Week 9: Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development. Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965-2007

The book this week discusses the dynamics of Dam Building and the impact upon people, ecology and place. The damming of the Zambezi River because a source of opportunity as well as contention as the benefits and consequences were unequally divided. The groups living upriver of the Dam were displaced by rising water and conflict and thus was detrimental to their lives. The political elite in Mozambique benefitted from a new energy source as well as boasting the completion of the dam.

The contents of Chapter 5 are of particular the ecological implications of the dam are considered. The river disrupted the flow of water downstream which impacted water available for agriculture affected migration patterns of indigenous wild life. A similar event that saw disruption as a result of dam construction was the completion of the seething Dam on the Nile River in Egypt. Though a very long river the Nile has a relatively low rate of low and thus any sediments and nutrients carried by the river are very crucial to ecology and agriculture. Since the completing of the Dam farmers in the Nile Delta region have had to employ fertilizers to sustain their crops and has become an expensive replacement for the nutrients once carried by the Nile.

Additionally Isaac and Isaac discuss the issue of conflict over the construction of the Dam. Their account is largely an internal issue while many rivers often cross the border of many states and the construction of a dam can become an international dispute. The region of the Nile river drainage basin experiences just such a conflict. Though the Nile River is famous for following through Egypt it flows through as ay as 10 countries with its origins on lakes found in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is currently constructing the Grand Renaissance Dam to serve growing power needs. Much like Isaac and Issac account in Mozambique the dam is as much a political project as much as it is an infrastructure project as Ethiopian officials seek to modernise Ethiopia. The issue becomes a dispute as Egypt and other states down river on the Nile Object to concerns of reduced flow which not only impact power supplies but also the very crucial source of water. Though the dispute remains peacefully military options have been threatened in the past. As climate change worsens the need to fresh water conflicts such as these will becomes all the more common.

Francesco Vergari

Week 8 India in Africa

Week 8: Emerging powers: India in Africa

The reading this week discuss the political and economic dynamics of Indian involvement in Africa. Indian interests in Africa range for commercial, diplomatic and energy interests. These interests serve the goal growing India’s prominence in global affairs. It appears India takes a keen interest in African investment in order to match or counter Chinese stakes in the region. India and China have a long standing rivalry which appears to extend to the African sphere. It is noted that India cannot match Chinese investment dollar for dollar and as such India pursues more mutually beneficial arrangements in order to maintain interest and reception toward Indian Investments. It is interesting to see the differing dynamics in engagement between Africa and China or India. China takes a state to state level approach with investments in infrastructure and officials agreements. India takes a broader approach in that it encourages private investment along with state interests.

The account by Luke Patey of Indian investment in Sudan also demonstrates the self-serving gaols of the Indian government as well as some of the rivalry with China. Investing in Sudan for oil is a contentious issue as the in and around the oil fields were stricken by conflict between the Sudanese government and rebel forces. The region has subsequently gained independent following the end of the decade long conflict. The issue was controversial at the time as oil companies were seen as complicit in the violence on the part of the Sudanese government. It is interesting to consider that India made a deliberate strategic decision to invest as a part of a plan to pressure energy needs once western oil companies had made their exit as well as a political move to gain favour with Sudan as well as to better compete with China. Sudan benefitted by having Indian investment and support for global issues. Here we can see the mutually beneficial approach pursued by India in order to achieve goals described by Taylor. The competition between India and China is an important consideration as it states the domestic and foreign policy of associated African states. It is troubling to consider the implications for African states should India and China come into conflict or dispute. Would African states remain neutral or pick sides in supporting one side or the other?


An article recently released by Wall Street Journal detail the agreement between India and Sri Lanka for assistance with the Sri-Lankan nuclear program. The deal is beneficial for Sri Lanka as it reduces direct dependence upon China and allows it more freedom with respect to foreign a domestic policy.  Though not an African State, Sri Lanka is a close neighbour to India with considerable Chinese investment and Infrastructure. The article recounts that it is a strategic move by India to assist Sri Lanka as a move to rival Chinese influence in the region. India has concerns over Chinese naval Presence in the Indian Ocean which it seeks to rival in the near future.

