Possibilities, Limits and Contradictions in the search for Africa’s Transformation

The first of a series of three linked workshops across Africa that will discuss the continent’s structural transformation took place under the title: Radical Political Economy, Economic Strategy and Industrialisation in Africa. It was organized by Third World Network-Africa and the Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE).
Hibist Kassa, of DAWN’s Executive Committee, was one of the speakers on the session on Neoliberal Restructuring and Primary Commodity Dependence, where she made a presentation based on her doctoral thesis research on Artisanal and Small Scale Mining in South Africa and Ghana.
The subject was of interest because since the 2008 crises there is increasing recognition that we may be witnessing the emergence of new production relations; mining has been implicated in this precisely because it is centered in commodity production of precious minerals, with interest in control over surplus value, it exposes contradictions more sharply.
The context of this shift has been stagnation in agriculture, large scale retrenchment, high unemployment and erosion of livelihood options in rural economies. South Africa, unlike elsewhere on the continent, presents the case how after capital has consolidated itself by primitive accumulation it is faced with the reemergence of artisanal mining. This illustrates how different forms of labour can be integrated within capitals own logic of accumulation, throwing up possibilities and contradictions especially on gender lines.  
Kassa’s presentation highlighted possibilities for shifts in production relations, and the range of labour forms and technology that are being deployed, while emphasising the ways that existing policy has largely worked to criminalise artisanal miners. The need for policy interventions which prioritise the interests of ASM miners is crucial. Industrial policy can play a critical goal in this regard by providing more comprehensive interventions to support ASM while also improving the regulations to overcome challenges.
Participants in the workshops included Regions Refocus, progressive academics from universities in Africa, activists from Trade Unions in Nigeria, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Open Society Foundation and Zimbabwe Labour Centre.
The workshop will be followed by a second one in Dar Es Salaam in April 2018, which will focus on social policy, and a final one in Johannesburg in September 2018, which will look at social movements.
Further inputs from the event can be found in ROAPE’s website.
Hibist Kassa during her presentation. Picture: Roape.net
Picture: Roape.net