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People in Lockdown, Extractive Industries in Business

First Pan-African Dialogue, held on 4 February 2021

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By WoMin Admin

An introduction to ‘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 Africa. This has resulted in multi-layered and intersecting crises, including catastrophic ecosystem damage and climate change, the ultimate threat to the survival of humanity.

Over the last few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, extractive industries have continued their operations in some contexts, even though whole populations have been in lockdown and under strict curfew. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, most African governments have continued to adopt a neoliberal posture – restricting the life-sustaining activities of communities while facilitating the destructive activities of extractive industries.  In some cases, this State support to the extractive industries has been institutionalised by categorising mining and agribusiness as essential services, while criminalising the economic activities of the Africa region’s people.

To share and reflect on the experience of several African countries during the COVID-19 crisis, WoMin and its allies (Home-F – Health of Mother Earth Foundation, AIDC – Alternative Information and Development Centre, GRAIN, CADTM – Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt) organised a first Pan-African dialogue. This discussion brought together more than fifty African and international activists around a dialogue entitled: People in Lockdown, Extractive 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 extractivism 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 extractivism 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 industriesThe 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.

Common threads

Some critical common threads emerged from the case studies during the dialogue. Communities are still victims of the inequalities created by the capitalist and neo-liberal system of so-called “development.” Many of the communities presented in the case studies benefitted little to nothing from the big business corporate measures during the COVID-19 health crisis. Development promises made to communities by States and corporations/transnational companies are proving to be false. In all cases, communities are being dispossessed of their main livelihood, which is land. The activities of corporations have negative impacts on both the environment and communities and are increasingly unsustainable in the context of the global climate crisis. Going forward, it will be critical to amplify and strengthen community awareness of the political stakes of industrial agricultural and extractivist exploitation of natural resources.  Regionally, these frontline voices must be supported through advocacy and campaigns towards African institutions and to hold transnational corporations accountable.

What are the Pan-African Dialogues?

The Pan-African dialogues are a series of spaces co-hosted by WoMin and our allies to explore key conversations around extractivism in its multiple forms as well as amplify voices and innovative community-centred solutions and alternatives ties across the African continent. Look out for upcoming dialogues throughout 2021.