The Political Economy of Land and Natural Resources in Africa: An Analytical Framework

Lars Buur, Malin Nystrand, Rasmus Hundsbæk Pedersen

Research output: Working paperResearch


Large-scale investments in natural resources (extractives as well as agriculture) can help transform African economies by accelerating economic growth, creating jobs and strengthening the links between local economies and the global economy more broadly. However, they often end up violating rights, which in turn may lead to social protests and political instability. This Working Paper develops an analytical framework for analysing the implementation of large-scale investments in natural resources. It focuses on the triangular relations between investors, local populations and ruling elites. The framework treats the outcomes of these triangular relationships as involving ‘reciprocal exchange deals’ between investors and local populations, ‘compatible interests’ between ruling elites and investors, and ‘productive social relations’ between local populations and ruling elites. We show that, in order to understand why some investments are implemented more successfully than others, it is necessary to grasp the politics behind an investment. The paper also explores the conditions under which investments can be implemented without violating the rights of local populations. The paper is based on a review of the relevant bodies of literature and is linked to ongoing empirical studies of large-scale natural resource investments in Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda related to gas/oil, mining and agriculture.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCopenhagen
PublisherDanish Institute for International Studies (DIIS)
Number of pages48
ISBN (Print)978-87-7605-869-2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
SeriesDIIS Working paper

Bibliographical note

The paper is part of the Hierarchies of Rights: Land and Natural Resource Investments in Africa research programme, which is funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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