Making space for African Development: Inaugural lecture

Giles Mohan

Professor of International Development Giles Mohan gave his inaugural lecture, Making Space for African Development

More than 100 people heard Professor Mohan bring his academic rigour, passion and personal engagement to argue:

  • development is something in which we’re all implicated
  • the rise of Asia is affecting the way the West thinks about development - and the opportunities open to Africa
  • Africans are powerful shapers of their own development.

Using concrete examples such as how – following the pattern set up in colonial times in which most of the value-added occurs elsewhere – the mobiles in our pockets are made in China from African minerals, the lecture unpicked what this meant on the ground and suggested the entry of China offers Africa a huge opportunity to capture the development potential of its raw materials.

Attention was also focused on the West’s tendency to indulge in ‘China-bashing’, while presenting ‘us’ as being in Africa for the ‘right’ reasons. The BBC, for example, framed the Marikana miner’s strike in South Africa, where 34 workers were killed, as a fight between unions and as a legacy of apartheid, failing to mention the mine's owner, Lonmin, is a UK-registered company. A report of the killing of a Chinese manager at a mine in Zambia, meanwhile, framed China as new colonial aggressors.

Africans themselves play a major role in shaping how these engagements between investors, donors and African economies play out. Fascinating statistics and personal testimony were used to support the argument that Africans drive their own development. Remittances by migrant workers, for example, represent 11% of Ghana’s GDP, and are higher than aid and investment together.

Find out more by listening to the podcast …