Accepted paper:

Back to the Future?: Politics and Trends in Africa's Dam Resurgence

Authors:

Barnaby Dye (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyses key changes to Africa's development and infrastructure landscape through examination of the 21st century dam resurgence. It follows a historically-comparative and multi-case study perspective, charting who it involves, what its processes are and what outcomes it is leading to.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the rise of dams as illustrative of broader trends in infrastructure in the 21st century that aim for economic development. It takes a multi-case analysis focusing especially on three dams in Tanzania and Rwanda, but places these in a comparative perspective of dam projects in Ethiopia and Ghana and alongside other energy generation projects in these countries. It outlines trends in who is building dams (who are the main financiers, construction companies and government regimes) and links this to the outcomes of projects and energy sectors. It therefore charts the rise of the emerging powers, the growing number of private-sector actors and return of 'traditional' development financiers. This allows assessment of typical changes in the dam resurgence, including the way in which hydropower has become a primary rationale and the trend towards reformist policies that minimise socio-environmental negatives. It finds variation between the different actors engaged in the dam resurgence, including on the timeliness of construction, the proficiency of the final infrastructure at generating benefits (principally electricity) and degree of negative impacts on the economy and environment. Whilst charting such trends in international actors, the paper finds that governments in Africa determine the ultimate contribution of dams to economic development, as they fundamentally influence the electricity sector. Overall, the paper analyses key changes in the development landscape of infrastructure in Africa from a historically-comparative and multi-case study perspective, charting who it involves, what its processes are and what outcomes it is leading to.

panel Econ28
Building and connecting Africa: Infrastructure construction and economic development in the XXIst century