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The Green State in Africa$

Carl Death

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300215830

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300215830.001.0001

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Green Land and State Territory

Green Land and State Territory

(p.69) Chapter 3 Green Land and State Territory
The Green State in Africa

Carl Death

Yale University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines how green discourses and governmental rationalities – principally conservation initiatives but also the environmental dimensions of land reform programmes – produce particular forms of territory and bordering in Africa. The chapter begins with a conceptual discussion of the importance of territorialising and bordering practices to the constitution of state effects in general, and in Africa specifically. The history of colonial projects of mapping, surveying, and establishing protected areas is central to this story. There is a spectrum encompassing exclusive forms of territorialisation through to more hybrid and ambiguous forms of territorialisation in African conservation and land projects, and the changing land practices in places like the Serengeti, Kruger, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, and the Kavango-Zambezi can be read in these terms. Other interventions into the management of land and territory – including so-called ‘land grabs’, land reform and redistribution policies, and even peri-urban slums – should also be seen as sites for the governance and contestation of territory in Africa. This chapter argues that green discourses and practices have been central to this story.

Keywords:   Land, Territory, Territorialisation, Conservation, Parks, Borders, Land grabs, Land reform, Kruger, Serengeti

There are rolling fields of corn and sorghum and pumpkins. There are tufts of clouds and sheets of rain. There are rivers that flow and sometimes flood and sometimes dry up. There are trees that tell us that the earth breathes. There is day and night. Sun and moon and stars. There are houses and parks, and shopping malls, and offices and factories and airports and harbours. There are roads and highways through which human energy flows.

Njabulo Ndebele, The Cry of Winnie Mandela

Years ago, the open land, the farmland was a natural drain for floods. Now with development comes a road network, paving, tar…. That’s why you get houses being flooded.

—Anonymous, South Africa Talks Climate

In July 2010 the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, one of the oldest conservation organisations in the United Kingdom, began a letter-writing campaign to dissuade the government of Tanzania from building a 171.5-km road through the Serengeti National Park. The road, it was claimed, would “critically affect the mammals that inhabit the park and could potentially disrupt the renowned wildebeest migration between Serengeti and Maasai Mara in Kenya.”1 The Serengeti is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Site and one of the most famous landscapes in East Africa, an iconic vista of grassland and savannah that is beloved of environmentalists worldwide. As the Tanzanian government insisted on the sovereign right to develop its territory, pressure against the road grew from a range of international organisations, governments, NGOs, and domestic communities, including the European Commission, the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, travel companies, and the (p.70) International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The World Bank and Germany offered to help fund an alternative southern route that would avoid impacting the migration. In December 2010 the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) filed a case at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to prevent construction of the road. Despite attempts to dismiss the case by the Tanzanian government the EACJ claimed jurisdiction, and on 20 June 2014 it ruled that the road was unlawful. The court said the road would infringe on a provision of a regional treaty calling for “the promotion of sustainable utilisation of the natural resources of the partner states” because it would interrupt the wildebeest migration into Kenya.2 After the verdict, Josphat Ngonyo, ANAW’s executive director, declared, “This was not a win for ANAW, not for our lawyer, Saitabao Ole Kanchory, not for Serengeti Watch, not for our expert witness John Kuloba, but for the millions of animals in the Serengeti-mara ecosystem. It is a win for nature and God’s creation. Nature has won today.”3

This case illustrates a number of important aspects of the politics of green states in Africa. First, it is a reminder that politics means contestations, disagreements, conflicts, and clashes of interests. These occur between many social forces: in this case, ministries and individuals within the Tanzanian government, private corporations and industries on both sides of the dispute, local and transnational conservation groups, international organisations, and others. Sometimes they are legalistic or discursive; on other occasions they give rise to physical violence. In 1998, for example, a number of local people, estimated between sixteen and fifty-two, were killed by park rangers in Serengeti, leading Issa Shivji to conclude, “The beauty of Serengeti will forever carry a red blot on its face.”4 One of the key arguments of this chapter and indeed of this book is that when addressing the question, What is the green state in Africa? we should focus attention on social conflicts and political contestation rather than on innovative technologies, modernisation processes, and technocratic policy reform.

Second, this case highlights the fact that in Africa the production of the green state is closely bound up with the production of land and territory. The Serengeti road dispute is fundamentally about authority over land and the proper uses of certain types of land. Long-standing disputes between developers and preservationists frequently come to a head over national parks and protected areas, particularly when oil or other mineral resources, transport links, or food security is at stake. This is true all over the world, but it is especially visible in Africa, and it is the most important way in which green (p.71) state effects in Africa have an emphasis different from those elsewhere. Sub-Saharan Africa has over eleven hundred national parks and reserves, thirty-six of which are designated as World Heritage Sites, and protected areas cover 16 percent of East and Southern Africa and 10 percent of West and Central Africa. Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, and Tanzania all have over 30 percent of their land under some form of ecological protection.5 Symbolically, African wild spaces play a crucial role in global environmental imaginaries, functioning as a kind of Edenic, pristine wilderness despite the socially constructed nature of these spaces.6 Symbolic and material associations between the African bush, veld, jungle, and wilderness with danger, disease, and backwardness, on the one hand, and wealth, opportunity, virgin land, and pristine haven on the other, are all deeply political. Accordingly, I address the governance and contestation of land and territory in Africa as a primary site for the production of green states.

The third insight highlighted by the Serengeti road dispute is the many actors and interests involved and the complexity of the networks implicated. The green state is not simply a homogenous and autonomous institution or a bureaucratic administration within a sovereign territory, and this fact is perhaps even clearer in Africa than elsewhere in the world. Green states are produced through international, transnational, global, and local networks and relations. The Tanzanian government sought to play the sovereignty card, asserting their right to develop their national territory. But this has been vigorously contested, with some success. NGOs and conservationists have responded by reminding the government that the Serengeti is part of mankind’s “global heritage.”7 International organisations have emphasised Tanzania’s legal obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. The EACJ proclaimed its right to hear a case brought by a Kenyan-based environmental organisation against Tanzania’s sovereign right to development and ruled against the construction of the road. Local communities have intervened on both sides of the argument. And there are many perspectives within the Tanzanian state, various ministries within government, and the ruling party. The production of green state effects involves a wide range of actors and networks that extends far beyond straightforward conceptions of the state or civil society.

My core argument below is that green state effects in Africa are primarily and quintessentially bound up with the government of land and territory to a far greater extent than they are elsewhere. The motif of the road is an appropriate starting point: it is a visceral incision into a landscape, governing (p.72) lived space through the movement of peoples and representational spaces through maps and imagined geographies. It is also a socially and politically ambivalent technology: associated with progress, speed, modernisation, and opportunity but also with danger, fear, hazards, and the prospect of increased environmental degradation on local and global scales.8 The production of territory through these and other technologies, including categorisation, mapping, administering and policing of protected areas, and conservation zones, is therefore the starting point for this chapter. The next section establishes the importance of land and territory to practices of statehood before turning to a number of techniques and technologies of territorialisation. Then the chapter turns to two different types of territorialisation in Africa: exclusive and hybrid modes. These are heuristic categories rather than clearly distinguishable forms of governance in practice, and I certainly do not argue that green states in Africa are moving from exclusive to hybrid modes of territorialisation. However, some forms of conservation and land governance in both colonial and contemporary eras can be characterised as models in which land is parcelled up into mutually exclusive, bounded, homogenous territories, whereas other forms of conservation and land governance, across various time periods, involve more hybrid, overlapping, ambiguous bordering practices. Assessing the causes and consequences of these differing rationalities of land governance is a crucial first step in mapping the green state in Africa.

Territory and the State

The fundamental, indeed constitutive, relationship between the state and territory is encapsulated, as noted earlier, in Weber’s classic definition of the state as “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.”9 Modern states since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 have, de jure, exclusive sovereignty within their territory; they admit no higher or competing authority over their portion of the earth’s surface (see chapter 2). The familiar political maps that adorn globes, the first pages of most atlases, politics and history textbooks, and foreign offices everywhere reveal that the world is divided into neatly contiguous territories divided by infinitely thin lines representing state borders. As Agnew and Corbridge write, “The merging of the state with a clearly bounded territory is the geographical essence of the field of international relations.”10

(p.73) Territory is different from land, terrain, or soil. There is land on the moon and on Mars, but it is not territory. Columbus set foot on land in the Americas, but it became state territory only when it was claimed by the Spanish crown. The dominant mode of territory is produced by states, and states exist because of their territory. Territory is named, mapped, bordered; it is subject to the law and authority of the sovereign.11 Stuart Elden notes that state territory is associated in European thought with the “idea of exclusive ownership of a portion of the earth’s surface.”12 To Henri Lefebvre, on whom Elden and many other theorists of spatiality draw heavily, state territory is also peculiar in that it is a type of space which is abstract, even, homogenous, a tabula rasa. Such “abstract space permits continuous, rational economic calculation in the spheres of production and exchange, as well as comprehensive, encompassing control in the realm of statecraft.”13 Territorialisation is therefore a process by which uneven land or landscape is made universally codifiable, legible, and fungible and thus ownable as property.

