P063 – Sustaining Sustainability: Reflecting on Calls to Action and Efforts to Create Change in Africa
8 July, 16:00 – 17:30

Scheld Suzanne / California State University, Northridge/Anthropology
Dill Brian / University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


Sustainability was once a buzzword popularly used for mobilizing environmental social movements around the world. Sustainability discourse has become especially popular in Africa where transnational corporations have long histories of destabilizing ecosystems in the process of extracting marketable natural resources. But today, sustainability is employed to discuss the need for change in a broad range of systems in Africa including economies, businesses, political structures, the organization of cities and social services, and the networks that hold together communities and cultures. What has the concept of sustainability done for collective mobilizations seeking change in Africa? How has it helped groups articulate their calls for action? How has it shaped the kinds of groups that emerge and mobilize? How has it influenced the decisions and work that groups have undertaken in order to affect change? Through the examination of various sustainability projects in Africa, this panel seeks to critically examine how the notion of sustainability has emerged, endured, and influenced various aspects of collective action in the continent.

Soutenir le développement durable: Réflexion sur les appels à l’action et les efforts pour créer le changement en Afrique
La durabilité fut un temps un mot à la mode fréquemment utilisé pour mobiliser les mouvements sociaux et environnementaux dans le monde entier. Le discours sur le développement durable est devenu particulièrement populaire en Afrique où les sociétés transnationales ont une longue histoire de déstabilisation des écosystèmes dans le processus d’extraction de ressources naturelles. Mais aujourd’hui, le développement durable est employé pour parler de la nécessité de changement dans une large gamme de systèmes en Afrique, y compris les économies, les entreprises, les structures politiques, l’organisation des villes et des services sociaux et les réseaux qui unissent les communautés et les cultures. Qu’est-ce que la notion de développement durable a fait pour les mobilisations collectives visant au changement en Afrique ? Comment a-t-elle aidé les groupes à articuler leurs appels à l’action ? Comment a-t-elle influencé les types de groupes qui émergent et se mobilisent ? Comment a-t-elle influencé les décisions et le travail que ceux-ci ont entrepris afin de provoquer le changement ? Grâce à l’examen de divers projets de développement durable en Afrique, ce panel vise à comprendre de manière critique la façon dont cette notion a émergé, subsisté et influencé divers aspects de l’action collective sur le continent.

Paper 1

Woldeamanuel Mintesnot / California State University Northridge

Sustainable Path to African Urban Development: The Case of the Transportation Sector

Sustainable transportation is essential to healthy urban development and quality of life in the fast growing cities of the 21st century. For fast growing African nations, in particular, it is of the utmost importance to invest in sustainable transportation systems to avoid the consequences of an automobile dominated lifestyle; which many cities in the Western countries are now coping with. The current general trend in African countries is a positive relationship between an expanding economy and increasing automobile travel. Cities in Africa are experiencing unprecedented population growth and rural-to-urban land conversion; outpacing much of the developed world. This has brought opportunities to African cities in the form of economic growth, however, is also exacerbating health, equity and environmental problems. So, failing to pursue drive-alternative modes of transportation will likely magnify these detrimental outcomes of rapid urban development in Africa. With this promising growth and development, the important question is how cities in Africa implement sustainable practices in their transportation planning in order to avoid the socio-environmental consequences of getting to autocentric culture. There are several transportation projects in various cities in Africa thus, this research explores the significance of these projects not only in terms of tackling the ever increasing urban transportation demand but also in reducing the socio-environmental impacts of driving.

Paper 2

Kyomugisha Florence / California State University, Northridge

Integrating Malaria Prevention in Sustainable Environmental and Development Programs

The World Health Organization documented “about 198 million cases of malaria in 2013 and an estimated 584 000 deaths” from malaria. Young children and pregnant women are at the highest risk of malaria morbidity and mortality. Africa south of the Sahara experiences the highest risk of malaria, and accounts for 90 percent of malaria deaths worldwide. Malaria control and eradication programs have been successful in many countries including those in northern Africa, but not in the region south of the Sahara. Drug resistant malaria, climate and environmental changes and inadequate control and prevention programs are some of the factors that have created the malaria situation in Africa south of the Sahara. The global community has done a lot in an effort to control malaria. This paper will further explore what needs to be done to control or reduce the risk of malaria in this region. This will include a discussion of the enhancement of health systems and malaria control and prevention programs that are integrated in sustainable environment and development; and strategies for providing human and financial resources to combat malaria in communities. The paper will also discuss the blanket distribution of insecticide treated nets (ITNs), one of the programs for combating malaria in poor and rural communities of Africa

