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Paradoxes of Sustainability

Paradoxes of Sustainability - How Socially Responsible are Green Technologies?

Shaken by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the conservative-liberal German Federal Government in March 2011 decided to take gradual steps to withdraw from nuclear energy by 2022. Based on the so-called nuclear agreement and the resulting “Energetic Turn” (Energiewende) introduced in Germany, we ask ourselves, “How socially responsible are green technologies?” and what exactly does their international raise mean for African countries and societies? This follows on from our 2011 project “Social Movements in Africa” in the context of the exhaustive extraction of raw materials and trade, seeing as numerous NGOs, trade unions, churches and civil society initiatives in Africa put topics such as labour legislation, ecology, land grabbing and fair trade conditions high up on the agenda.


"Green economy won´t save the planet, but green democracy will."
Patel, 2012

Do renewable energies advance the "development" of Africa? What are the social, ecological and economic consequences along the production and value added chain, considering in particular the extraction and trade of raw materials, necessary for the generation of renewable energies? In addition we ask the question of whether, where and how these alternative forms of energy production are even accessible in Africa – or is the “Energetic Turn” an exclusively European project, an ecological revenant of the industrial revolution, brought to fruition once more at the expense of Africa and its development? Does the Energetic Turn also hold positive potential for Africa's development or will the continent – with regard to new, forward-looking, “green” technologies – experience a new “resource curse”, which will maintain and perhaps even extend both Africa's poverty amid its wealth of resources and its deficiencies in times of abundance?

The aim of the project is to work out relevant knowledge about the production and value added chain of “green” technologies – in particular of the conditions and consequences of the extraction and trade of raw materials – which today are still often contradictory to development policy aims and therefore must be strengthened with a view to greater cohesion of development and environment policy. Within the framework of the activities on offer participants will be able to learn extensively about, analyse and discuss critically the European Strategy for Raw Materials and Trade Policy, and the associated social, ecological and security policy consequences of its implementation. Ample opportunity for discussion will be offered to experts from Africa. Furthermore, together with representatives of German civil society, recommended procedures for politics and the economy will be worked on and strategies for their target-oriented dissemination will be developed and implemented. The goal of these measures is to make it clear to decision-makers in politics and the economy that there is a critical German civil society, which together with partners from Africa demands the consistent implementation of a socio-ecological Energetic Turn that must contain an evidently stronger development policy coherence than has been the case to date.

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Policy Recommendation: "Binding, democratic, in solidarity: african perspectives on the energy transition"

Based on the events and discussions with our guests from Africa in 2012 and 2013 within the framework of the project "Paradoxes of sustainability - how socially equitable are ‘green’ technologies really?", the final version of the recommendations of action on the way to a global equitable energy transition is now available. African activists and scientists demand:

  • Binding and fair terms of use for natural resources, especially in connection with their use for "green" technologies!
  • The ultimate authority for all decisions over access and processing of these ressources should democratically rest with the concerned communities!
  • International solidarische Entwicklung und Förderung dezentraler regenerativer Energieversorgung!

We thank every guest speakers and visitors to our events in 2012 and 2013 for their critical feedback!

Download the Pdf Version of the recommendations of action

Picture by Jörg Peter (Zenobi)
Exhibition Mémoire by Sammy Balodji

Photo exhibition “Mémoire“ by the celebrated Congolese artist Sammy Baloji

From Monday, 14th October until Thursday 24th October 2013 from 9am to 7 pm (Monday to Friday) AfricAvenir, in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, presented the photo exhibition “Mémoire“ by the award-winning and internationally celebrated Congolese artist Sammy Baloji. The exhibition was opened by Merin Abbas (Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation) and Alanna Lockward (Art Labour Archives) and was presented within the framework of the "Alternative week on Resources".

In his series of photographs entitled „Mémoire”, Sammy Baloji links black and white photographs from Belgian colonial times with contemporary pictures of the mining town Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo. A colonial past with slavery and exploitative hierarchies meets fallow industrial ruins and tips. The large-sized photo-montages distinctly connect the colonial past with post-colonial exploitation, an exploitation of humans and resources on which the so-called “progress” of Western technologies is based.

„Mémoire“ shows the heritage of colonial times – for society, politics, and the environment – and at the same time points towards the huge economical gain colonial masters had from the mines. “Mémoire” calls upon us to rethink the consequences of the "development" of resource extraction areas and emphasizes the rights of the affected communities to freely dispose of their wealth of resources.

Mani Camara
Conference Paradoxes of Sustainability

Conference: “PARADOXES OF SUSTAINABILITY – How socially equitable are 'green' technologies?”, 19-20 October 2012, JugendKulturZentrum Pumpe

From 19-20 October 2012 AfricAvenir organised a two-days international conference on the topic “Paradoxes of Sustainability – How socially equitable are 'green' technologies?” featuring renowned African intellectuals, activists and journalists such as Judi W. Wakhungu, Executive Director of the African Center for Technology Studies (ACTS) in Nairobi (Kenya), Many Camara, representative of Faléa 21 in France (Mali/France), Nozipho Mabebe Wright, Regional Network Coordinator of ENERGIA Africa (Botswana) and Tidiane Kassé, journalist and chief editor of the French edition of Pambazuka (Senegal). 

Besides generating discussion the conference aimed at bringing together civil society organisations in the field of human rights, environmental protection, climate change, development cooperation, churches and trade unions that already deal with subjectsrelated with global raw materials policies or intend on doing so prospectively.

The conference also offered participants a very rare occasion to exchange with researchers and activists from Africa in order to formulate collectively a demand catalogue for solidary, development-oriented raw materials policies and to develop strategies to be addressed to decision-makers in politics, the economy and development cooperation. The aim being to formulate a fundamental redefinition of the terms of trade for raw materials in order to prevent the Green Economy from becoming another neo-colonial project to the detriment of the Global South.

Video Interviews on "Paradoxes of Sustainability"

In the framework of the project "Paradoxes of Sustainability", AfricAvenir had the chance to speak to a number of African experts in the fields of sustainable energies. The resulting video interviews as well as some of the key note speeches of our conference are featured below.

Interview with Nnimmo Bassey: „How Can Africa Take Advantage of the Energetic Turn?"

In the framework of the project "Paradoxes of Sustainability" AfricAvenir invited Nigerian Environmental activitst Nnimmo Bassey for a Dialogue Forum on „Green Economy on the move - How Can Africa Take Advantage of the Energetic Turn?". In this interview, Bassey talks about African alternative solutions to the conventional distribution of power in the energy sector.

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