The process by which the African landmass was territorialised illustrates these general points. Processes of European imperial territorialisation began slowly but gathered pace in the nineteenth century. Statelike entities existed in precolonial Africa, but state territory was not as hegemonic as it was becoming in sixteenth-and seventeenth-century Europe. Jeremy Black points out that in Guillaume Delisle’s Carte d’Afrique (Amsterdam, c. 1722) (fig. 5) Africa was misleadingly divided into kingdoms with clear frontiers, thus producing a “European account of Africa in which European notions of territorialisation are employed.”14 Such a representation existed alongside parallel representations of Africa as a blank space or a void to be filled. This was most evocatively conveyed by the character Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness: “When I was a little chap I had a passion for maps…. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map … I would put my finger on it and say, When I grow up I will go there.”15 Such representations, while now politically incorrect, have not disappeared: Kaplan’s and Schroeder’s account of the “new scramble for Africa” presents it as a rush for the “gaping heart” of the continent, for the “vast, impassable blank spot on the map” that is the Congo basin.16

Even if precolonial Africa did not much resemble Delisle’s Carte d’Afrique, it was not a blank, empty space. Other forms of territory existed, produced by precolonial political formations and polities, in much the same way as medieval and early modern Europe had a variety of practices of territorialisation in (p.74)

Green Land and State Territory

5. Carte d’Afrique, Guillaume Delisle (Amsterdam, c. 1722).

which sovereigns, noblemen, city guilds, villages, and the Roman Catholic Church and its various orders produced and governed territory within emerging state formations. Citing an example from what became the Zimbabwe–Mozambique border, David Hughes comments on how the nineteenth-century occupants “used land, but they seldom divided it into bounded, exclusive zones. They appear to have demarcated territory only when one polity’s farmland abutted another.”17 The shift from overlapping, heterogeneous, blurred divisions of territory into the contiguous, neatly parcelled, and cartographically demarcated territories that occurred after the Berlin Conference of 1884–85 was a key turning point in the history of African territory formation, even if physical impacts on the ground did not always follow.18 Indeed, this development helps clarify two forms of territorialisation which, although never entirely distinct, represent useful ways of thinking about how diverse forms of green state in Africa are produced.

First, more exclusive modes of territorialisation mobilise sovereign forms of power and seek to clearly demarcate distinct patches of land with distinct (p.75) forms of authority and rights and obligations within them, often encapsulated in the form of property ownership. In a manner of speaking this was the aim of the Berlin Conference, which deployed ruler-straight lines to demarcate countries and their imperial possessors. As Nick Vaughan-Williams explains, drawing on William Connolly, the etymology of the word territory is the Latin root terrere, which means to frighten or terrorise, and “Connolly suggests that territory can be thought of as precisely ‘land occupied and bounded by violence.’ ”19 Fred Nelson writes, “The core characteristic of Africa’s colonial era was the imposition of new forms of centralised political authority over access to land and resources that had previously been controlled by more localised institutions.”20 These new forms of authority were often violent, extractive, coercive, and brutal.

The second form of territorialisation is more complex, heterogeneous, and hybrid. Even colonial states in Africa were more variegated than the Westphalian ideal: imperial powers asserted sovereignty or in some cases trusteeship over their African dominions, and if the rule of the metropole applied to certain populations, usually urban ones, in other rural areas customary rule and alternative spheres of authority were encouraged or permitted. It was independence, not colonialism, which actualised the Westphalian ideal of territorially sovereign entities, and African nationalists framed liberation in terms of the assertion of national sovereignty and self-determination over a particular portion of the earth’s surface. Yet despite the longevity of Africa’s colonially imposed borders, postcolonial politics has often been more spatially complex, heterogeneous, and hybrid than the nationalists had hoped. African territories comprise, among other things, private property, zones for commerce or development, segregated populations, protected areas, sacred sites, world heritage locations, restricted access, common land and public thoroughfares, and borderland and transit zones.21

Bringing attention to these two forms of territorialisation represents an important addition and corrective to existing literatures on the green state which have hitherto displayed little interest in the politics of land, territory, borders, or even conservation.22 If territory is a constitutive feature of the modern state, then one might assume that green states have a different relationship to the land beneath their feet than national, liberal, or welfare states. And given the importance of nature conservation and biodiversity to the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s and the considerable rise in protected areas in the twentieth century, one might also have expected a more central place for conservation in the discussions of green state theorists. John (p.76) Dryzek and colleagues do see the possibility of a “new state imperative: environmental conservation” for green states in the future, but they pay no attention to the existing politics of conservation even in states like the United States, let alone states like Tanzania, Botswana, and South Africa, where conservation is more deeply embedded in state politics and national identity.23

There are two main reasons for this absence of reflection on land, territory, and conservation. First, as noted in previous chapters, the green state literature has been shaped by sociological theories of modernisation and globalisation which have tended to stress the transformation of the nation-state into the transnational or cosmopolitan state.24 It is often assumed, but rarely explicated in detail, that such states are postterritorial or that national borders and boundaries will play less fundamental roles than in the states of the past. Strange argued that the age of “new-medievalism” (a term first coined by Bull) was characterised by states competing for market shares in the world economy rather than “for control over territory and the wealth-creating resources within territories.”25 To Beck, transnational states are “nonterritorial.”26 Indeed, for many it is precisely the irrelevance of national borders in the face of transboundary pollution, dwindling fish stocks, industrial risks and hazards, climate change, and holes in the ozone layer that necessitates transnational or cosmopolitan states. Perhaps because claims of a borderless world were associated with overblown predictions of the dwindling of nation-states and because there is little evidence that national territories and borders are becoming redundant, green state theorists and empirical studies have devoted little attention to changing practices and rationalities of land governance and territorialisation. State territory is therefore often taken as given; it is the unexamined foundation for thinking about the politics of the green state.

The second reason for the neglect of land and territory in the green state literature is that conservation has played a very different role in African state formation than in Europe and North America. In Africa, as we will see below, vast conservation parks preceded independent statehood, and protected areas became closely bound up with practices of state building, border enforcement, and the penetration of the state into rural areas. By contrast, in North America national states preexisted the creation of parks and reserves, as neatly conveyed by the aphorism “God may have created the world, but only Congress can create wilderness.”27 In Europe the model of conservation and national parks is very different again; parks there are regarded as more mixed use, inhabited, and socially produced landscapes as opposed to the vast expanses of wilderness (p.77) that dominate North American or African mental imaginaries and physical landscapes. As a result, the European green state literature has focused on more urban and industrial issues such as energy policy, consumption, health, food, and transport. The argument of this chapter, contrary to most of the existing green state literature, is that the governance of land through exclusive and hybrid practices of territorialisation is a primary, quintessential element of the production of green state effects in Africa. The most important question which follows from this is, How do these practices of territorialisation produce highly disparate ways of governing land?

Practices of Territorialisation

Both exclusive and hybrid forms of territorialisation are produced through technologies, discourses, and practices of territorialisation. There are three significant practices of territorialisation: the creation or policing or contesting of borders and boundaries; the zoning or administering of space for different purposes; and the mapping or surveying of land use or land qualities.

Producing the Borderline

Borders and boundaries involve much more political work than the lines drawn on a map around a table in Berlin in 1884–85 imply. Borders and boundaries permeate society: they are found within villages and even households, agricultural land, forests, towns, cities, transport routes, and around particular zones, hubs, regions, and districts. These diverse forms of borders and boundaries can take the form of infinitely narrow lines on maps, or they can be indistinct and blurred regions negotiated through local custom and practice. They can be accepted and relatively stable and static, or constantly contested and reappropriated. They have diverse bandwidths and degrees of permeability, and a wide array of physical and conceptual manifestations, structures, and practices accompany them. They are performed and contested in a variety of ways, and Mitchell describes in some detail how national state borders are performatively produced: “By establishing a territorial boundary and exercising absolute control over movement across it, state practices define and help constitute a national entity. Setting up and policing a frontier involves a variety of fairly modern social practices—continuous barbed-wire fencing, passports, immigration laws, inspections, currency control and so on. These mundane arrangements, most of them unknown two hundred (p.78) or even one hundred years ago, help manufacture an almost transcendental entity, the nation state. This entity comes to seem something much more than the sum of the everyday activities that constitute it, appearing as a structure containing and giving order and meaning to people’s lives.”28 Drawing on Mitchell, Dunn provides an account of how state spaces and boundaries are performed through various rituals at national parks in Uganda and Rwanda. These include the pivoting of a tank turret every afternoon inside Uganda’s Bwindi National Park; public military drills inside Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park; and a visible military roadside presence at the boundaries of Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park. Through such practices, frontiers and boundaries are performatively constituted, and in turn they work to produce the modern territorial state as well as all sorts of other social entities.29

In addition, national borders have considerable variability and heterogeneity, especially in Africa. Whereas in other parts of the world there may be relatively uniform and consistent practices of national bordering, only a quarter of African national boundaries are actually physically inscribed or marked on the ground. Imperial border makers were often far removed from the realities of African landscapes; for example, the boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon was once thought to be marked by the river Rio del Rey, which was eventually discovered not to exist at all. Whereas some borders are heavily policed and even militarised, others are open for vast stretches to nomadic pastoralists, wildlife, and a wide range of licit and illicit social flows. Some are virtually impassable, others are zones of contact, commerce, and relatively free movement. It is evident that the writ of the state does not extend evenly across the territory of Somalia or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, nor are all borders policed in the forests of East Kivu. Moreover, the borders and boundaries that internally govern and separate the mining enclaves of Zambia, the rural regions of Tanzania and Mozambique, and the informal settlements of Nigeria and South Africa are often more significant on the ground than national frontiers. They represent spaces where state territory is not smooth and homogenous. These are features of state space and territory around the world, but they are more evident in much of Africa.30

Zoning African Spaces

Within these boundaries and borders a broad range of zones and categories and land types exist, and they are governed and administered in various ways. The smooth and even colouring of the political map is a powerful (p.79) fiction but is only one of many fictions or territorialising practices that constitute contemporary states. How land is used, owned, ruled, and administered is a crucial element of the production of territory. For example, designating land as agricultural and then ploughing, irrigating, sowing, or grazing it is a powerful way to transform wilderness, terra nullius, or virgin land, into state territory.31

A wide spectrum of various uses, codes of conduct, regimes of law and authority, and assignations of rights shape land use and the governance of territory in Africa.32 For example, the IUCN’s Protected Areas Categories System classifies six types of land: strict nature reserves/wilderness areas; national parks; national monuments/natural landmarks; habitats/species management areas; protected landscapes/seascapes; and protected areas with sustainable use of natural resources.33 Other categories also exist, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites, private hunting reserves, state land, community conservation areas, sacred sites, and areas of outstanding natural beauty. These protected areas exist on every continent and at sea (fig. 6), with particularly high concentrations in Africa and Latin America (fig. 7).

Within these distinct zones and spaces, spheres of authority are created and policed, standards of law or values or norms are established, and various access rights are allowed. A national park tends to have stricter rules and restrictions than a private game reserve, for example, although a private reserve

Green Land and State Territory

6. Spatial distribution of the world’s protected areas. IUCN and UNEP-WCMC (2015)


Green Land and State Territory

7. Percentage of terrestrial and inland water areas covered by protected areas, by country and territory.

Juffe-Bignoli et al. (2014).

might have more resources available on a day-to-day basis and more intensive management of the land and biodiversity. A protected area, in contrast to a park, often comprises many zones with lots of land use types within it. For example, “a central national park or core non-use area could be surrounded by conservation areas (or corridors or buffer zones) and abutted by a traditional hunter/gatherer zone or a pastoral zone. In turn, these could be surrounded by game ranches, forest reserves, agroforests, and traditional agriculture. Still further out from the core could be zones of specialized mechanised agriculture, urban areas, and manufacturing industries. Some uses or production systems could overlap several zones, such as traditional pastoralism overlying a traditional hunter/gatherer zone, a controlled hunting zone and a game ranching zone.”34 Within each of these zones, different qualities and features of the land are established as important or incidental: the physical geography, the aesthetic landscape, the ecosystem, various biological populations and their degree of vulnerability, the economic value, the legal status, the cultural or historical meaning, symbolism and status. Sacred groves, burial grounds, and other religious sites also have a close link to the conservation of particular landscapes in Africa.35 All of these categories have implications for the power relations, hierarchies and, inequalities that permeate communities.

(p.81) The designation of land as private property is a crucial manifestation of power relations. Lund has drawn a distinction between whether land is viewed as territory or property: “As territory, space is governed, but not owned by its governing agency. As property, on the other hand, space is owned, but not governed by its owners.”36 Yet this distinction is not as clear-cut as it might seem: identification of land as property enables taxation and the monitoring of stewardship responsibilities by the state or other bodies. Similarly, establishing governance and the rule of law over a territory is a necessary step for the creation and protection of private property. To Mitchell, for example, the demarcation of private property in the Nile River Valley should be seen as “an arrangement created by the state to bring order to the system of landholding and increase its own powers over rural society.”37 These categorisations are of vital political import and are often contested. As Lund and Boone note, when land is contested, “some protagonists may view it as territorial space controlled by the central state, others as a tract of property, and yet others as an endowment attached to customary institutions that are ‘guaranteed’ by neo-customary entitlements for use by members of a local community.”38 Thus struggles over land are also struggles over power, authority, and legitimacy.

Mapping the Terrain

Finally, the techniques and technologies by which these borders, boundaries, and zones are mapped and made knowable are crucial territorialising practices. The very formation of colonial states in Africa was accompanied by an intense devotion of effort to properly mapping and demarcating boundaries: examples include the Sudan–Uganda Boundary Commission and the Nigeria–Cameroon Boundary Commission, both of which took place in 1912–13, and the British colonial land map in Egypt.39 In more recent decades large-scale land registration has been implemented throughout sub-Saharan Africa, often with the support of international donors and ostensibly aimed at improving individual security of tenure in the absence of private property rights. The Africa Progress Panel in 2014 discussed land mapping and registration in Rwanda (where photomaps are used to issue land titles), Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Ghana.40

However, mapping is not simply, despite the promises of satellite-enabled geographical information systems (GIS), a quest for greater detail and ever closer verisimilitude. Rather, mapping, like all forms of representation, is an (p.82) art and always makes certain things visible even as it hides others. These choices are political, or at least they can be made political when they are contested and resisted. As Jon Harley observes, “Environmentalists in the United States, for instance, at a time when acid rain or commercial destruction is threatening our forests, may be frustrated by the optical illusion of a topographical map that shows woodland only by an undifferentiated green tint to define its area.”41 Maps can crystallise the other practices of territorialisation discussed above: the production of borders and frontiers and the zoning of land usage within these borders. To map a landscape is to assert control over it and create a powerful statement of belief in mechanical replicability, objectivity, and representation. As Brockington et al. argue, mapping and classification are “not just a way of seeing the world; [they are] also a vehicle for remaking it.”42 Thus the very practical ways in which mapping and surveying are carried out, that is, which things are recorded and measured, according to what scales, and how they are represented, are crucial indicators of the ways in which green states are produced and contested.

Exclusive Practices of Territorialisation

Prevailing practices of territorialisation tend to be informed by two central and conflicting images of land in Africa. The first is that conjured up by the image of the Serengeti: a vast open space of rolling hills and savannah, wildlife, and fertility. It is this sense of space and fecundity that the proposed road discussed at the start of this chapter seems to violate. The second image, however, is that of African cities like Nairobi and Lagos and the African slum: crowded populations, teeming masses living on top of each other, resource scarcity and density of bodies. This is the apparent threat the road brings. As Richard Schroeder observes, these two conflicting images of diversity and dearth lie behind most environmental interventions in Africa, and conservation parks vividly bring them both to light.43

Conservation can refer to the protection of flora and fauna or of energy or of any kinds of resources and reserves. Practices of conservation are therefore widespread and diverse. Yet practices of wildlife and biodiversity conservation in Africa and around the globe have taken a relatively circumscribed number of forms. Although these have changed over time and varied between landscapes and political regimes, it is possible to identify a relatively limited number of models of wildlife conservation: these include the fortress or barriers model, community-based conservation, people and parks, peace parks, and (p.83) transfrontier conservation. Here I examine several of these types, beginning with what have been pejoratively described as the fortress or barriers model, which invokes exclusive practices of territorialisation. It is not possible to simply label this an older or colonial style of conservation, although it tended to be more dominant in previous periods, as elements of it continue to inform contemporary practices of land use and governance in Africa.

Fortress Conservation

The belief that nature’s greatest enemy is human civilisation has been a feature of many strands of environmentalism and conservationism. Environmentalists keen to preserve and secure what were seen as especially beautiful, valuable, or fragile pristine wildernesses were exponents of this outlook. For preservationists the solution was obvious: keep people out. Much of the history and the contemporary politics of wildlife conservation in Africa, as in North America and elsewhere, can be described as a process of making certain spaces safe for nature by excluding most types of human activity. As well as invoking the fortress metaphor, this stance is also known as “fines-and-fences.”44 The communities who live, farm, harvest, hunt, worship, and work in these lands are separated from conservation areas by fences, fined when they trespass or hunt or harvest in these areas, and in general excluded from the land. By contrast, scientists, researchers, park officials, and tourists are allowed access to the parks and even encouraged to enter them as part of the conservation project.

