Africa, geology and the march of the development technocrats

, by Pambazuka

Jason Hickel asks whether ‘environmental determinism’ – the theory that Africa’s development has been hindered as a result of ‘the environmental conditions that Africans inhabit’ – accurately explains Africa’s poverty. While he commends its attempt to stop blaming underdevelopment ’on the presumed genetic inferiority of black people’, he finds the theory and motives behind environmental determinism to be seriously lacking. Hickel asserts that environmental determinism is both ahistorical and apolitical: ‘Poverty is not a problem of nature, it is a problem of power.’ Furthermore, he argues that to tackle the real issues behind Africa’s slow development and poverty would mean to go against Western economic interests and to radically change the world system in which we exist. ‘The wealth of the West’, Hickel reminds us, ‘is intimately bound up with the poverty of Africa, and vice versa.’ Read more