Discussion Questions:

As the readings discuss Indian involvement in Africa it is clear that there are elf-serving goals being considered. Similar to China Africa is treated a platform from which to pursue economic growth and political clout on global affairs. Due to these trends, does this make Africa a passive factor in terms of the global economy and international relations as was during Imperial Colonization or will it come to benefit Africa states as it might eventually provide more agency to African states due to increased growth and importance?

Week 7 The Africa China Connection

The readings this week discuss the trends and dynamics of investment, trade and immigration between China and African states. The Africa China connection documentary show cases the personal experiences of several migrants from Africa that have come to work and live in China. They discuss opportunity and over-all positive experiences and it is interesting to see the contrast with attempts to migrate to Europe or other places that were rather negative and difficult. The process to apply for and obtain visas to migrate to China is surprisingly simple and accessible. I was particularly surprised as China has a quickly developing economy and has a large labour force upon which to fuel growth and it is interesting to see the number of migrants still entering China. It is especially interesting as is discussed in the documentary states such as in Europe face declining or stagnating populations which demand more migrants as a source of labour and makes for an odd contrast. The documentary would have done well, however, to explore if Chinese policy encourages or attracts migrants as well as determining how this policy has changed over time. The process maybe streamlined and open now but it may not have always been the case nor is it guaranteed to be always the case. There are many large economies is the region that have rather restricted visa and immigration processes and there is no reason to suggest China will not follow suit in the future.
The article by Bodomo and Ma on the other hand paint a different and more nuanced account of African Migration. The cities of Yiwu and Guangzhou are studied based on the reception by Chinese officials and citizens in both cities. The authors discover that Guangzhou the city with a larger number of Africans are able to participate fully in the economy but face more frequent harassment and discrimination based on race. Yiwu is the more welcoming city and even markets itself as a destination for Africans looking to do business in the country. The trend is interesting to see as despite the large amount of trade and contacts between China and African states the discrimination is reminiscent of racial profiling by European states of Arab migrants and US profiling of Hispanic migrants.
Apart from personal experiences the readings this week discuss the political and economic designs of Chinese policy in Africa. Western objections to Chinese influence in the region as imperialistic and challenging is in accurate but does ear some partial truth. China is documented to be on a charm offensive as it has opened several cultural schools of Africa as well as investing billions into infrastructure projects. Though claims to imperialism on China’s part appear to be a stretch there are perhaps legitimate concerns as to the result of China influence. For example China offers loans to states that are usually free of the conditions attached the likes of which are attached to loans from the WTO and other Western donors demanding reforms and change on the part of African governments. Though the immediate effects are beneficial, concerns over labour rights, rule of law and corruption are definite concerns as autocratic rules are able to maintain powers. That is not to say the conditions based approach to loans have been entirely successful in influencing African governments but the Chinese approach does appear to legitimise despotic rulers and does not bode well for human rights.
Discussion Questions:
As the readings discuss the ease of travel and business between Africa and China migration is also important. Though it appears the Chinese reception of African s is easier and more welcoming are the rights of migrants at more risk than say traveling to Europe or North America? China is an authoritarian state and not bound to respect human rights and rule of law as Western states.

Week 6: Aid and Counter-terorrism

Francesco Vergari

The readings this week discuss the efforts by the United States to monitor control and reduce terrorist activities originating in various parts of Africa. As discussed by Alice Hills, the preferred method of combatting terrorism has been through the funding and equipping of African police forces. The realignment of US foreign aid in Africa has been directed towards combating extremism and shifting resources away from poverty, medicine and infrastructure, things that all will exacerbate grievances of the disadvantaged and serve as a recruitment base for terrorist groups. The records of the police forces benefiting from the increased attention of the United States have very dismal records regarding, law, corruption, human rights, brutality and impartiality. Police forces, such as Kenya often cater to the needs of the ruling elites rather than the rule of law and as such US aid will only expand their ability to act illegally and to do so on a greater scale. It is disappointing to see this shift in policy as it is designed to address US security interests but will likely serve to undermine them as citizens in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria will suffer extensive police abuse and thus resentment for governments. The US strategy will likely serve as a push factor for affected individuals and minority groups to gravitate towards extremism.