Much has been written about the role such protected places play in modern environmentalism, and why industrial societies have been relatively keen to protect wilderness areas. The mystique of African landscapes for European travellers, colonists, settlers, and conservationists was bound up in the idea of wilderness, a place of purity, innocence, and vitality. The allure is also that of a frontier society: a frontier that could be pushed back and tamed but that challenged and in some ways improved civilisation itself. The wildness of the frontier is seen as a proving ground of manhood, strength, and durability. This is not simply a Western, industrial attitude. In many African cultures the rites of circumcision and becoming a man take place during an extended trip into the bush. However, the phenomenon of establishing bounded, fenced, protected areas to preserve biodiversity from human degradation is a peculiarly modern and Western practice. It is one which occurs worldwide but in which African spaces play prominent roles.45

(p.84) The Serengeti National Park, for example, was the first national park to be created in British colonial Africa, and it was a result of the lobbying of the Society for the Protection of the Fauna of the Empire. Its formation was hotly contested, both by factions and arms of the colonial state, including some Tanganyikan officials who worried that it would impede native customary rights to grazing, fuel, and hunting, and by local populations who resisted such practices of territorialisation at their point of implementation. Nevertheless, it became a model for national parks elsewhere. Communities who had lived and grazed in the Serengeti landscape for generations were forced to move outside the park boundaries. Roderick Neumann writes, “National parks were at once symbolic representations of the European vision of Africa and a demonstration of the colonial state’s power to control access to land and natural resources.”46

In the early history of the Serengeti heated debates occurred over what level and types of human activity were to be permitted within the park. For example, those Maasai who were allowed to remain within the park and continue to hunt there were allowed to use only traditional weapons and methods, that is, to remain so-called primitive. Reforms to the park’s boundaries and regulations in the late 1950s reduced its size but established for the first time the unambiguous principle that human communities should be excluded from national parks. No habitation, cultivation, or hunting were to be permitted inside the boundaries. The Serengeti remains a landmark protected area, hence the outcry when the plans for the proposed road were announced. But despite the language of many conservationists, the Serengeti is not an isolated “last wilderness” in Tanzania. Including the Serengeti, Tanzania’s State of the Environment report in 2006 listed 14 national parks, 28 game reserves, 38 game-controlled areas, and the Ngorogoro conservation area, which together cover over 24.5 million hectares, and 815 forest reserves covering about 15 million hectares. Once all of these are coded according to IUCN criterion an impressive 38 percent of Tanzania’s land area will be under IUCN-recognised protection. The value of protected areas to Tanzania’s economy, international image, land use, and settlement patterns means that green state effects here are primarily shaped by practices of conservation.47

Other national parks and protected areas of note exist across Africa. The Hluhluwe–Umfolozi game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, is a recent conjoining of the oldest game reserves in Africa. The two parks were proclaimed in 1895, the decade during which the Zulu kingdom came under (p.85) direct British imperial control. As Shirley Brooks argues, this quintessentially natural, wild space has an intense political history, including the “large-scale slaughter of animals by the authorities during the anti-nagana [trypanomiasis] campaigns of the 1930s and 1940s; the removal of communities from the Corridor area between the two reserves, also in the 1940s; and a bitter history of conflict over land, particularly in the western section of the Umfolozi game reserve.”48 A large section of Umfolozi has been proclaimed a wilderness area in which no development is allowed and access is only on foot, a key legacy of the well-known conservationist and former game ranger Ian Player. The park merges the symbolism of wild Africa with the branding of the province and its cultural history as timeless Zululand. The story of the park draws upon the famous Zulu king Shaka and emphasises his keen interest in conservation and the establishment of royal hunting grounds. Brooks argues, however, that local residents distinguish between “indawo yenkosi yokuzingela, the royal hunting grounds, and isiqiwu, the fenced colonial (and postcolonial) game reserve.”49 The older meaning of the word isiqiwu—“beacon” or “boundary mark”—indicates that “the primary feature of the reserve, in the experience of the people who lived near it, was the fact that they were excluded from this land. Dispossession, as symbolised by the beacons, was a more obvious component than conservation.”50 The establishment of a fence around the park was bitterly resented by local communities and, combined with the forced removal of hundreds of households from the corridor between the parks, prompted widespread resistance. To Brooks, the “decreasing permeability of Hluhluwe’s boundary, brought about by fencing and various other restrictions on people’s access to reserve land, is a key feature of the historical geography of the reserve from 1939.”51

Nearby is the much more well-known Kruger National Park (KNP), the oldest national park in Africa and one of the oldest in the world. Yet, like all national parks, it is not so much the preservation of a pristine wilderness as the creation of a managed territorial space. The first warden of KNP, Col. James Stephenson-Hamilton, earned the nickname Shukuza (a derivation from the Tsonga to mean “he who sweeps away”) for his treatment of local communities at the turn of the century. The place of the park in South Africa’s national identity is complex and sometimes uncomfortable: named after an Afrikaner hero and championed and visited by white liberals, it is an iconic national space from which many black South Africans still feel excluded.52

(p.86) These parks and many others like them are produced through a number of practices of exclusive territorialisation. The identification, construction, and policing of boundaries is one of the most important. Thousands of miles of barbed wire and fencing have been unrolled to protect the wildlife of Africa from poachers and hunters. Border posts and armed guards watch over entry points. Mandatory passes that detail the number of guests, the length of time of the visit, the activities, and the citizenship or visa status of the visitors must be purchased. Despite an apparent emphasis on inclusion, community participation, and moving beyond the barriers in recent years, the day-to-day activities of many parks and conservation organisations still involve exclusive territorialising practices such as putting up or repairing fences, guarding wildlife, and hunting poachers. Indeed, recent worries over high levels of poaching, particularly of rhinos, have led to a revival of fortress modes of militarised conservation and shoot-to-kill antipoaching missions, with journalists alleging that places like KNP are “under siege by poachers working for criminal networks.”53 Prominent conservation organisations report on security issues and the number of kilometres of fencing set up in their parks: a quarterly report from 2014 reported that “Limpopo National Park’s protection unit delivered improved successes during 2013, with the arrest of 43 poachers (up from 14 in 2012) and the confiscation of 21 rifles (up from 15 in 2012)” and predicted further successes given the “recent deployment of a new 30-man special anti-poaching unit, whose activities will be concentrated in the intensive protection zone along the park’s western boundary with Kruger National Park.”54

This model of conservation requires strict practices of zoning within the parks. Fortress conservation dictates that permanent human settlement is not permitted, and neither are farming, mining, or many other activities. Kenya has a ban even on game hunting in its national parks, enacted by presidential decree in 1977. The authority of the state can be invoked to police these rules within national parks, but many other types of territorialisation operate on a similarly exclusive model but involve private property and private security or use NGOs or nonprofit organisations to run and police particular zones or parks. Nancy Peluso has highlighted how conservation groups often “augment the financial and physical capacities of Third World states or state agencies to protect resources with ‘global’ value.”55 National parks in Kenya deploy automatic weapons and helicopter gunships; private military firms have been contracted by organisations such as WWF to conduct antipoaching operations in Equatorial Guinea; and defence forces have been used in Tanzania and Zimbabwe to defend their protected areas. Kenyan authorities (p.87) were licensed to shoot-to-kill poachers, but park resources were also used against Somali migrants and to modernise Maasai pastoralists. The Botswana Defence Force has become a model example of the use of coordinated, militarised, top-down strategic action against poaching and in defence of wildlife.56

The creation and maintenance of such zones requires close mapping and constant surveillance. A closed, exclusive, fortress park requires that the flora and fauna within it form a stable enough ecosystem to be sustainable with appropriate human management; thus the scientific surveys and ecosystem assessments that identify a suitably sized area with sufficient natural habitats and resources to support the required population are a key practice of territorialisation. These are often supported or implemented by NGOs and private foundations, alongside or in place of the state. The Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), for example, supports extensive and intensive scientific research, surveys, and training and reports on increased funding for “technology applications such as drones, microchips, tracking devices and improved field communications, training and capacity building of field rangers.”57 Controversies over plans to introduce new technologies like horn dye that would render the rhinos worthless to poaching networks have spilled over into the sphere of public debate in South Africa and the Netherlands, putting large sums of funding and the legitimacy of conservation organisations at stake.

Thus parks frequently operate as states within a state: enclaves in which park authorities or international agencies determine and enforce the law, police populations, manage their natural resources, and defend their fiefdom against intruders both physically and discursively. Moreover, the practices of exclusive territorialisation associated with fortress conservation have also helped produce modern states in Africa. Conservation areas are frequently located in the most inaccessible and remote parts of the continent, for example, in mountains, deserts, swamps, and forests, places where state authority has only partially or irregularly extended. The creation and maintenance of national parks in these areas provide resources and legitimacy for state interventions, including border mapping, construction and security, the monitoring and control of population movements, and jurisdiction over taxation of farming, hunting, logging, and fishing.58 Even in South Africa, for example, one of Africa’s strongest states has found that national parks have helped to maintain and defend its borders. The country has the dubious honour of being the scene of the first conflict in which barbed-wire fences were widely (p.88) used, when Gen. Walter Kitchener created lines of barbed wire and blockhouses during the Anglo-Boer War of 1898–1901 and constructed what soon came to be called concentration camps (also with barbed wire) for housing captive Afrikaner populations. Apartheid South Africa found its ability to control vast swathes of rugged land on its borders with Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Angola through national park authorities and resources to be extremely valuable during the period of the “total onslaught” in the early 1980s. Stephen Ellis, among others, has exposed the role played by apartheidera security forces, which included the use of parks for counterinsurgency and by covert-action units and even extensive involvement in illegal international ivory smuggling.59 More recently, parks in East Africa have become front lines of conflict against Islamic terrorist groups like al-Shabaab.

Thus, if exclusive state territorialisation has fulfilled useful functions for transnational capitalism, as argued by Marxist geographers like David Harvey and Neil Brenner, so territorially exclusive protected areas similarly fulfill useful functions for a range of social actors and forces, including the conservation industry, NGOs, and state elites.60 The creation of carefully policed exclusive spaces of conservation has proved to be a way of making money from ecotourism: investors want secure property rights and manageable and identifiable assets, such as the charismatic megafauna, while customers want guaranteed wildlife sightings in a wilderness environment that is not too lawless or physically dangerous. From this perspective we might be tempted to say that the quintessential green state in Africa is an authoritarian conservation state in which vast tracts of land are exclusively territorialised and secured against local populations, for the protection of biodiversity, the control of wildlife rents, and the enjoyment of foreign tourists.

