Accepted paper:

Investment in Africa: divergent realities


Echi Christina Gabbert (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Georg August University of Göttingen, Germany)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation visualizes the recent radical shift towards Africa’s representation as continent of lucrative investment on the one hand and the asymmetrical relations and realities between multinational investors and local communities on the other.

Paper long abstract:

Embedded in the larger contexts of the globally emerging narrative of new markets and entrepreneurship in Africa, I take a look on Ethiopia, a country which for decades had been associated with poverty and famine. When looking at the changes of medial representation of Ethiopia in the past years, recent aesthetics evoke glossy images of the country's economic potential to attract international investors. Likewise critical voices to these idealized representations use sometimes similar forms and even caricature of visual language to portray the flipside of these aspirations. They show that if investments, e.g., large scale land investments, are not being undertaken in a manner that safeguards the social, environmental, and food need of local populations, the results will not match the stories of new prosperity. While some investors, already apply corporate responsibility programmes, one cannot underestimate the asymmetric power relations and the lack of cultural and economic understanding between investors and their "host communities". Empirical examples from Ethiopia will show how rhetorical aesthetics produce the "legitimate theater for practical actions" (Certeau 1984:125) which with its illusionary quality creates divergence between global policies and local realities which cannot possibly be a coherent story at this point in time.

panel P154
Multinational enterprises in Africa: corporate governance, social responsibility and risk management