Briefing note on “Struggles for the African Commons: Building an Agenda for Engaged Scholarship”

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.

In this webinar hosts professors Moenieba Isaacs and Ruth Hall talks to 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 highlighted 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.

This briefing note is based on a webinar that aired on Thursday 24 July 2020 and is available to watch on YouTube here.

Download and read the briefing note here.