Many observers and practitioners of conservation in Africa will object that the fortress model is outdated. It is certainly more easily identified in the colonial parks and those of the newly independent nation-building states, and much work has been done in recent years by park authorities, NGOs, and communities to change the image and practices of fortress conservation. But these practices of exclusive territorialisation are not simply those of a bygone era; exclusionary and militarised forms of governance are still practiced in many conservation areas, as they are on many state borders. In recent years a “back to the barriers” movement has been identified in conservation, as parks return to more exclusive and militarised practices of territorialisation after experiments with more hybrid and flexible forms.61 Moreover, exclusive (p.89) practices of territorialisation can also be identified in the governance of African land and natural resources outside protected areas, in what has been termed land grabbing or the new scramble for Africa.

Land Grabbing as Exclusive Territorialisation

Rather than make an extensive intervention into what are now very widely debated terms and research fields, I use the land-grabbing debate to make three key points. First, attempts to secure exclusive control over African agricultural land and natural resources are far from new. Second, there are many family resemblances between attempts to secure access to natural resources and conservation areas, both colonial and contemporary. Third, these practices of exclusive territorialisation by states and their allies almost always meet with resistance from communities and competing interest groups.62

Practices of exclusive territorialisation go well beyond conservation in Africa, and they were a fundamental feature of colonialism. For example, white settlers in places like Kenya, Rhodesia, and South Africa sought to establish exclusive control over the best farmland, often violently expropriating African communities in the process. Throughout the colonial and postcolonial periods the state and the political elites associated with it sought to bring rural areas and natural resources within the scope of exclusive modes of territorialisation. Villagisation and resettlement schemes, rural development projects, agricultural modernisation initiatives, and big hydropower and irrigation were ways in which the African state sought to make nonstate spaces legible and to secure valuable natural resources.63

Second, while many of these land grabs were simply about the accumulation of wealth, questions of resource conservation and the management of environmental impacts became increasingly widespread. Colonial conservation in Africa—outside of protected areas—was preoccupied with land degradation, deforestation, and soil erosion. A solution to these problems was to relocate rural residents and impose restrictions on farming and forestry. Chris de Wet suggests that around one million people were relocated in Kenya and Mozambique; at least three million in South Africa; five to thirteen million in Tanzania; and five to twelve million in Ethiopia.64 From the 1930s to the 1970s the South African government tried to promote various soil conservation, resettlement, and betterment programmes in rural areas. Betterment planning involved the division of land into agricultural and residential land and the removal of people living on the former into the latter. It sought “a (p.90) more economically rational division of land into separate arable, residential and grazing areas, together with agricultural support services.”65 Scoones writes, “The abhorrence of disorder and the apparent chaos of traditional farming systems severely upset officials who were obsessed with the aesthetics of neat and tidy straight lines.”66 Land degradation and soil erosion are not solely historic matters in South Africa. Policies to address them, such as betterment, partly explain why South Africa’s current distribution of land is so profoundly unequal. Moreover, contemporary governments remain preoccupied with land degradation and continue to practice exclusive modes of territorialisation through removals of population and fencing and segregation of land.67

Third, these practices of exclusive territorialisation are rarely easy, straightforward, and unopposed. From the imposition of European models of statehood to the expulsion of communities from colonial and then national parkland to the exclusion of peasants from the new waves of investment in African land, such forms of territorialisation often meet with resistance ranging from armed rebellion and succession to more mundane everyday resistance, theft, corruption, evasion, and ridicule. Dunn notes how, for example, in interactions with African national parks “the basic interpretation of land is deeply contested, with locals resisting not only the state’s claim to power and sovereignty, but its ability to define spatial representations as well.”68 Some forms of resistance seek to contest the boundaries, codes of conduct, and owners of the land, replacing statist or colonial exclusive territorialisations with other, similarly exclusive ones. Others manage, in certain times and places, to contest the logic of exclusive territorialisation itself.

There are a number of instances of forms of resistance that assert new and different codes and authority structures but that end up reproducing practices of exclusive territorialisation. Nationalist and anticolonial movements are the best example: foreign rule was resisted, but fundamental changes to the territorial organisation of the continent, in terms of property ownership (e.g., the Mau Mau movement in Kenya), regionalism (the Majimbo movement in Kenya), and Pan-Africanism (as advocated by leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere), were stymied by the permanence of the exclusive territorialisations produced by European colonialism. Succession movements have also sought to replace one exclusive territorialisation with another. The Nigerian civil war and the attempted secession of Biafra sought to contest the federal state’s territorial claims over the southeast of the country and create a new exclusive territorial claim over the region and its natural (p.91) resources. As Haynes argues, Saro-Wiwa’s execution by the Nigerian regime occurred not because he led the campaign for environmental justice but because of the threat posed by ethnic regionalism to the political economy of the Nigerian federal state.69 The secession of South Sudan in July 2011, in which the exclusive territorial control of the South’s oil reserves was at the heart of the dispute, resulted in the creation of Africa’s newest state.70

Elsewhere on the continent popular movements have contested exclusions from protected areas, tenancy evictions, genetically modified and biofuel crops, and the arrival of outsiders into existing territory. Land invasions and occupations have become familiar tactics of the rural poor in the face of land grabs by international investors, local elites, and the national state, whether officially semisanctioned, as in Zimbabwe, or criminalised and vigorously policed, as in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent.71 Land occupation is a fascinating instance of a contestation between one exclusive territorialisation, the assertion of private ownership over land, and another, the assertion of community ownership of land. At times, however, these movements have practiced hybrid, less exclusive forms of territorialisation.

Hybrid Practices of Territorialisation

Since at least the mid-1990s a number of more flexible, overlapping, hybrid, and permeable practices of territorialisation have become more prominent, especially where people and parks has replaced fortress conservation as the defining slogan of wildlife protection. But my argument here is not that there has been a simple, one-way trend of increasingly flexible and hybrid forms of territorialisation in Africa. Rather, the exclusive and hybrid modes are ideal types: even apparently highly exclusive forms like the creation and policing of KNP always involved more contradictions, negotiations, and permeability in practice than were intended by its architects or than are sometimes conveyed by commentators. Alexander and McGregor, for example, highlight the fact that “the colonial period was not simply about the exclusion of Africans from the benefits of game.”72 However, newer practices and discourses of conservation and land management have stressed concepts like decentralisation, participation, nested sovereignty, and common property regimes. Clear, relatively impermeable borders have often been replaced by boundaries which are more ambiguous, indistinct, and overlapping. These should not be thought of as being beyond the state or as alternatives to it; (p.92) rather, in Conca’s words, states are not displaced by these hybrid territorialisations “so much as they are decentred and recentered.”73

People and Parks

In part as a result of the resistance and hostility generated towards fortress conservation among local populations, various initiatives in the 1980s and 1990s explored ways of producing mutual benefits for both people and wildlife through more inclusive and participatory conservation programmes. The people and parks movement, which can be dated, at least symbolically, from the Bali World Parks Congress of 1982, aimed to change the ways in which land use within parks was zoned and regulated and, crucially, who were regarded as legitimate participants in this land use. The movement drew upon broader trends in development discourse, including participation, partnership, and multi-stakeholder approaches, and emphasised the involvement of communities in the management and benefits of conservation. Conservation has become framed as a potential win–win opportunity for protecting nature and providing employment and empowerment to rural Africans.74

This new paradigm was encapsulated in Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) schemes like the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) in Zimbabwe. At least in theory, the new model involved more flexible and less hierarchical and exclusive modes of territorialisation. Land use was shared between communities for agriculture, settlement, and hunting and tourism ventures for wildlife viewing. Parks sought to remove fences where possible and create mixed-use land zones and buffer zones around the enclosures. Local communities were employed or, where possible, given a role in decision making and park management.75

CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe, as Alexander and McGregor indicate, “has been hailed internationally for its participatory approach and its innovative strategies for confronting the developmental and environmental problems of some of the most marginal rural areas, by promoting local control over wildlife management and use.”76 As one of the first sustained efforts to involve local communities in conservation management, it has been adopted, copied, translated, and adapted many times. Yet it has also provoked intense resistance among some local communities, including violence, and has attracted international controversy. CAMPFIRE arose out of the recognition by conservationists within the newly independent Zimbabwean state that the (p.93) manner in which hunting, wildlife management, and conservation had been practiced in Rhodesia had alienated, marginalised, and disenfranchised many rural peasants. Colonial conservation measures like the Natural Resources Act (1942) and the Native Land Husbandry Act (1952) were seen by the black majority “as a further attempt to gain control over their land and alienate it, in the guise of conservation.”77 This led to considerable hostility against conservation measures among local populations, who saw potentially dangerous, destructive, and disease-ridden wildlife being according more privileged status than humans. Indeed, the nationalist movements of the sixties and seventies actively campaigned against colonial conservation and the alienation of the land through parks. CAMPFIRE was thus intended to devolve greater responsibility for wildlife management to district councils and direct the financial benefits of conservation towards local communities. The first major CAMPFIRE project, undertaken in 1988, was driven by the Department of National Parks along with NGOs like the Zimbabwe Trust and the World Wide Fund for Nature. By 1989 eleven district councils had signed up.78

