrayed as a project that would allow Mozambique to move towards modernization and development as it was getting plenty of encouragement and positive feedback from the international community.

Chapter 5 explores the situation of the environment and displaced peoples after the Cahora Bassa was built. So prior to building the dam, there were promises of creating a society that would be free of discrimination of race and religion as a way for progression to occur in society, but the complete opposite actually took place. There was visible isolation among people as forced displacement of the indigenous population took place. There was also abuse, including beating and whipping, and major health impacts from increase in diseases, such as malaria. Chapter 6 then discusses how locals did not benefit at all from the dam. And as a result, there was change in ecosystems that not only harmed local economies but also displaced locals and animals that were dependent on the river for their survival. Chapter 7 analyzes the current state of Mozambique today in relation to the legacies of hydroelectric dams left by colonizers in Africa. After almost fifty years, the Cahora Bassa Dam still continues to impoverish more than half a million locals of the lower Zambezi valley while also deteriorating the region’s local ecosystems and wildlife.

While conducting extra research on this matter, I came to the conclusion that Cahora Bassa is one of the most controversial investments/ developments that ever took place in Mozambique, confirming the export oriented trend of the colonial authority. Its serious environmental impacts have always been and still are disregarded for other so called “development needs”, under the fallacy of “benefits outweighing the damage”, turning a blind eye to the “collateral” impacts. I do not think that the government of Mozambique will consult with locals for future projects on the river or other lands because projects such as a the Cahora Bassa produces profit for them. Indigenous people will never agree to have infrastructures built, so then the question is, how are these people going to survive if they keep getting displaced without the government not taking any initiatives to compensate them for their losses? Who holds the authority to make calls on behalf of such a large population that are being directly affected by construction of dams?

Arpita Biswas

Week 8

The article by Ian Taylor (2012), India’s rise in Africa, discusses the increased growth in economic relations between India and Africa. India, once being an aid receiver has transformed into an aid giver with its own political interests just like the U.S. and uses it to their advantage to carry out developmental and profitable projects in Africa. The most influential actors are the Export-Import Bank of India and the Confederation of Indian Industries. The transactions and activities that they carry out are all commercially driven and private, and serve within the telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and energy sectors. The Prime Minister of India views Africa as ‘a major growth pole of the world’ offering significant opportunities for new investment sites, export markets and capital accumulation for Indian-based interests (p.780). This includes the ‘Focus Africa’ initiative, whereby the extension of lines of credit was offered to support imports of goods and services from India to Ethiopia, Kenya and Mauritius. Involvements such as this differ from China’s dealings with Africa, as China focuses more on state-to-state deals, infrastructure development, and industries/opportunities left behind but can be restarted to bring back into the market.

This sort of relationship appears beneficial to India as it is trying to curve its own niche in the global market alongside developed, commercialized nations of the West. African countries are good places to begin establishing businesses and increasing trade activities to gain its credibility worldwide. In terms of overall costs too, in a place like Africa, that has undiscovered resources and plenty of human capital, India’s benefitting greatly by taking advantage of an existing positive relationship that they have had for years and presenting opportunities for African businesses to flourish. I think another major factor in this Indo-African relationship is the fact that the culture between the two is very similar in terms of basic values, morals, family dynamics and religious beliefs. This allows India to be a step ahead of China because they can then design products and services that will be tailored to satisfy the needs of Africans while also strengthening that relationship even more.