Paper 3

Shubin Carol / California State University, Northridge

Sustainable Academics

“Brain drain” is a problem that many African nations struggle to resolve. As African countries move towards good governance which promotes its own institutions, it is essential that Africa’s most valuable resource – people – do not leave. Nevertheless, many Africans migrate to Europe and the U.S. for higher education. And, many do not return to reinvest the skills and knowledge that they have gained abroad. Scholars agree that the brain drain is both a cause and effect of thwarted economies in Africa, and it threatens the sustainability of academia as well. However, scholars do not agree on the methods for addressing the brain drain. Some argue mobility must be fully halted. Others argue a certain amount of mobility is necessary to the development of skilled labor in today’s world; thus, the solution does not lie in stopping out-migration. This paper contributes to this debate by exploring current educational projects such as MOOCs and joint summer workshops that encourage African students to remain in Africa while undertaking a portion of their undergraduate and graduate studies. Specifically, I discuss current efforts to develop such programs in the fields of mathematics and statistical analysis of “big data,” through partnerships between higher education institutions in Tanzania, Kenya, and the U.S. I hope to show how international partnerships contribute to slowing down the pace of the brain drain while contributing to the sustainability of academia in Africa.

Paper 4

Scheld Suzanne / California State University, Northridge

The Cultural Dimensions of Open Green Space in Dakar, Senegal

Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is often celebrated for being a well-organized, touristic , and aesthetically pleasing city. Arguably, open green spaces in the city contribute significantly to this reputation. Postcards of Dakar between the 1920s and 1950s feature green plazas and small neighborhood parks as noteworthy places in the city. Today, in contrast, to this former image of the city, few neighborhoods have green spaces and the large plazas are not so well manicured. What happened to the green spaces of Dakar? Sustainability is often conceived as pertaining to the protection, distribution, and renewability of environmental resources. Social and cultural resources, however, also require protection and favorable conditions for their continuity. Open green urban spaces are sites where social, cultural, and environmental resources are fortified and distributed. The sustainability of green spaces is critical to the vitality of urban life. This paper explores the current status of open green space in Dakar, and explains how urbanization, privatization, and local communities’ appropriation of these space has changed the use, meaning, and cultural significance of these spaces within the city.

Paper 5

Seign-goura Yorbana / University of Neuchatel in Switzerland

L’industrie extractive et le management responsable: une experience tchadienne

Ce travail est une analyse de la gouvernance des politiques socio-environnementales des multinationales pétrolières au Tchad. L’analyse des performances socio-environnementales est faite à l’aune des concepts de la responsabilité sociale des entreprises, du management responsable, de l’innovation responsable et de diverses théories : la malédiction des ressources naturelles, les parties prenantes, les théories néo-institutionnelles sur la base d’une recherche sociologique de terrain. Nous avons comparé l’implémentation des politiques de trois multinationales pétrolières dans leurs zones d’activité extractive au Tchad. Il ressort en effet que depuis 2000, le nombre des multinationales va grandissant dans ce pays dit fragile. Or, l’industrie pétrolière présente des risques environnementaux, économiques, sociaux voire politiques à l’origine du vocable de « la malédiction des ressources naturelles ». Ainsi, Mehlum et al (2003) explique ce dernier phénomène par la mauvaise qualité des institutions (faiblesses) dans les pays riches en ressources naturelles. Alors que ces situations mettent en cause la question de la durabilité socio-environnementale au Tchad, les stratégies des divers acteurs et leurs discours est de promouvoir le développement durable. Cette étude saisit les contradictions et les logiques des différents acteurs par l’analyse des politiques des multinationales, discours, et de leur compréhension de la notion de la durabilité.

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