Although Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE programme has been one of the most long-lasting and well-known, the spread of community conservation and de-centralised natural resource management across the continent has been remarkable. Yet they have not always had the effect of empowering local communities. For example, Tanzania introduced Wildlife Management Areas after 1998 with the stated intention that “local people will have full mandate of managing and benefiting from their conservation efforts.”79 Yet Nelson and Agrawal conclude that local communities have remained somewhat marginal there, as the value of wildlife rents has prompted continued central control over the reserves. A more recent review suggests that discourses of decentralisation are now in full retreat, especially after the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009, which strengthens central control of wildlife and gives the Wildlife Division more opportunity to intervene in the management of village lands. There is now a “reconsolidation of wealth and rent-seeking power by the state” over wildlife resources.80

One high-profile case in which communities have been directly involved in the comanagement of a conservation area is that of the Parfuri region of KNP, where in 1969 three thousand members of the Makuleke community had been forcibly removed from their land at gunpoint by the apartheid state. Given the ecological sensitivity of the region, the negotiations over restitution after 1994 with South African National Parks (SANP) were protracted, but in 1998 full ownership of the land passed back to the community. Ownership (p.94) was, however, subject to certain limitations: “No mining or prospecting may be undertaken; no part of the land may be used for residential purposes other than those required for eco-tourism activities; no part of the land may be used for agriculture; the land will be solely used for conservation and related commercial activities; no development may take place on the land without a positive finding of an environmental impact analysis as required by law … and SANP is afforded a right of first refusal should the land ever be offered for sale.”81 This is frequently presented as a classic win–win case. The community had their land restored to them, but it was also preserved for conservation purposes. An alternative reading of the case is of a complex but ultimately frustrating process whereby a community found themselves cheated of the right to use the land and signed up to an agreement they didn’t understand or want. Many members of the community have seen few benefits from the land since the deal was made and complain that the experts from SANP do not consult them in decision making. But it is not always easy to identify a coherent community view regarding the benefits of the deal, and the Makuleke are as divided as any social group in their perception of who has gained and who has lost from the restitution process. SANP is not entirely happy about the arrangement either, and the experiment is not seen as widely replicable. Robins and van der Waal regard the Makuleke as “border entrepreneurs” who have had a great deal of success making the most of fluid transfrontier flows: not just in their negotiations over land restitution but also in their negotiation of tribal identities and authorities over a much longer period of time in a liminal zone at the intersection of a variety of practices of territorialisation.82

Even where these more hybrid practices of territorialisation have failed to empower local communities, they have tended to increase the role of major international NGOs and conservation groups in the management of African wildlife. The link between conservation, territory, and the state in Africa has been changed by the quite remarkable degree of penetration of nonstate actors in the funding, management, policing, commodification, and surveillance of protected areas. Mac Chapin’s controversial critique in 2004 held that NGOs were themselves territorial, dividing up spheres of the world into their private fiefdoms. “It is generally recognised,” he argued, “that Conservation International has staked off Suriname and Guyana as its ‘territory’; The Nature Conservancy controls the Bosawás region of Nicaragua, and Wildlife Conservation Society guards the gate to the Bolivian Chaco. Territoriality even manifests itself within organisations. Initially, WWF US had control (p.95) over Tanzania but later moved aside and transferred responsibility to WWF International.”83 In Tanzania about 90 percent of conservation activities are funded by a small group of influential donor agencies and international conservation organisations.

Madagascar is another illustrative case in which donors and environmental NGOs have been involved in directly running state-owned national parks. President Marc Ravalomanana’s ambitious vision to triple the amount of land under protected area status from 2003, creating a network of biodiversity corridors, parks, and marine reserves, was planned and implemented by a relatively small group of international NGOs in consultation with mining and other corporate interests. Caroline Seagle shows how Rio Tinto, for example, have made much of their commitment to green mining in Madagascar and have positioned themselves “as an environmental NGO engaged in conservation and scientific research rather than a multinational company engaged in dredge mining.”84 Despite the fall of President Ravalomanana during a political crisis in 2009 over a prospective land deal with Daewoo in which 1.3 million hectares of land was purportedly put up for sale to produce maize and palm oil for export, by December 2010 125 new protected areas and sustainable forest management sites had been created, areas which, together with the preexisting parks, covered 9.4 million hectares in total.85

These new practices of conservation do not so much challenge the state as relocate it within new practices of territorialisation. Such modes always exist on a spectrum of exclusive and hybrid forms. There are also continuities between elements of colonial territorialising practices and newer forms of CBNRM. For example, the appeal to local communities and traditional authorities to help manage natural resources within an overall context framed by statist and conservation imperatives recalls methods of indirect rule in British colonial Africa.86 Such practices do not challenge the state but work to produce new types of green state effects involving a wider range of actors—NGOs, international agencies, foundations, corporate sponsors, and scientific institutes as well as local community groups—in the governance of environmental politics through land and territory.

Trans-Frontier Conservation

Another key practice of territorialisation which has the potential to challenge exclusive forms of environmental governance, particularly their bordering practices, is the proliferation of Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (p.96) (TFCAs). The theme of the 5th World Parks Congress in 2003, held in Durban, South Africa, was Benefits Beyond Boundaries, and it encapsulated the move “beyond the fences,” explicitly positioning itself in opposition to the fortress conservation and fines-and-fences practices of exclusive territorialisation. A key actor here is the PPF, a southern African NGO launched in 1997 by WWF-SA and the Rupert Nature Foundation, who have managed to attract the support of major corporations, international agencies, and African states as well as a high-profile (and oft-quoted) endorsement from Nelson Mandela. TFCAs are thus supposed to present “the ultimate form of tearing down the fences,” and PPF have sought to portray a “dream of an Africa without fences.”87 Bram Büscher argues that their appeal has rested on the invocation of cutting-edge biodiversity research, which stresses the importance of interlinked ecosystems and a wide range of habitats, in combination with an explicitly liberal vision of transcending barriers, mitigating tensions and interstate conflicts, and reuniting divided communities.88

One of the iconic manifestations of the movement has been the Great Limpopo Trans-frontier Conservation Park at the centre of a vast TFCA, linking parks in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. At almost 100,000km2 it is billed as “the world’s greatest animal kingdom.”89 This, as Ramutsindela notes, was “precisely where the fence was, for the first time, literally cut in the establishment of trans-frontier parks (TFPs) in southern Africa.”90 Whereas earlier PPF parks had spanned unfenced international boundaries, such as between South Africa and Namibia, the borders between Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa were highly militarised. Hence the project secured international backing and a great deal of attention, and the World Bank offered funding to help implement it. The progress of the park has been slow, however, owing to negotiating difficulties between the three sovereign states. The Zimbabwean government is worried about the possible loss of sovereignty, and Mozambique fears economic domination by the much larger and better resourced KNP. All three states have expressed misgivings about the loss of control over their borders and the risks of illegal migration, poaching, and drug trafficking.91

The high-profile Great Limpopo Trans-frontier Conservation Park continues to dominate attention, but one that is even bigger is under way. The Kavango–Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA) is set to be the largest conservation area in the world: it “will eventually span an area of approximately 520,000 km2 (similar in size to France).”92 The emphasis on scale in both the Great Limpopo and the Kavango–Zambezi reveals “the (p.97) bigger, the better” mind-set of the PPF. These TFCAs are a good example of what Adams and Hutton refer to as an “expansion of scale” in the planning of protected areas.93 This has continental dimensions: the old discourse of a Cape to Cairo network has been revived as a green, continent-spanning vision of interconnected protected areas. The nascent green state in Africa is thus a potentially vast, interconnected, trans-frontier, and Pan-African conservation state.

The politics of scale here have a number of implications. The ostensible justification for these new vast areas filled with corridors and connecting areas is usually ecological and bioregional. The stated rationale for the KAZATFCA is to afford the elephants of Chobe and the Okavango with access to far larger areas of protected grazing. As Duffy puts it, wildlife is seen as a “‘fugitive’ resource: in the absence of human intervention, it moves without reference to local or national boundaries.”94 While critical reports have drawn attention to the continued problem of confusing land zoning and rampant poaching and trophy hunting in the area, NGOs such as Elephants Without Borders have praised the wildlife corridors approach being developed in the KAZA-TFCA. The group’s director, Mike Chase, said, “This is the only place in the world where three parks from three different countries converge. There’s no other place like it.”95

Yet the motivation for the KAZA-TFCA is not simply ecological. At its heart it is a tourist enterprise, and a key element is the possibility of free movement for international visitors across the five states which comprise the park. A proposed “univisa” would allow tourists “freedom of movement, much like the movement and migration of non-human animal populations within the TFCAs across internationally acknowledged boundaries while, in so far as it can be monitored, restricting the freedom of movement of each country’s indigenous human population. Such restrictions would also include limitations in terms of land use, circumscribing foraging areas for livestock, water management and unmonitored shopping rights in a neighbouring state.”96 This liberal vision of a borderless world in which free passage and free trade are paramount virtues was also invoked by the branding campaign for the hosts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, “Boundless Southern Africa.”97 Yet these freedoms are not complete or absolute: they apply to certain populations engaged in certain activities at certain times and places. Other populations find their freedom and movement increasingly constrained.