The article by Prestholdt further elaborates upon counter terrorism efforts in Kenya. Prestholdt recounts the focus of counter terrorist efforts upon minority Muslims of Arab and Somali decent. It is important to discuss as it is both a result of British Colonial legacy which disfavoured Arab Kenyans but also because US funded counter terrorism efforts reinforce and exacerbate these divides. The divides caused cashes as human rights and civil rights of the Muslim minority are continually violated and all attempts at reform are halted in their tracks. Prestoldt discusses many examples of discrimination and police brutality and violation of law as a direct result of US influence. It is important to consider as the US government under the Bush Administration promoted this type of counter terrorism around the world which means the effort to combat terrorism have indirectly lead to an increase in extremism, alienation and violence in particular in the Middle-East.  It is disappointing to see that what could have been meaningful efforts to combat he roots of terrorism and extremism were instead marked by division repression and resentment that will only result in an increase in extremist trends as can be observed arsing over the past decade.

Lastly, the account of Counter Terror efforts in Algeria and other parts of the Sahara is rather fascinating as it demonstrates the folly of justifying certain measures in the name of security. The fabricated account of Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists and subsequent efforts by US and Algerian security forces across the desert. Keenan goes onto discuss the individuals involved in this ruse ad the motivations behind doing so but it is interesting to consider as a means to justify military build ups in the name of security. Algeria for example was keen on exploiting the exercising as arms supplies had been cut off by European states and instead appealed to US interests in order to achieve the end of gaining arms supplies. Terrorism and extremism are very real issues that require substantial responses to be addressed, unfortunately all too often it is used as a veil to conceal or justify other motives. The claims of WMD possessed by Saddam Hussein are exemplary  if this reality. Expanding conflicts and wars are a danger to be sure, but all too often it is ordinary people whom have a stake in maintaining peaceful lives free of terrorist or far- right influences, as can be observed by the loss of livelihood by Algerians benefitting from Tourism in the Deep Sahara.

Discussion questions:

How do we promote more informed and critical perceptions of claims of Terrorist threats so as to not give credit to every claim presented to us by government?

Given that military focused approaches to counter-terrorism are shown to be exacerbate the issues motivating extremism, how do include humanitarian, educational and other means in order to more substantially address terrorism and extremism.

Week 5: Digital Media and Emerging Technologies- New Growth and Opportunity

Francesco Vergari  110622440

On the subject of media production and consumption in Africa it is interesting to consider the growth in number and sophistication of news outlets in African countries. Current global media news outlets are dominated by western news outlets such as BBC and CNN as well as other such as Al Jazeera. Local African news outlets cater largely to local needs and issues as can be reflected in the plethora of Indigenous language media available in many African countries. The neglect by global markets to invest in developing African media has proved an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to develop media that caters to their needs.

As observed in Linking Africa, the introduction and expansion of mobile technology in Africa is indicative of development and growth Mobile money reflective of global effort to tap into the large poor economy as mobile money providers cater to Africans who subsist on smaller sums of money to survive. It is interesting to see the effect Globalization has upon African countries as it influences consumption and development but it also provides Africans with agency and to apply new technologies and information to address local issues. The opportunities provided by the availability of mobile technology and internet appears to far outstrip what was hoped for by the number of failed development programs in Africa.

