Africa's predominant development vision in the 21st century is industrialisation. This panel interrogates the possibilities, constraints, and contradictions of this vision through a comparative analysis of the historical and complex relationship between the countryside and industrialisation.
The predominant development vision of Africa in the 21st century is industrialisation. The Africa Union's Agenda 2063, the 50-year development blueprint, underlines this vision: to [t]ransform, grow and industrialise our economies through beneficiation and value addition of natural resources'. This panel proposes to examine this vision with an analytical lens that focuses on the trinity relationship between land/water, agrarian transformation, and industrialisation. The central question the panel will address is: what insights does the history of the relationship between the countryside and industrialisation in Western/non-Western industrialised countries offer into the possibilities, challenges, and contradiction of Africa's quest to industrialise in the 21st century? The question is interrogated in the specific political-economic context of neoliberal economic policies promoting the commodification of land, large-scale land acquisitions, agribusiness and capitalist farming, and extractive industries (mining and oil-drilling) as the panaceas for Africa's development problems. With all nuances and sophistications considered, two major analytical/political positions have informed analysis of this new development thinking and practice: the populist and the industrialist. The former takes as its point of departure the livelihoods of peasants and artisanal and small scale miners and fishers to analyse access and control of land and water in the countryside; whereas the latter takes as its point of departure agrarian transformation and industrialisation to analyse the same issue. This panel brings adherents of both positions into conversation on the possibilities, constraints, and contradictions of Africa's industrialisation vision through comparative and historical analysis of the linkages between farming/extraction and industrialisation.