The last two readings from the book, India in Africa: Changing Geographies of Power, discusses major changes that are taking place in the global economy and polity, comparing India to China and other ‘rising powers’ in Africa. The piece by Renu Modi examines the concept of medical tourism by African patients from Kenya and Tanzania in India. She argues that the proximity of India to many African countries, its high level of expertise and comparative cost advantage over the West, are some of the factors that provide insight into the recent influx of Africans to India for medical treatment. African patients have given positive feedback about their treatment in India, emphasizing on the skilful doctors, advanced machines and big hospital spaces. The medical tourism industry is growing rapidly and it provides various investment opportunities between India and Africa, as health-care may seem affordable to those who are able to pay for treatment abroad. But as Modi concludes and I definitely agree with her, that, Africa should come up with new incentives to provide healthcare to the large population that cannot afford it abroad and require good domestic treatment. As well, instead of relying heavily on expensive imported pharmaceutical products, Africa should consult with its own healthcare professionals and invest on medical research to produce its own medication and other materials necessary to provide treatment.

The last reading from the book titled Fragile Fortunes: India’s Oil Venture into War-torn Sudan, examines India’s national oil company, OVL, and its motives behind investing in Sudan. While India entered the market at the end of war between northern and southern Sudan and the beginning of war in Darfur, there is an increase in concern and certain levels of insecurity amongst the Sudanese. This is because India was not concerned about the people in the state but rather more cautious about the safety of the company. The topic of oil has never ended well for Sudan and has always resulted to armed conflicts, so while Sudan was trying to recover from war, India and China’s rivalry with each other to extract oil from Sudan received threats from their military and other regimes. While trying to make profit out of a war-torn country where they were not accepted, OVL still remains operating fully with chances of not succeeding like the other established oil companies that had to exit due to the high risks of failing.

Questions:

  1. Do you think the eventual outcome of ‘medical tourism’ by African patients to India is merely advancement on India as a Southern hegemon? Or is it really the goal of Indian government to provide healthcare support to Africans in need of it?
  2. Do you think India would have entered Sudan to take advantage of their war-torn economy even if the West did not end up exiting the market due to high risks of failing?

Week 6

Kenya, the United States, and Counterterrorism

This article by Jeremy Prestholdt examines the relationship between the U.S. and Kenya. It goes into depth about security aid Kenya receives from the U.S. for which they are asked to enforce strict initiatives against terrorism in the country. This has caused inequalities among Kenyans as the minority Muslim community is one of the main targets, also causing them to experience alienation.

The Kenyan government is highly dependent on U.S. aid to provide for its security and military forces, as well as, for economic purposes. The U.S. uses this to their advantage to enforce counterterrorism strategies. Prestholdt, therefore, argues that, pressures and promises of aid made by the U.S. encourages Kenyan authorities to fight an unfair war against a community that does not always pose real threats. This paints a false picture of the efforts made by Kenyan authorities to protect the state from security related issues because they are ultimately just working on behalf of the U.S. to monitor activities of its citizens. This, in fact, affects Kenya’s focus on actual tangible security threats that can be easily resolved by police forces.

Trojan Horses? USAID, counterterrorism and Africa’s police

Alice Hills forms an argument that is very similar to Prestholdt’s, in that, the U.S. has a hidden agenda as to the real purpose of providing aid to Kenya. While they promise to stimulate the economy and assist with developmental purposes, they are truly self-interested because providing aid is a means of gaining control over Kenyan security forces and protect their own national security. She also argues that the aid U.S. provides creates opportunities for organized crime and other corrupt activities.

The Banana Theory of Terrorism: Alternative Truths and the Collapse of the ‘Second’ (Saharan) Front in the War on Terror

Jeremy Keenan ties it altogether in his article about increased counterterrorism efforts made by the U.S. every since the attacks of 2002. He unravels the truth behind the Saharan war on terror that the U.S. and Algerian intelligence services fabricated to feed their motives. After 9-11, large amounts of money that Kenya received were used to take counterterrorism initiatives by arresting terrorist groups and again, alienating the Muslim community.

Keenan also brings into attention the misleading truth about coastal Muslim communities as they were suspected to have been involved in the bombing of the U.S. embassy in 1998. The U.S. also claimed that Afghani troops were entering Africa which enabled them to establish institutions that operated under them. Again, these are all excuses to inherit power and control, and ultimately, protect their own national safety.