The expansion of mobile devices is also an opportunity for Africans to engage with social media as it is an outlet with which to receive and engage with media, issues and opinions. The activity of Boko Haram on Twitter however demonstrates the opportunity for abuse of social media as it provides opportunity for al to engage to speak. Might the use of twitter by Boko Haram represent, however, an excuse for which government can censor or restrict access to social media? The concern of Authoritarian governments over local media is apparent after the role social media and access to information played in popular uprisings of the Arab Spring. As African media struggles to develop a credible and independent reputations individuals and organization must struggle to resist corruption and influence of those that would use them to further their personal aims.

Discussion Question: As Ogundiumu discusses, there is a lack of an African version of CNN or Al Jazeera to provide a voice and perspective of Africa and suggests there is a need for one. Given the cultural and geographic diversity of Africa would an African version of CNN or Aljazeera be beneficial for all Africans or would it be detrimental in articulating a narrow set of news and viewpoints. On that note there is a lack of Latin American or East Asian or Indian CNN, should the case be made for those as well?

Week 4: Neoliberalism Revisited

Francesco Vergari 110622440

The readings this week discuss the role of neoliberalism in the economic development of African countries. The examples discussed demonstrate the opportunity and success experienced by the wealthy few and the less wealthy majority. The opportunities and wealth available to Africans can be observed along the lines of class especially in South Africa. As Thomas recounts, the Koch brothers of South Africa used their status and privilege as non-blacks in South Africa to build their wealth and enterprise. Prior to apartheid the Koch brothers profited from the regime by exploiting Black South Africans looking to fit into the light skinned ideal. As the apartheid regime folded the Koch brothers profited from the increasing importance of Black South Africans as a growing consumer base and used the Post-apartheid ideals to their advantage by sponsoring the Apartheid museum. As South Africa and other parts of Africa grow it is acknowledged that they grow unevenly as many remain impoverished.

As Dolan and Roll discuss the poor as a consumer base has enormous potential as an economic driver. Many transnational corporations can be observed to emptying various methods with make their products accessible to the poorer demographic. Referred to as Bottom of the Pyramid economics, the model promotes providing opportunities to the poor to encourage entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures. The increased economic activity and initiative is supposed to provide income and stability to improve quality of life. The targeting of the poor consumer base by transnational corporations, however, sounds far too reminiscent of the once lauded trickledown effect where by the poor and middle class majority are to benefit from the wealthy few through investments, growth and employment trumpeted by neo-liberalism. As the past decade has demonstrated the wealth does trickle down fast enough nor far enough as only the wealthy few have genuinely benefited. The Bottom of the pyramid approach is similar as transnational corporation will benefit from expanded markets while only nominally compensating salesmen and entrepreneurs whom promote their products.

Additionally as Dolan and Roll discuss the supposed benefits of the poor as vast untapped consumer markets as means to development, no consideration is made of the ecological impacts of the increased consumerism. Companies such as Coca-Cola and P&G are discussed as promoting their products to large markets, products which often require large amounts of packaging for food and health supplies. Rural areas are also discussed as difficult to access but profitable if reached by entrepreneurs. As consumerism grows in Africa so too will the need for waste disposal and recycling infrastructure to manage the waste produced by consumption. That is not to say he the poor masses in Africa will soon match the levels of consumption and waste experienced in the Global North nor is it to say they should not develop economically in this manner but the failure to take into account ecological consideration will only and to mounting pressures of climate change and pollution. As climate change affects all states and citizenship around the world, equal consideration must be given to pollution and waste in order to adequacy address planetary ecology and the well-being of all human beings.

Week 3 Oxford Street in Accra

Francesco Vergari 110622440

Week 3: African Urbanism: the Global City

As Ato Quayson writes in Oxford Street, Accra, the effects of globalisation can be observed in Ghana’s Capital city,. The influence of transnational corporations blending with the needs and desires of Ghanaians. The economy of Accra is of particular interest as Quayson observes practise and trends in both the formal and informal economies. Quayson notes the influence religion plays on commerce and politics as can be observed on the myriad of slogans declared on all billboards, shop stands, wall, cars and all other matters of signage. It is an effort to express spiritual ideas while attempting to connect with a large Christian consumer base in the city. The term “some are sitting well” for example is used to express the criticism of corrupt government officials benefiting from their positions. Quayson discusses many different slogans and their assigned meanings but it is interesting to consider term as an expression of individuality while connecting with other local in a shared culture.

