CFP: Old Wine in New Bottles: The New Scramble for Africa

Bekeh Ukelina's picture

The Robert Maxon Trans-National Africa Conference

State University of New York, Cortland

October 23 – 24, 2020

Late 19th century hyper-nationalism, economic downturn, and the global competition to open up new markets for European goods gave rise to the scramble for Africa. A legacy of this scramble was the 1885 partition of Africa and the inauguration of colonial rule. This project of exploitation in Africa lasted for more than seven decades before it began to collapse. Between January and December of 1960, seventeen African nations became “politically independent” from their European overlords. Sixty years later, the promises of independence have remained a mirage for many on the continent and the image of Africa for many in the West evokes corruption, disease, war, and poverty or what Dambisa Moyo has described as the “Four Horsemen of Africa’s Apocalypse.” 

The arrangements that led to the independence of African countries granted them political independence without economic independence as the economies remained reliant on the extractive systems that were put in place by the European powers.  Leaders of these new states that Frederick Cooper calls “Gatekeeper States” relied primarily on excise taxes and foreign loans/ aid to manage their countries, a situation that makes them less responsible to their people but more to the Euro-American powers that provide the capital. Like the 1880s, a new heightened interest in Africa is emerging among Asian, European, and American powers. These powers are rushing to “invest” in Africa and also to establish commercial and strategic ties. This new surge has been fueled by China’s $300 billion plus investments in Africa. Since the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing where the Communist Party’s leader, Xi Jinping announced a $60 billion investment package for Africa, other European powers have joined the scramble:  Russia-Africa Summit (October, 2019), Germany’s Compact with Africa (November, 2019), and Britain-Africa Investment Summit (January, 2020). The US is present as a major player through its neoliberal and neocolonial multilateral financial institutions such as the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, unlike in the 1880s and 1890s.  

We propose to interrogate and address this new scramble from historical and interdisciplinary perspectives. In the 19th century, both Ethiopia and  Afrikaner Republics were participants. Will any African states be actors or acted upon in the present scramble? Are there any differences between this new struggle and 1880s struggles or is it simply old wine in new bottles? What is the impact of this new scramble for Africa? What should be the role of African states and people in this new scramble? Are there alternative vehicles of investments that African countries should pursue? What should African states do to protect themselves in this new scramble? What is the role of traditional African communities in development? 

Scholars, policy makers, and African leaders (both traditional and political) are invited to this two-day conference. Conference presentations, posters, film screenings, artist workshops, and roundtables are welcomed. Papers that offer a gendered analysis and intersectional perspectives are highly welcomed. Abstracts (350 words maximum) and a one-page CV should be emailed to 

Important Dates: 

  • May 1, 2020: Deadline for submission of abstracts. 
  • June 1, 2020: Decision on abstracts announced. 
  • August 1, 2020: Early Bird Registration Ends. 
  • September 1, 2020: Full Papers are Due*
  • October 23, 2020: Conference 

Conference Fees: 

  • Participants from Africa and the Global South: Free 
  • Participants from US and Canada (Early Bird): $70
  • Participants from US and Canada: $100
  • Participants from Europe: $50

*All papers will be peer-reviewed and selected papers will be published. 

Contact Information
Bekeh Ukelina, Ph.D. 

State University of Cortland
Phone: +1-607-753-5482