P 33

Large-Scale Infrastructure Projects in Africa: Visions, Governance, and Contestations in Multi-Scalar Perspective

Panel abstract
Infrastructures provide the more or less stable foundations for our modern world by bridging micro, macro and meso scales of space, time and social interaction. Appearing strictly utilitarian, infrastructures always point to larger societal structures and thus provide a rich field for multi-scalar research. Infrastructures carry promise and meaning well beyond their physical functionality. As materialized articulations of power, politics and imagination, infrastructures represent cross-scalar linkages par excellence, as their planning, implementation and operation implies constant flows and negotiation between different scales and political and administrative hierarchies. This includes the flow of workers and experts, knowledge and finance, but also contested visions, socio-technical imaginaries, investment and governance models. This panel explicitly focusses on the scalar nature of these aspects and infrastructure projects more generally and will critically examine the role of infrastructures in past- and present-day Africa. With the new wave of infrastructure projects in Africa, this topic is all the more timely, for example transport corridors, large-scale renewable and other energy projects, health and educational as well as digital and communication infrastructures.

Time: Thursday, 28/06/2018, 11 am - 1 pm
Venue: Seminargebäude, S 204

Clemens Greiner (University of Cologne)
Britta Klagge (University of Bonn)

Davide Chinigò (Stellenbosch University, South Africa)
Lars Holstenkamp (Leuphana University of Lüneburg)
Detlef Müller-Mahn (University of Bonn)
Kai Roder (Leipzig University)


Paper abstracts

Davide Chinigò
‘Discovering the Unknown’. Envisioning the Future Through the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Radio Telescope in South Africa

The argument by which societal change is largely driven by abstract progress in science and technology, is based on the rather deterministic view that the effects of scientific innovation can be generalised across societies. This article problematizes such a view by exploring how competing notions of progress in science and technology are entangled in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) infrastructure in South Africa, a globally funded scientific enterprise entailing the design and construction of the world’s largest radio telescope. The article examines the implications of the claim by which ‘discovering the unknown’ for the benefit of humankind is a main undertaking of the project. Beyond the universalizing narrative, the SKA infrastructure is mediated in different ways at different scales and takes on different meanings reflecting historical and political complexities. ‘Discovering the unknown’ is about recasting post-colonial relations within the framework of the contemporary data-intensive global knowledge economy. It is also about the global and continental ambitions of post-apartheid South Africa in a time when the debate about de-colonizing knowledge questions existing post-colonial relations. ‘Discovering the unknown’ simultaneously reveals the complexities of the historical relations around land and expectations about local socio-economic development as they intersect with class, gender and race.

Lars Holstenkamp
Contestation and Hybrid Governance Models of Renewable Energy in Tanzania

There is a consensus that modern forms of energy are a necessary condition for economic development (Barnes, 2014; Toman & Jemelkova, 2003). Hence, the inclusion of energy targets in the SDG catalogue. In Tanzania, 35 % of the urban and 83 % of the rural population do not have access to electricity (IEA, 2017). The electricity sector is characterized by large inefficiencies across the value chain (generation, transmission, distribution), exemplified by recurring power outages. Visions for electricity supply diverge within and across different governance levels. Different connections appear in this context: Besides former state monopolist TANESCO, a number of independent power producers (IPPs), developers of small power projects (SPPs), emergency power producers (EPPs), and public-private partnerships (PPPs) have emerged. Electricity grids physically connect electricity generators and consumers, and different geographies. Socially, these different institutional arrangements bridge various types of actors and governance levels. In the contribution, the author (a) Traces the contesting visions, and connections through a content analysis of policy documents, and online newspaper articles, (b) Draws a picture of the (sustainable) energy governance landscape, and changes therein across the different governance levels (local community, national, regional [EAC], continental [AU], and international, i.e. bi-/multilateral aid and private for-profit, non-profit, and social investment), and (c) Discusses implications of changing visions, contestation, and coordination efforts for economic governance of the projects, focusing on the emergence and working of hybrid forms of governance and financing. The analysis builds on a research framework developed in Hein & Holstenkamp (forthcoming).

Detlef Müller-Mahn
African Development Corridors: Dreamscapes of Modernity?

Corridors of transport, growth, and development are spreading out over the African continent – at least in the imagination of planners and politicians. They can be considered as tools of future-making because they are projecting visions of the future into space. At the same time, they reveal the paradox of future-making: Corridors may have very concrete impacts even if they exist only on paper. Kenya´s ‘Vision 2030’ is one of the most spectacular examples of an imagined future that has been translated into a national plan. Such plans may be interpreted as ‘dreamscapes of modernity’ (Jasanoff and Kim 2015), where the dream of a better future builds upon a specific combination of societal and technological changes, or ‘socio-technical imaginaries’. Like development blueprints, these dreamscapes of modernity leave their traces on the emerging maps of future Africa. Spatial expressions of future-making can be found in development corridors like Kenya´s LAPSSET corridor or Tanzania’s SAGCOT project, and in numerous large infrastructure and resettlement programmes, enclosures, and irrigation schemes across the African continent. Against the backdrop of these ongoing processes of future-making the following questions shall be addressed in the paper: How are ‘dreamscapes of modernity’ discursively constructed and spatially played out in development corridors? By whom? And for whom?

Kai Roder
Steaming the Colony – Railways, Extractive Spaces, and ‘Imperial Mechanics’ in German East Africa

Transport of people and goods is only one dimension of colonial railways. I will argue that railways by compressing space, and time (see Harvey 1989) played a key role in the production of the colonial state as well as extractive spaces, and orders in German East Africa. The railway infrastructure hence not only incorporates ‘hard machines’, but ‘imperial mechanics’ (Salvatore 2006) carrying political, economic, and ideological projects that were supposed to establish, and consolidate colonial dominance over space, ‘nature’ and people. Being closely entangled with interests of the colonial state, the production of these spaces was mostly confined to areas considered as ‘usable Africa’ (Reno 1999). The goldfields around Lake Victoria, for example, whose mining enclaves were only loosely connected to the colonial metropole by caravans and porters before the ‘imperial mechanics’ of the railway provided a more immediate basis for controlling, and extracting the colony. Drawing on archive material, government and corporate data of the time as well as literary sources, I want to explore the particular role of railways in the production of spaces and orders of extraction in German East Africa.