Publikation International / Transnational - Globalization - Africa - Socio-ecological Transformation - Labour / Unions - Food Sovereignty Fields of Gold?

Deliberations on Natural Resource Politics in Africa



Online Publication


Fredson Guilengue, Allan Kalangi, Stefanie Kron, Joan Leon,


Ibrahima Thiam, Andreas Bohne,


April 2017


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African countries are characterised by an abundant supply of resources including (agricultural) land, recently discovered oil and gas reserves or deposits of gold, platinum and others. However, what seems to be a blessing for the some can turn out to be a curse for others. Resource politics in various countries is highly contested and results in power struggles and violence. Key elements of the debate around natural resources are transparency, benefit sharing schemes, evictions, compensations, environmental effects, job creation, growth rates, privatisation, the role of multinational companies and involvement of communities. Debates on resource politics are omnipresent and offer a complex – often dichotomous – picture. And debates and discourses often centre around the term ‘development’: the (alleged) contribution of industrial mining and investments in agricultural production for economic development emphasised by proponents of these large-scale and costextensive activities. Nevertheless, reality reveals another picture: poverty levels remain high even in countries with a resource-based economic model like Zambia, Mozambique or Nigeria.

Discussions around resource use and resource politics are of course not new as protracted debates around «Dutch disease» or «resource curse» demonstrate. Nevertheless, growing interest and revived attention from civil society, science, industry and political actors are visible nowadays. The main reasons behind this engagement are secure resource access in times of price volatilities, the responsibility on the part of multinational companies for human rights violations and the associated socio-economic and ecological conflicts. Hence, political intervention is required.

For several years, the regional African offices of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung in Dakar (Senegal), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Johannesburg (South Africa) and Tunis (Tunisia) have supported and cooperated with communities, human rights and environmental groups who are affected by or working in the resource sector, in particular on land and mining issues. While the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung offices were working on resource issues, interregional corporation was weak. An intensive exchange with the aim of building up a comprehensive approach had never taken place. Therefore, a workshop was organised in July 2016 in Dakar a) to start a more intensive dialogue between the offices and strategic partners, b) to enter into a strategic process regarding partner activities and self-implemented activities and c) to find a common position as a left political foundation. We are aware that building a strategy and common understanding which reflects our similarities but at the same time acknowledges our differences is a process and something which is not easy to accomplish. In addition, more
questions will pop up during the discussions and debates.

This online publication contains presentations which were held at a Stiftung-internal workshop in Dakar. It illustrates some aspects of the discussion on resource politics in Africa. The publication is divided into three sections.The first section provides background papers on resource politics. Allan Kalangi describes the recent developments regarding oil politics in Uganda and touches on topics like dispossession or low transparency standards. He sees a continuity in political actions from colonial times up to the situation today. Joan Leon shifts the geographical focus to the neighbouring country of Tanzania. While the Tanzanian government make mining resources accessible and extractable for accumulation, a multitude of social and political challenges exist. Andreas Bohne takes a look at EU resource politics and their dominant aim to secure access to raw materials. While several cases studies and reports reveal negative impacts on communities and the environment at local level, European politicians and companies oppose binding legal regulations. The need for binding regulation, the role of solidarity along global supply chains and the entry points for a political foundation is broached by Stefanie Kron. This chapter provides the link to the second section of the publication with Ibrahima Thiam and Fredson Guilengue who discuss the West African region and the Southern African region respectively. They describe the main challenges of resource use in both regions and sketch out how the Stiftung’s regional programme and its partners are endeavouring to tackle the situation. While the situation in the different countries is diverse, it becomes obvious that civil society actors play an important role within the political arena with regard to mining.

The third and final section covers the main results of the workshop focussing on forthcoming joint activities and topics for strategic development. We look forward to continuing the discussion.

Ibrahima Thiam and Andreas Bohne

  • Introductory remarks
    Ibrahima Thiam and Andreas Bohne
  • Oil curse looms large in East Africa as leaders continue colonial exploitation of natural resources
    Allan Kalangi
  • The paradox of natural resources in Tanzania
    Joan Leon
  • Securing access and externalising adverse effects as two sides of the same coin: The EU resource policy and Africa
    Andreas Bohne
  • Natural resource politics and solidarity along transnational production chains
    Stefanie Kron
  • The challenge of natural resources in West Africa (Niger, Mali and Senegal): a short overview of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung’s West Africa programme
    Ibrahima Thiam
  • Natural resources, vulnerability and alternatives: a short overview of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung’s Southern African Programme
    Fredson Guilengue
  • Internal workshop: summary of results
    Andreas Bohne and Ibrahima Thiam
About the authors
  • Andreas Bohne is Project Manager East Africa at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung in Berlin.
  • Fredson Guilengue has many years’ experience in the field of agriculture and rural development. He is a Project Manager at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung in Johannesburg. His main topics are natural resources, agriculture and development economics. He is taking a master's degree in development studies (University of Witwatersrand, South Africa).
  • Allan Kalangi is the Manager of the Sustainability School Programme at the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) in Uganda. He is also the officer in charge of Uganda Community Green Radio. He is a trained journalist and worked in print and broadcast media before joining the NGO sector. He has over 10 years experience in doing advocacy work especially in the fields of environmental justice and human rights.
  • Stefanie Kron is Head of Division of International Politics at the Department of Political Education of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung. Stefanie Kron holds a PhD in Sociology from the Freie Universität Berlin. She has been working, researching and publishing on the topics of migration and border regimes, transnational social movements and labour struggles. Recent publication: «Nacimos de la Nada: Border Struggles and Maternal Politics in Mexico», Citizenship Studies 20/5 (2016), pp 579-594.
  • Joan Leon has a background in Agricultural Education and Extension. She has been involved with political work due to her position at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung for more than four years. She mainly works with the partners dealing with natural resources issues in the East African region.
  • Ibrahima Thiam holds a PhD in Political Sciences and studied influence of religion on economy and politics in Senegal. Since 2010 he has been working as a Project Manager at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung in Dakar (Senegal) responsible for projects on natural resources and climate change.