For example, there are limitations on who, feasibly, can participate in park management and planning. Despite the rhetoric that TFCAs work to (p.98) reconnect communities as much as animals, the larger the scale, the harder it is for local communities to take part meaningfully in park governance. These new corridors and zones connecting protected areas of continental dimensions require imperial-scale mapping and planning with the latest satellite and GIS techniques as well as computer-aided planning, biodiversity modelling, international cooperation, legal negotiations, and state-of-the-art tourist facilities. A recent PPF report highlighted how field data from the KAZA–TFCA will be available through Android and iPhone Operating System apps, which will be downloadable “and allow for users across the globe to contribute to TFCA monitoring and evaluation through crowd sourcing, also known as citizen science.”98 Most of these tools are beyond the reach of the local communities who live in or near the protected areas and who rely upon experts if they are to formally participate at all.

Other details also reveal the scalar assumptions behind the TFCA vision. Spierenburg and Wels observe that early maps of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park included none of the communities living there.99 This could be interpreted as both sleight of hand to ease the sensitive political process of relocating communities as well as a reflection of a deeper assumption that scale and scientific expertise, not local community participation and knowledge, are crucial to conservation. Behind the vision of TFCA is a deep-seated assumption that small-scale farmers and local communities cannot or will not engage sufficiently in conservation and ecotourism.

The development of megaparks, whose trans-frontier nature facilitates the free movement of animals and tourists across national borders as well as landscapes, signals a new set of bordering practices through which modern conservation is reshaping the green state in Africa. These schemes seem to reshape and even challenge the traditional model of state sovereignty. Early in the development of the Great Limpopo Trans-frontier Park, Duffy wrote, “The super-park constitutes a challenge to the traditional boundaries and powers of the nation-state.”100 To Achille Mbembe, such practices of international conservation have resulted in the creation of de facto extraterritorial spaces: “Whole territories are now outside state authority.”101

The transformations that TFCA represent, however, should not be overemphasized. In some cases they have been possible precisely because they do not challenge existing patterns of territorialisation. For example, Ramutsindela explains that “parks on the South Africa–Botswana border provided conditions under which the TFP idea could be experimented with in the region—and the continent for that matter—without difficulties, because (p.99) they had always existed as a de facto TFP. In contrast to many colonial borders in Southern Africa, the South Africa–Botswana border along the Nossob River has been porous and people in South Africa historically managed wildlife conservation in both countries. The border is unfenced and the Nossob River does not prevent crossings by people and animals alike.”102 Indeed, as Ramutsindela suggests elsewhere, it is the privileging of the “trans-national-frontier” discourse that peace parks promote rather than the transcending of all fences. The PPF discourse implies that it is the colonially imposed national boundaries that lie at the root of Africa’s crisis of sustainable development; conveniently ignoring the fact that most of Africa’s national borders are in fact not fenced—for example, in contrast to South Africa’s largely militarised frontiers, international borders and park boundaries in East Africa tend not to be fenced—and that nonnational borders and boundaries around private property, municipalities, districts, etc. also play a role in perpetuating environmental and social injustice.103 For instance, in contrast to the Nossob river between South Africa and Namibia, the interior of both countries is densely crisscrossed by fences separating game, crops, farm animals, people, and private property. Larry Swatuk discusses how the imposition of veterinary cordon fences in Botswana have been dubbed fences of death by the international media because of their impact on San hunting routes and game migration.104 This discursive framing allows their advocates to claim that peace parks are “a truly African solution to African problems such as (border) conflicts and underdevelopment,” while not confronting some of the most profound territorialisations at work in the production of green states in Africa.105

Overall, therefore, we should not assume that TFCA fit easily into what Bradley Karkkainnen has called “post-sovereign” environmental management.106 Parks do not necessarily challenge the power or sovereignty of national states, although they usually do involve bringing national conservation authorities into networks involving a diversity of other actors and authorities, what Duffy describes as “a narrow network of international NGOs, international financial institutions, global consultants on tourism/community conservation and bilateral donors.”107 Büscher and Dietz maintain that the recent history of the Great Limpopo Trans-frontier Conservation Park, despite the talk of community participation, flexibility, and partnerships, actually suggests evidence of states returning to “a formal ‘government’ style of governing, instead of a more ‘governance mode,’ dealing with multiple actors in a flexible way.”108 This entails excluding other actors and communities and rigidly defending statist prerogatives and sovereignty. In conclusion, therefore, the (p.100) TFP is not deterritorialising or postterritorial; rather it is a practice that creates new types of territory and new relationships between states, the land, and conservation. This changes the types of green state effects produced, but ensures they remain located on a spectrum between exclusive and hybrid territorialisations.

Land Politics and Hybrid Territorialisations

I turn now to the politics of land grabs and land reforms to highlight two further aspects of the production of green states through territorialising practices. The first is a wave of new forms of mapping and surveying associated with new commercial opportunities and new commodities. The second is the gradual and partial emergence of new technologies of support for rural communities struggling to cope with their environmental challenges and responsibilities. Together these produce a profoundly uneven and unequal political landscape, one in which hybrid territorialisations appear to be working in the interest of powerful commercial and political actors while entrenching rural vulnerability. The green states produced through these hybrid territorialising practices might differ considerably from older colonial and fortress conservation states, but in terms of the disempowerment of rural communities many of their effects are the same.

In the first place, the wave of investment associated with what has come to be called the new scramble for Africa or the land-grabbing phenomenon has given rise to a range of ways of bordering, demarcating, zoning, classifying, mapping, and surveying land. This new scramble involves new actors and competition for access to both new and old natural resources and growing consumer markets. The high-profile phenomenon of land grabbing refers to investments in agricultural land to grow biofuels, create carbon reserves and credits for avoided deforestation, or to feed the Middle East, Europe, North America, and Asia. The World Bank calculated that at least 45 million hectares of large-scale agricultural land deals were made in the first eleven months of 2009 alone, 70 percent of which were in sub-Saharan Africa.109 Examples of such deals are manifold: in 2011 researchers from the Oakland Institute reported on the largest land deal in Tanzania, a purchase of over 300,000 hectares of land by the U.S.-based company Agrisol for large-scale crop cultivation, including biofuels, and beef and poultry production. In August 2012 Bangladesh signed an agreement to take out a ten-year lease on South Sudanese land to jointly produce food crops. Amanor remarks that the (p.101) “increasing appropriation of customary land by commercial sectors” across the continent leads to “the conversion of large areas of customary land into freehold and leasehold sectors, estate farms, mineral concessions and conservation areas.”110

In many cases these proposed investments have fallen through, petered out, or simply never materialised, leaving communities as well as investors to cope with the aftermath. Yet even in cases where crops do not ultimately get grown as envisioned, the representations and territorialisations of the land are fundamentally altered. A whole array of special zones, corridors, gateways, and legal and economic jurisdictions have been created as necessary conditions for this wave of new investment. An example is the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania, launched by the government in 2010 with donor backing and the participation of such companies as DuPont, General Mills, Monsanto, Yara, and Syngenta. It intends “to foster inclusive, commercially successful agribusinesses that will benefit the region’s small-scale farmers, and in so doing, improve food security, reduce rural poverty and ensure environmental sustainability.”111 These benefits are to be achieved through land retitling and resettlements, provision of credit and infrastructure to investors, upgrading of transport links, and connecting of producers to processors and exporters. It aims to lift two million people out of poverty by bringing 350,000 hectares of farmland into cultivation and eventually to generate US$3 billion in public and private investments. Such corridors and zones can be seen as contemporary successors to much longer histories of pilot projects, model farms and villages, special economic zones, trials, demonstrations, and experiments in African rural development.112 Although many have failed to live up to the initial hype and attract high levels of investment, they reveal how patterns of territorialisation are changing the way states govern land and environments. The consequences for pastoralists and shifting cultivators as well as for small-scale farmers generally are potential severe.