I believe that the topic of aid to Africa is very controversial because it provides very few real benefits. Firstly, it discourages governments to put in effort to improve their economies because they are highly dependent on the large amounts of money they receive on an ongoing basis. Secondly, most of the money they receive support illegal activities and corrupt government practices. Thirdly, because the U.S. provides aid, they control the distribution of money in African countries, which usually works in favour of the U.S. to perhaps support institutions that report back to them and ensures their safety. Of course, this then plays a very small role in actually improving economies. Health care and education systems remain underdeveloped and no real jobs get created.

Questions:

1. I believe that aid is unnecessary as it does not benefit the economies of Africa, rather, provides opportunities for illegal and corrupt activities and also puts the U.S. in more debt. So do you think there are other alternatives to provide financial assistance? If so, how can they be carried out without repeating the same mistakes?

2. Is there any way to seize control from the U.S. government without completely deteriorating their own economy?

Week 7

The central theme of the three articles is on the relationship between Africa and China with a particular emphasis on the economic sector.

The Africa-China relationship: challenges and opportunities

Paul Tiyambe explores the relationship between China and Africa as it contains long history and rapid growth in recent decades. The author discusses four different phases that the relationship has been through which ultimately displays its nature of complexity. Firstly, the relationship between the two countries has evolved as time passed and undergone many phases within this phase. Secondly, it encompasses economical, political, cultural, social and strategic dimensions that deal with their own separate complications and contradictions. Thirdly, the relationship developed along with other major changes that occurred in the global political economy. And lastly, the author advises about the importance to note when considering 54 countries in Africa with one country, China. Every country in Africa has its own relationship with China but collaboratively, they are still not strong enough to compete with China.

One of the main focuses of the article was on China’s economic investment in Africa. It is a breath of fresh air to know that the Chinese took a different path than the Americans, whereby they were willing to work with domestic leaders instead of imposing their views on them. We always learn in Global Studies that the best way to approach and build strong institutions is by integrating local knowledge and involving locals in decision-making processes in order to work out policies that are suitable to their culture. The Chinese also made a smart move by investing in neglected regions, which created a competitive edge against Western and other local African enterprises.

History & Identity in the Construction of China’s Africa Policy

The focus of this article by Chris Alden and Ana Cristina Alves is on the construction of China’s Africa policy based on history as it contains societal values. I do not necessarily agree with this strategy because as mentioned in this article and the previous one, the Chinese and Africans have been through different phases as their economies evolved. Contemporary ties are based on economic interests only, and it is evident that when wanting to succeed in a foreign market, political, cultural and societal factors need to be considered. Therefore, to strictly place policies that align with historical patterns will probably result to failure as more local and international actors enter the market increasing the nature of competition even more.

From Guangzhou to Yiwu: Emerging Facets of the African Diaspora in China

Adams Bodomo and Grace Ma approach the relationship between China and Africa from a different position in comparison to the authors from the first two articles. They focus on the treatment of Africans in the Chinese economy and the establishment of businesses there. In particular, they discuss how Africans are received in Yiwi and Guangzhou, which are two commodities market in China. The city of Yiwi developed from a small village to the world’s largest commodities market. Africans are treated very well there as opposed to Guangzhou. Among other community bonding activities and trading, life in Yiwi for Africans consist of acceptance of cultural and religious differences. In Guangzhou however, discrimination exists between the treatment of Arab Africans and black Africans, as well as, black Africans often have trouble with their visa renewals and also receive confusing directions from them.

I enjoyed reading this article the most as it notes in depth, the movement and establishment of Africans in a globalized place like China. Most of the literature that exists today discuss the impact foreigners have on African economy and cultural spaces, and never the other way around. Although I wish the authors talked more about how Yiwi came to be this successful today.

