New technologies and the threat to sovereignty in Africa

New technologies and the threat to sovereignty in Africa


This document is a reproduction of a special issue of Pambazuka News, produced in collaboration with the ETC Group (Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration). It presents a range of articles discussing the staggering developments in bio- and nanotechnology and the alarming implications for the African continent and the Global South. It seeks to arm those engaged in the battle for a fairer world to engage in the debates, discussions and dialogues that can prevent the impending conquest of the continent, its people and its natural resources. 

Africa is facing the threat of a new form of conquest, made possible through astonishing technological revolutions in biology, quantum physics, chemistry and engineering.

 Today, all living matter can be modified through genetic engineering; new life forms created and released into the environment through synthetic biology; the properties of common elements and compounds dramatically modified through nanotechnologies (technologies working at the scale of atoms and molecules) and nanomanufacture (creating, for example, semiconductors at molecular level, and even non-nuclear nanobombs); and there is a even a convergence between nanotechnologies, information technologies and cognitive science that potentially enables the development of cerebral implants for monitoring or even controlling our brains. 

Reading about such developments is like reading science fiction. The difference is that this is real; it is happening now. These technologies are being developed in a world that is grossly unequal, under conditions where accumulation and profiteering rule, enabling the rich to get richer by any means, while the majority are pauperised. They have developed under conditions created over the last 30 years that have allowed corporations to monopolise atomic-level manufacturing – whether of living or inanimate matter – and legitimise wide-scale corporate biopiracy, with Africa, a continent of extraordinary biodiversity, being a significant victim. Plants that have long been used in Africa are being patented by corporations in the North. But perhaps most significant of all for the continent is the fact that corporate eyes are looking greedily at the profits to be made from the hundreds of billions of tonnes of undifferentiated plant matter that can be used as the alternative source of carbon to fossil fuels, enabling the manufacture of transport fuels, electricity, chemicals and plastics, fertilisers and all those products that ensure the comfortable lifestyles of the North, under the guise of supporting the 'green economy'. 

The full consequences of what has been dubbed the 'technological tsunami' needs to be publicly discussed and strategies developed to counter these trends.

 These trends are being challenged around the world – in local communities, national movements and in global meetings of the United Nations such at the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Committee on Food Security of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation). Citizens are joining together to expose the dangers of governments giving free reign to corporations to use new technologies to solve problems that at root require social and political solutions.


Title New technologies and the threat to sovereignty in Africa
Publisher Pambazuka Press
Imprint Fahamu Books
BISAC Subject Heading POL055000 POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / Australian & Oceanian
Audience 01 General / trade
Audience Activists, campaigners, NGO-workers, academics, journalists, commentators Higher education, undergraduates, postgraduates
Credit Pambazuka Press
Title First Published 17 January 2011
Subject Scheme Identifier Code      93 Thema subject category: JP      94 Thema geographical qualifier: 1M
Format PDF
Nb of pages 71 p.
Product Detail PDF
ISBN-10 0-85749-033-8
ISBN-13 978-0-85749-033-9
GTIN13 (EAN13) 9780857490339
Reference no. 978-0-85749-033-9
Publication Date 17 January 2011
Main content page count 71

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