Publication Inequality / Social Struggles - Analysis of Capitalism - Social Movements / Organizing - International / Transnational - Africa Action Matters

Six success stories of struggles for commons in Africa



Fredson Guilengue,


July 2020

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The continuous advance of neoliberal capitalism even in the context of systemic crisis has led to many questions about the lack of effective answers from the Left in general, and from progressive social movement organizations in particular. Many critics argue that socialism, despite what was predicted by theorists in the past, lacks the ability to profit from the systemic crisis of neoliberal capitalism. This type of critique gives a very strong impression that progressive actors including social movement organizations are failing completely in their struggle for political and socio-economic transformations.

However, while it is true that the systemic crisis of capitalism is yet to lead to its total defeat, it is absolutely not correct to assume that progressive actors are not achieving any substantial victories in their differing struggles against the advance of neoliberal capitalism in their own constituencies. There are a number of facts which can be considered cases of “success stories” which demonstrate those victories in different parts of the world, including on the African continent.

In 2018, the Africa Unit of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung and the respective regional offices on the African continent initiated a period of reflection which led to the objective of producing a collection of stories inspired by the success of local groups and individuals in fighting for peoples’ access to, and control of, common goods (commons). It is this reflection that led to this publication.

Our notion of “success” here is informed by the local socio-economic, political, cultural, and environmental dynamics. We understand “success” when individual and/or collective action leads to the transformation of a particular status quo, which brings positive benefits to a particular community or to the entire society in terms of their right to access and/or have control of commons. “Commons” is understood here as forms of wealth considered by a particular community as essential resources that should, therefore, be both preserved and accessible by everyone.

The aim of this publication is neither to corroborate, refute, nor expand upon any particular academic theory or body of theories, nor to serve as an “activist guideline” containing prescribed steps for activists to achieve success in their own lobbying, advocacy, or mass action. If this is achieved, it will be a positive side effect—but not a chief aim—of this publication and will certainly make its contributors very proud. Rather, we have put together “stories” which serve as positive empirical examples of how amidst all the existing difficulties, collective action is leading to some form of success. We believe that while sharing cases of success may or may not lead to these actions being replicated elsewhere, it will certainly make these cases more widely known, and possibly inspire much-needed solidarity for communities in their struggles for commons.

The volume contains six different stories from six different countries in Africa: South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal, Uganda, and Rwanda. While the geographic location is the most salient difference in the cases gathered here, colonialism and its legacies, in terms of authoritarianism and dispossession, remain a common aspect.