Questions:

  1. Can the involvement of Chinese businesses in the economies of African countries potentially benefit locals or are different approaches taken by these business leaders simply a strategy to establish themselves in a foreign economy and ultimately gain trust?
  2. Is history in the Chinese-African relationship the most important tool that needs to be implemented in order to create policies that align with contemporary, emerging markets in Africa?

Arpita Biswas: 110342830

Week 5

The focus for this week is on the spread of democracy and freedom of political expression through the emergence of mass media usage in Africa.

In the article, Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria, authors Chiluwa and Adegoke links democracy with the use of Twitter to combine voices against the Nigerian Taliban known as the “Boko Haram”. It is an extreme Islamic terrorist group targeting Christians, the police and state officials. People of Nigeria voiced their opinions through Twitter to demand political and religious independence of the north and the southeast of the country. They also took this opportunity of free speech to connect with the rest of the country to address their concerns about the attacks by Boko Haram and their annoyance with the government. People using social media as “citizen journalism” to come together and demand change in their own community is a sign of positive development in my opinion. And because these expressions are made on a public platform, the terrorist group is able to know the dissatisfaction people feel along with their individual opinions, which I think is pretty neat considering the fact that there is empowerment involved when their voices are combined.

The “Boko Haram” article ties into the podcast Mass Media and Democracy that feature Professor Folu Ogundimu, Peter Limb and Olabode Ibironke. It focuses on the use of mass media particularly in Nigeria and the revitalization of democracy in Africa as a whole. The podcast very much encourages local expressions and urges this transformation of ‘moving away from western expressions’ while using social media. The Internet is accessible to all and how people want to utilize that space to create their own positions regarding a matter is up to them, so Ogundimu argues about the lack of critiques that there are. Freedom of expression is very important when equating it to create and promote democracy, so the fact that Africans who do have access to various types of social media are using it to liberalize political views in their countries display acceptance and in a sense, equality, as it provides an opportunity to partake in these paradigms of development.

Lastly, the chapter in Media and Identity in Africa analyses the various roles of media in relation to development. The authors describe media as “a communicative space for public discourse” despite one’s race, gender, class and religion. Four main roles of the media are discussed as they interplay to constitute social identities and promotion or undermining social development. This was an interesting read because how media portrays a matter can sometimes highly differ from the actual situation because of who the channel is owned by. There is politics involved in how they want the general public to perceive a particular incident, so when the authors express the lack of biased media that Africa has, such as CNN, BBC or Al-Jazeera, I thought it was approaching this ‘skewed form of news delivery’ from a completely new perspective in terms of self-image. Africa has always been seen under a negative light and for development to continue, how media sends messages across countries is just as important and empowering as its use over social media forums.

Discussion Questions:

  • What are the pros and cons to this emergence of the usage of social media forums to express opinions?
  • Can these suggestions made by people on social media regarding Boko Haram cause damage to individual lives as this is done on such a public platform?

Arpita Biswas: 110342830

Week 4

The readings for this week outline consumerism and the rise of the global capital through the political lens of the development of neoliberalization in South Africa and its nearby countries. They pose controversial questions in regards to the “possible” diminishing of African values due to Western influence, such as the development of the new Gugulethu mall in Capetown from Teppo and Houssay’s article and people’s negative reactions to it. Two more debatable topics are the establishment of the Apartheid Museum from Thomas’ article and the celebration of funerals in South Africa from Lee’s article.

In the first article, the impact of neoliberalization on the spatial design and engineering of the new Gugulethu mall in Cape Town is discussed with an emphasis on the negative feedback that it receives from locals. The imagery, promotion and overall appearance of the mall is very Western, and since South Africans moved past the apartheid in 1994, local township viewed this as an misfit to the social environment. The mall is supposed to be “an object of African pride rooted in and marketed with revolutionary history”, but the differences that it creates between the rich and the poor is an indication of capitalism, which the South Africans refuse to accept. The establishment of the mall is undoubtedly profitable for the economy of Gugulethu and should not be viewed as a threat to these people’s cultures, but are we really capable of judging a group’s values without fully understanding their reasoning and fear of loss of culture? I think that the existence of the mall indicates the success that African nations can have without the influence or help of the West in moving towards a neoliberal economy to succeed in the global market with other countries. I also think that values and traditions should be kept separate from the establishment of businesses solely to improve the economy.