New practices of land use accompany these economic zones, as new commodities emerge in the form of biofuels, forest carbon sinks, and ecosystem services. Payments for Ecosystems Services schemes involve paying landowners for the ecological services they provide, such as carbon sequestration, water conservation, or biodiversity protection (see chapter 5). Making these payments requires a huge extension of mapping, surveying, monitoring, and scientific technologies. As a result, trees and the soil, through such practices as REDD+ credits and biochar, are becoming commodified and reterritorialised as carbon sinks. The prospect of the rapid growth of large-scale, (p.102) monocrop industrial agriculture in Africa and elsewhere in the tropics for the purposes of offsetting the industrialised world’s GHG emissions has led to charges of “carbon colonialism”: new practices of exclusive territorialisation which often violently marginalise or exclude local populations.113

The second aspect of these new territorialising practices is the gradual and partial emergence of new technologies of rural governance, through which states and other actors are seeking to extend control over new resources and markets and mitigate some of their more inequitable consequences. One example is the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, but state-led national programmes of land reform are perhaps even more consequential.114 Land reform debates across Africa have also tended to become preoccupied with scale: volumes of land titled or transferred and extent of hectares reformed. In South Africa, for example, land reform involves three processes, restitution, redistribution, and tenure reform, and there has been much criticism of the fact that only about 8 percent of commercial farmland has been redistributed over eighteen years, woefully short of the initial target of 30 percent over five years.115

Yet alongside the worry over increasing the pace and scale of land reform, there is also some evidence of attempts to govern the use of land more sustainably and efficiently and to aid landowners and communities in fulfilling their environmental responsibilities.116 Such practices are also part of the production of green state effects through new forms of territorialisation. The South African government’s unease over these issues is illustrated in a report by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform:

Another shortcoming of the land reform process is the lack of systematic investigation into the quality of the piece of land being transferred to the beneficiaries. Components such as connectivity (road, rail), water supply, agricultural potential, mean annual rainfall, groundwater yield and groundwater quality, distance from potential markets, etc. are not fully investigated and hence is not fully understood. An attempt has been made to rectify this issue where map books have been created for the 504 land reform projects identified for recapitalisation. Each mapbook contains individual maps for each land reform project mapped according to the variables listed above. In this manner a broad overview of the actual conditions on the ground can be obtained. There should be a paradigm shift away from mere statistics (p.103) focusing on the number of hectares transferred to a more analytical approach. Each piece of land is analysed in terms of these physical factors mentioned above and can at a glance reveal the actual quality of the piece of land. In some cases, the land being transferred to beneficiaries is good agriculturally speaking, but is located very far away from potential markets and transportation corridors.117

Government agencies tasked with land reform are well aware that environmental issues play a vital role in land reform processes. Favourable environmental conditions are required for beneficiaries to develop productive agriculture or profitable ecotourism initiatives. Legal responsibilities are also transferred with the land, especially when it is sensitive, vulnerable, or a biodiversity hot spot.

The risks to land reform beneficiaries stemming from these legal responsibilities and liabilities have been highlighted by the rural development consultants Phuhlisani Solutions. They reported the case of a fire which took place at a land restitution site at Covie in the Southern Cape: “The fire had been extinguished by the MTO consortium which leases adjacent plantations. Within days DWAF, the current owner of the land, received an invoice for R30,000 for fire fighting services. This was for a fire which did not actually get into the plantations. Had mature timber been destroyed damages would have been in the order of millions of rand. Clearly once the claim is settled damages from fires originating on Covie property will be referred to the new land owners and could become a significant threat to the future viability of the project.”118 Accordingly, the consultants have recommended a model for detailed environmental assessments as part of land reform procedures, including the use of aerial photographs and maps; transect walks; interviews and “ground-truthing” to access qualitative data on lived experiences; mapping “key environmental characteristics of the site and highlighting environmental opportunities (green flags) and constraints (red flags)”; “1:50,000 topocadastral maps and 1:10,000 orthophoto maps”; global positioning system and geographic information system analysis; linking photos and reports; baseline surveys; environmental impact assessments; community environmental management plans; and resource management plans.119 However, the report concludes, “There is currently no programme run by any government department that specifically targets people obtaining rights in land under the land reform programme to make them aware of their rights, responsibilities and liabilities in terms of a wide range of environmental and natural resource (p.104) legislation.”120 This is an excellent example of the production of green state effects, however tentative and partial, involving a much wider network of consultants, communities, corporations, and NGOs in attempts to govern the environmental implications of changing land use practices.

One of the most critical implications to be drawn from this discussion of practices of territorialisation and the production of green states in Africa is that straightforward accounts of the spread of neoliberal markets and the retreat or weakening of the state are misleading. The story of conservation and land reform does not fit Mbembe’s argument that new territorialising practices entail “the exit of the state, its emasculation, and its replacement by fragmented forms of sovereignty.”121 Rather, when it comes to practices of conservation and land governance, as Deborah James argues in a slightly different context, “State and market intermesh and are tightly interwoven, with apparently market-oriented initiatives reliant on extensive state intervention for both design and implementation.”122 Nelson concludes that “although patterns of institutional change and governance reform are variable and non-linear in nature, the general trend within eastern and southern Africa is towards reconsolidating central authority over natural resources and consequently eroding or subverting existing local claims and rights.”123 Both exclusive and hybrid practices of territorialisation are implicated in the production of green state effects which, through wide and diverse networks of actors, are governing African territory and landscapes in new ways.

Hermaphrodite Landscapes

The core argument of this chapter is that green state effects in Africa are primarily and quintessentially bound up with the government of land and territory to a far greater extent than green states elsewhere, and these can be conceptualised in terms of the exclusive or hybrid territorialisations produced by practices of conservation and land redistribution and the forms of resistance they have stimulated. The case of the proposed road in Serengeti and its obstruction by a regional court illustrates the challenges being made to exclusive modes of territorialisation in Africa: Tanzania’s sovereign right to develop its territory was rejected by the regional and international community. In a sense, this produces what could be described as hermaphrodite landscapes, which are neither rural nor urban, national nor international, sovereign nor stateless. I close with another image associated with hermaphrodite landscapes: not a road through the wilderness, but the wild urban setting of the (p.105) African slum. Mike Davis describes slums as a “hermaphroditic landscape, a partially urbanised countryside … a form neither rural nor urban but a blending of the two.”124 Postcolonial African states have urbanised faster than almost anywhere else on earth, bringing with them vast new territories of periurban informal settlements (see chapter 4).125 Hermaphrodite urban spaces offer a final illustration of the sorts of hybrid territorialisations that are reshaping green states in Africa. As Pieterse reflects, the African city prompts us to consider “the immensely complex, but also generative, dynamism of the spatial alchemy that can only be sensed there, or should I say, here.”126

The slum is an ambiguous form of territory: it is part of the city yet liminal to it and often ignored, forgotten, and bypassed. It is an informal, temporary, heterotopic space; but slum dwellers often spend their lives there, communities form, and generations succeed one another in the same spaces. They are the dark twins of formal settlements and planned developments, without which social life could not function. Slums are poorly mapped, have limited services, transport, and facilities, and pose ever-present threats of crime and violence. It is possible nonetheless to find maps of informal

Green Land and State Territory

8. “Dust storms at noon on the R34 between Welkom and Hennenman, Free State,” Santu Mofokeng (b. 1956).

© Santu Mofokeng, 2007 silverprint edition 5. Images courtesy Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg.

(p.106) settlements on google maps, and the local state is responsible for providing sanitation, schooling, health care, and policing. The slum has neither the civilisation of the urban nor the space and beauty of the rural. It is a transversal space, cutting across more familiar practices of exclusive territorialisation. Literatures on subaltern urbanism have drawn attention to the fundamentally ambivalent character of informal urban spaces: often unruly, emergent, and ungovernable but also policed, surveyed, governed, and integrated into statist power relations in quite intensive ways.127 If the green African state is primarily concerned with the governance of land and territory, then the twin images which encapsulate it are the road through the Serengeti and the periurban slum. Both are central to the governance and contestation of wild African spaces.

This chapter has shown the centrality of land, borders, and processes of territorialisation to the production and contestation of green states in Africa, in marked contrast to their absence from much of the green state literature. As Lund and Boone argue, “The politics of land in Africa are integral to the larger contest to produce legitimate forms of social order.”128 Environmental politics in Africa is a politics of the land, but in ways that differ greatly from those in Europe and North America. The land has powerful economic, political, cultural, and religious functions and meanings for African states and peoples: whether as a symbol and product of liberation, an association between the bush and a precivilised state of nature, or the primary means of production for most of Africa’s peasants. Tarmac is also a powerful symbolic intervention into the landscape, as the conflicts over the Serengeti road reveal. It is easy to imagine roads and conservation areas as occupying opposite ends of the environmental spectrum when it comes to land use, one encouraging increased consumption and traffic on the land, the other restricting all these things. But contemporary conservation is far more ambiguous and diverse than this, and parks and reserves function to govern movement and consumption in specific ways (often along roads within the parks). States play a crucial role in how different territorialisations, such as roads and parks and slums, govern land use, and the identity and core function of states, even green states, are still bound up with the governance of territory and borders. It is simply not true, as Strange claimed in 1996, that we have left behind a world “in which the territorial borders of states really meant something.”129

Diverse modes of territorialisation are visible over time and across different cases. This chapter has shown that rather than a trend from exclusive to hybrid modes of territorialisation or vice versa, environmental politics in (p.107) Africa is characterised by a dynamic interplay between these forms: fragmented and heterotopic land use arrangements have prompted bureaucratic colonial and postcolonial states to codify land and impose more orderly and exclusive territorialisations. Yet in turn these actions have prompted forms of resistance from local communities and international actors which have spurred reforms leading to more hybrid and fragmented territorialisations. This dynamic is central to the politics of green states in Africa, whether they are authoritarian conservation states committed to fortress preservation or self-proclaimed boundless neoliberal states creating flexible spaces attractive to investment and facilitating the free movement of animals and tourists.


(1.) Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, “Serengeti Highway.”

(22.) For example, the absence of reflection on conservation or on land and territory in the work of Dryzek and his colleagues is notable. E.g., Dryzek et al., Green States and Social Movements. In contrast, consider Kuehls, Beyond Sovereign Territory; Maathai, The Challenge for Africa.

(65.) Ibid., 29.

(119.) Ibid., 28.

(120.) Ibid., 58.