Inequality and natural resources in Africa

By James C. Murombedzi

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This article by James C. Murombedzi features in the World Social Science Report 2016. Murombedzi highlights how the control of natural resources and access to them has underpinned processes of social stratification and class formation in Africa, and indeed elsewhere. Nascent African nations and states were coalescing around control over natural resources at the moment they encountered colonialism. He argues that colonialism, itself constructed on the control of natural resources, created new forms of inequality and exacerbated existing ones. The article discusses how today’s globalized natural resource extraction processes are defined by the logic of ‘accumulation by dispossession,’ including land grabs, climate change and natural resource concessions built around lucrative commodity markets and labour migration. They entrench historical vulnerabilities and set the stage for unprecedented inequalities.

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