Electric Capitalism : Recolonising Africa on the Power Grid book cover
1st Edition

Electric Capitalism
Recolonising Africa on the Power Grid

Edited By

David A. McDonald

ISBN 9781138993426
Published December 18, 2015 by Routledge
528 Pages

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Book Description

Although Africa is the most under-supplied region of the world for electricity, its economies are utterly dependent on it. There are enormous inequalities in electricity access, with industry receiving abundant supplies of cheap power while more than 80 per cent of the continent's population remain off the power grid. Africa is not unique in this respect, but levels of inequality are particularly pronounced here due to the inherent unevenness of 'electric capitalism' on the continent. This book provides an innovative theoretical framework for understanding electricity and capitalism in Africa, followed by a series of case studies that examine different aspects of electricity supply and consumption. The chapters focus primarily on South Africa due to its dominance in the electricity market, but there are important lessons to be learned for the continent as a whole, not least because of the aggressive expansion of South African capital into other parts of Africa to develop and control electricity. Africa is experiencing a renewed scramble for its electricity resources, conjuring up images of a recolonisation of the continent along the power grid. Written by leading academics and activists, Electric Capitalism offers a cutting-edge, yet accessible, overview of one of the most important developments in Africa today - with direct implications for health, gender equity, environmental sustainability and socio-economic justice. From nuclear power through prepaid electricity meters to the massive dam projects taking place in central Africa, an understanding of electricity reforms on the continent helps shape our insights into development debates in Africa in particular and the expansion of neoliberal capitalism more generally.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Importance of Being Electric * Electric Capitalism: Conceptualizing Electricity and Capital Accumulation in (South) Africa * Escom to Eskom: From Racial Keynesian Capitalism to Neo-liberalism (1910 - 1994) * Market Liberalisation and Continental Expansion: The Repositioning of Eskom in Post-Apartheid South Africa * Cheap at Half the Cost: Coal and Electricity in South Africa * The Great Hydro-rush: The Privatisation of Africa's Rivers * A Price Too High: Nuclear Energy in South Africa * Renewable Energy: Harnessing the Power of Africa? * Discipline and the New 'Logic of Delivery': Prepaid Electricity in South Africa and Beyond * Free Basic Electricity in South Africa: A Strategy for Helping or Containing the Poor? * Power to the People?: A Rights-Based Analysis of South Africa's Electricity Services * Still in the Shadows: Women and Gender Relations in the Electricity Sector in South Africa * From Local to the Global (and Back Again?): Anti-Commodification Struggles of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee * South African Carbon Trading: A Counterproductive Climate Change Strategy * Electricity and Privatization in Uganda: The Origins of the Crisis and Problems with the Response * Connected Geographies and Struggles Over Access: Electricity Commercialization in Tanzania * Conclusion: Alternative Energy Paths for Southern Africa * Epilogue * Index

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David A. McDonald is Director and Asociate Professor in the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen's University in Canada. He is also Co-Director of the Municipal Services Project, a multi-partner research program examining the impact of policy reforms on the delivery of basic municipal services to the urban and rural poor in southern Africa.


'A timely, original and important contribution to the debates on electricity reform in Africa (and beyond) that will be of interest to academics, policymakers and activists alike. This book covers an area in which oppositional intellectual contributions are relatively rare, offering insightful theoretical contributions, rigorous data analysis and useful alternatives to neoliberal restructuring.' Ben Fine, Professor of Economics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 'A rich and powerful conceptual framework built around a revised and updated version of the minerals-energy complex thesis, the essays in this volume are well researched, analytically appealing and highly topical.' Vishnu Padayachee, Senior Professor, School of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal