PAN-AFRICAN DIALOGUES SERIES People in Lockdown, Extractive Industries in Business
The large-scale exploitation of nature alongside that of labour by transnational corporations continues to anchor economic activity across the African region. This has resulted in multi-layered and intersecting crises, including immeasurable ecosystem damage and climate change, the ultimate threat to the survival of humanity.
Over the last few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, opens in a new windowextractive industries have continued their operations in some contexts, even though whole populations have been in lockdown and under strict curfew. In many cases, African governments have continued to adopt a neoliberal posture in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic by restricting the life-sustaining activities of communities while facilitating the destructive activities of extractive industries. In some cases, this State support to the opens in a new windowextractive industries has been institutionalised by categorizing opens in a new windowmining and agribusiness as essential services, while criminalizing the economic activities of the Africa region’s people.
In order to share the experience of several African countries during the COVID-19 crisis, WoMin and its allies (Home-F, AIDC, Grain, CADTM) organized a first Pan-African dialogue that brought together more than fifty African and international activists around a dialogue entitled: ‘People in Lockdown, opens in a new windowExtractive Industries in Business’. Case studies on different extractive sectors were presented, revealing the actions of States and extractive industries over the past year, and exposing the destructive impacts of opens in a new windowextractivism on communities across the continent. It was also an opportunity to reflect on the actions that African activists and communities across the continent can take to resist destructive opens in a new windowextractivism during the COVID-19 health crisis.
The dialogue highlighted the reality that the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis will be long felt in Africa after the health crisis as the effects of lockdowns have seen an increase in the collusion between neoliberal African governments and transnational corporations in extractive industries. The 6 case studies presented were in French and English with participants divided into Anglophone and Francophone working groups. They are available to read and download in summary form below.
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Case Study 1: Industrial agriculture
Ange David Baimey (Grain), Côte d'Ivoire
While populations remain confined to their homes, industrialists continue their business. From a Pan-African perspective, the question is how the issue of agriculture with its corollary of questioning around extractivism is unfolding in these times of pandemic.
Case Study 2: Industrial oil palm plantations
Marie-Crescence N'Gobo (RADD), Cameroon
The promises of development that were made to communities with the arrival of agro-industries have not been fulfilled. In Cameroon, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the agro-industries carried out very few actions to support the local population
Case Study 3: Gold mining
Broulaye Bagayoko (CADTM), Mali
We must ask ourselves about the governance of opens in a new windowextractive industries, especially with respect to the collection and management of resources from the extractivist exploitation of mineral resources, and the capacity of African governments to negotiate mining contracts.
AMCU was concerned about the wellness of workers and wanted the mining companies in SA to be transparent and sincere about the state of readiness for workers to return to work amid the pandemic. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were already countless cases of poor safety standards in the opens in a new windowmining industry.
Case Study 5: Oil and gas exploitation
Annette Hubshcle (Save The Okavango Delta), Namibia & Botswana
Namibia and Botswana experienced their first cases of COVID-19 in March. In September, Namibians began to hear about a new development in Botswana and Namibia. The community of activists who began organising in defence of the region have come to be known as Save the Okavango Delta.
Case Study 6: Industrial fishing
Sherelee Odayar (SDCEA: South Durban Community Environmental Alliance), South Africa
Under initial lockdown regulations, subsistence fishers in Kwazulu Natal (KZN) were excluded from “essential workers permit” granted to commercial fishers, and small-scale fishers. These fishers were not recognized in the current Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) policy, and many held recreational permits even though they fish for subsistence. There are historic and contemporary reasons for these exclusions that must be addressed urgently.