Accepted paper:

In the name of development? Corporate power, state policies and development discourses in northeastern Ethiopia


Jon Harald Sande Lie (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ongoing ethnographic research in northeastern Ethiopia, this paper explores how a multinational fertilizer company affect the formation and scope of aid and state policies in the Ethiopian periphery.

Paper long abstract:

The proliferation of private actors operating in the name of development in the global South is affecting not only governments' own policies and priorities but also western donors' regulatory hold over what development is and how it ought to be done. This has ramifications for policymaking processes, which at the state level is a sovereign governmental responsibility, and in development aid is a practice attributed the concept of partnership governing the relation between donor and recipient institutions. As public and private interests coalesce, the principles and practices governing the distinct spheres of the state, NGOs and private actors appear to lose their regulatory hold. The paper draws on ongoing, ethnographic research in Ethiopia's northeastern Afar region. Here, in Abala, a Norwegian NGO has just started a project in support of the local vocational training college since a multinational fertilizer company is about to establish a huge potash mine and thus is in need for skilled, local labour to build and operate the mine. The government is susceptible to the potash company as it will convert agro-pastoralists into wage labourers, and enhance access to much needed foreign exchange. Consequently, the government has promised infrastructure investments to help realise the project (electrical grids, road construction involving Chinese contractors). Using the NGO project as the analytical entry point, the paper provides an extended case study of how corporate powers affect the formation and scope of aid and state policies in the Ethiopian periphery.

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