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ECAS 4 Conference
Monday, 20 June, 2011
Find out what ECAS 4 is about
ECAS 4 stands for, not surprisingly, the fourth European Conference on African Studies, held in Uppsala Sweden, from 15-18 June 2011. More information on the conference can be found on http://www.nai.uu.se/ecas-4/
The role of emerging powers in Africa was addressed in about a quarter of the 160 panels. It ranged from looking at the changing geopolitical context, the implications for security and development , trade and investment relations, natural resource extraction, biofuels to a case study of the China – Congo Sicomines deal. On the ECAS website you can find information on the panels. The panels of particular interest are numbers 1 (Europe and China), 2 (multipolar world), 4 (India), 5 (New engagements),7 (Aid), 8 (BRICS), 67 (FDI), 78 (Copperbelt) 131 (Biofuels). Some of the papers that were presented can be downloaded from the ECAS -4 website.
I would like to highlight an original and convincingly argued paper by Goran Hyden titled ´How do Africa´s new engagements affect governance?´. Hyden argues that the new engagements with emerging powers do change the political landscape in Africa. However he doesn´t refer to the geopolitical perspective of a new scramble for Africa as most authors do. He isn´t particularly interested in the fate of the good governance agenda of Western donors either. Instead he identifies subtle changes in the underlying processes that shape the governance structures in Africa.
The first change is the shift in problem definition from Africa being a lost continent, the scar on the consciousness of the world as Tony Blair put it, to a continent with looming economic opportunities, that can progress on its own. Emerging powers have played an important role in changing the perceptions of Africa´s fate. They emphasized trade and investment above aid.
Central to Hyden´s argument is the political impact of a growing African middle class that seizes the opportunities offered by the new engagements. Based on historical analysis of the role of the middle class in Asia and Latin America he expects the middle class to make a positive difference to governance. The middle class will increasingly speak out and act on its interests and thereby effectively curtailing the use of state power.
According to Hyden African leaders and middle class have come to appreciate the economic reforms, initiated under structural adjustment , that have facilitated the integration in the global economy. They know and accept that their fate is being determined by the global market. They have a positive outlook on foreign direct investment, which are seen to provide economic opportunities.
The presence of the emerging powers on the Africa continent further allows African countries to learn from peers rather than masters.