Quayson also discusses the popularity of salsa dancing and fitness training in Accra as appealing to all social classes and bridging ethnic and cultures divides while still recognizing the divergent trends between the upper and working classes in Accra. Salsa dancing appeals more often to upper class citizens as it is perceived as more refined and is perhaps a little more exclusive while the working class tends to frequent fitness centres or “gymming” in order to be active as well as to socialize. This overall trend speaks to the uneven accessibility of opportunity that globalization provides as well as reflecting the colonial legacy of British rule as lower class subjects were more directed to do manual and physical work while the upper class and colonial administrators enjoyed the ‘finer things’ in life.

Quasyons account is interesting to consider the implications of globalizations as there can be observed similarities between Accra and other cosmopolitan metropolises such as London and New York. The salsa dancing much enjoyed by the city’s youth and upper class citizens is a trend that can be observed in other large cities as is the reach of transnational corporations in terms of the products available to those in Accra.

Discussion Question: If we are to draw lines of simile between Accra and other global cities should there also be discussion of the negative aspects such as inner city poverty, gang violence, organised crime, issues with law enforcement etc? As globalization brings many benefits it can also just as many issues if individuals and cities are not equipped t manage them.

Week 2: The Political Economy of disease in Africa

The readings this week provide insight into the efforts to combat the outbreak and spread of disease in Africa, in particular HIV/AIDS and the Ebola virus. The articles by Abramowitz and Saez discuss the role of anthropology in understanding the spread of disease as well as the local perception of those infected and the reaction to disease control methods. They discuss how primary disease control methods are insufficient as they focus solely on technical aspects in terms of treatment and containment. These methods are demonstrated to be inadequate as they cannot address the fear that disease can cause nor can they engage with cultural practices, lack of education and superstition. For example, as Saez discusses, it is important for family people to have physical contact with their deceased loved one as a form of respect. The failure to understand and consider cultural practices is a clear obstruction to containment and treatment measures, which is how blank and blank make their case for the involvement of Anthropologists in the treatment of widespread disease.

The issues discussed by blank and blank can be observed in the Ebola war: Nurses of Gulu. The case of Ebola in Uganda was difficult to contain and treat as they were inadequate resources to address the issue. To make the situation more difficult was the hostility projected towards nurses working Ebola patients as fear of infection prompted residents of Gulu to shun the nurses. This presents challenges to containment that go beyond sufficient resources to treat disease as those at risk of infection are unwilling to cooperate with health officials. This trend can be demonstrated in the more recent outbreak of the Ebola Virus in Liberia. In August of 2014 an emergency health clinic in the slum of Westpoint was overrun and looted by a mob that was upset about the proximity of the clinic to the village. Health aid workers and police were chased off and Ebola patients sent home. The attitude towards foreign aid workers obstructs the treatment efforts and risks further exposure of the virus to greater numbers of individuals.

Burchardt et al. also discuss the role of religious organizations in the containment and treatment of disease. The role of Christian and Muslim organisation from individual organisations to broader based NGO’s are identified as potential actors for reducing the spread for disease. Religious movements such as the Neo-Pentecostal have had a positive impact upon the understating of the transmission of AIDS. In examining religious and spiritual attitudes towards disease hat affect behavior and transmission, perhaps the authors focus too exclusively upon Christianity and Islam. There are many groups and communities that adhere to more traditional forms of spirituality that must be considered as a venue for either the containment or spread of disease. As Abramowitz and Saez discuss, perhaps anthropologists could be employed to understand the relationship between traditional spirituality and the spread of disease? As Burchardt et al. mention witchcraft was once an important means of understanding and attempted treatment of disease.