In the 80s, the skin-lightener trade developed as it was marketed to women as a tool to appear attractive to men. The Krok brothers funded the establishment of the Apartheid Museum, which was designed to demonstrate the struggles of people living under the racist apartheid the state faced. But the revenue that the skin-lightening businesses generated was essentially the money used to fund for the Museum, which I found very problematic, as, on one hand, it is meant to honour the struggles of a coloured minority group, while on the other hand, it is advertised as a “beauty” product that solely focuses on enhancing appearances. This can be related to Lee’s article about funerals and their significance among Africans. In South Africa, funerals are a form of entertainment for people due to the lack of activities and opportunities available to them. People do not fear death because that would mean it is the ending of one’s life, but rather in fear of dying when they are not at their ancestral home. As there are traditional burial rites and rituals exclusive to the South African culture, most people want to be buried correctly in their own land and amongst their own people to have a ‘dignified’ funeral. Revenue is therefore generated as funerals become more of a celebration rather than a time to mourn over one’s loss.

The question boils down to whether these are actual influences of the West or are they unique and national ways to support the economy of South Africa in a commercialized and interconnected economy that is rapidly growing?

Arpita Biswas: 110342830

Week 2 Post

The readings from this week focus on methods to disease control in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through the eyes of anthropologists, Abramowitz and Saez discuss the spread of the recent Ebola outbreak and approaches to preventing the disease in their articles. For example, Abramowitz, in his article, lays out a list of actions that could be taken by anthropologists to bridge the gap between ‘the global and the local’ in order to minimize the spread of Ebola and improve the global response to this outbreak.

In the article by Buchardt, Patterson and Rasmussen, the role of religion and religious organizations to facilitate mobilizations against HIV/AIDS is discussed. African states are viewed as neo-patrimonial, whereby patrons use resources from the state to secure the loyalty of clients in the general population. The authors draw examples from Islam and Christianity to emphasize on religious and spiritual practices and attitudes that have formed certain negative beliefs about the disease among its believers. They also mention the practice of witchcraft to understand and ‘cure’ this disease. The dynamic between religion and HIV to give meaning to the movement(s) of people to seek for solutions is one of the most important topics that the article seems to emphasize on.

The effect of both Ebola and HIV/AIDS among people of affected states in Africa is not a usual topic of discussion in newspapers and/or other forms of news reporting. These three articles as well as the short video, in that sense, look at the issue using different perspectives to give its readers an insight to not only the lives of those getting affected, but also of those around them. While the first two articles were predominantly about moving away from traditional practices of disease control, the third article touches upon the cultural and religious side to some of the policies that are currently in place, and that came to be from years of history through the practice of religion. The video was very interesting to watch because it showed the vulnerability of people being affected by it and doctors/nurses who were initially treating these patients. The lack of resources to protect doctors and nurses creates a very helpless situation for both sides, yet there was very little that could be done to reverse the situation.

I think that Abramowitz focuses too much on the academic side to respond to the treatment of Ebola, which blends in well with the other two articles. The three compliment one another pretty well, but I am sceptical about how the international society will handle the distribution of anthropologists in all the states and areas in which they are needed. Furthermore, based on the education available in a lot of countries in Africa, all levels of anthropology will be needed to educate those in need – as listed in one of the steps by Abramowitz – and to also treat the disease.

Questions:

  1. If anthropologists from around the world worked to minimize the spread of Ebola, would they consider the diverse cultural and religious values in different parts of Africa despite unforeseen limitations that they might create?
  2. How can doctors and nurses in small towns be protected against Ebola?