Call for papers: GAPSYM – Thursday 17 December 2015
Trading places: The role of trade with Africa
The wealth of Africa has always drawn the attention of outsiders. Trade between Europe and Africa
goes back to at least Roman times, when gold, salt, ivory, wheat and exotic animals were traded.
After the fall of the Roman empire, this trade continued by caravan routes across the Sahara.
However, trade started in earnest after direct contact was established by European explorers, most
famously Vasco da Gama. In the wake of European conquest and occupation, companies were lining
up to discover this land of opportunity, as ‘trade follows the flag’. Not all this attention was equally
welcome. The infamous ‘scramble for Africa’, which gained its full momentum after the Berlin
conference of 1885, heralded the beginning of an era of colonization by European powers.
Today, Africa is trading more than ever. Private companies are no longer merely drawn to its wealth
of natural resources, but increasingly targeting its burgeoning consumer market. Local involvement
requires local presence, which is evident from fast growing foreign direct investment, which
amounted to $57 billion in 2013 (UNCTAD, 2014). Increasing local presence means private companies
are having a more direct impact on African society. This impact can be both positive and negative.
Increased use of ethical standards such as fair trade is widely believed to have positive impact on
income and the environment. At the same time, media reports of land grabbing, oil spills, and mining
strikes are increasing. There are clearly two sides to the coin.
With increasing involvement of private companies in areas traditionally considered the domain of
public policy, often under the flag of corporate social responsibility, the line between trade and
development is blurring. Businesses are increasingly partnering with NGO’s and local governments in
so-called public-private partnerships for the development of infrastructure or to include vulnerable
populations in their business models. The idea of business for development is gaining popularity in
public policy circles, under the umbrella name of inclusive growth. In the wake of the financial crisis,
mixing trade and development also serves national governments, which consider it an opportunity to
use the aid budget to stimulate the business sector. Although trade is generally considered an
opportunity to spur development and economic growth, many remain sceptic. A recent example of
this are the comments of Merkel’s advisor on the recent Economic Partnership Agreements between
the European Union and African countries, which he considered to undermine the development
Trade is more than a simple exchange of goods for money. Trade requires investing in relationships
and building mutual trust. Its impacts should not only be measured quantitatively, in terms of per
capita income, but go beyond wealth creation, as through continued interaction it shapes ideas, ways
of thinking and behavior. The impact of this interaction is reflected at all levels of society, as foreign
ways become adopted and adapted by, and embedded in, local culture. These changes are endless
and far-reaching, including literature and arts, the way cities are planned and new buildings are
designed, modes of governance, dietary patterns, appreciation and protection of the natural
environment, and many more. Opening borders stimulates mutual exchange, but is certainly not
without risks. This risk was painfully demonstrated by the reaction to the recent Ebola outbreak in
The opportunities and challenges for the relationship between Africa and Europe, created, sustained
and intensified through trade, are far from clear and deserve further and greater attention. In the
ninth edition of the symposium of the Ghent Africa Platform (GAPSYM9), we invite papers from all
disciplines touching upon the impact of trade, and more generally economic globalization, on Africa
and African society.
Potential topics include, but are certainly not limited to, analyzing the impact of
× the diverse effects of treaties with Africa;
× trade or development policies conceived by nation states, multilateral organizations or NGO’s;
× specific economic mechanisms such as micro-financing and fair trade;
× issues of land grabbing;
× the proliferation of informal vs formal trade;
× political policy making and urban development planning;
× changes in the built or natural environment;
× physical and psychosocial well-being, particularly of vulnerable groups or minority populations;
× changing socio-cultural patterns, behavior and conceptions of modernity;
× the role and responsibility between trade partners, the state, and private citizens;
× the reactions and responses within different groups of societal actors.
Contributions can explore these effects both in relation to the African context and to the European
one, and take a historical perspective or focus on contemporary practices and issues. Thus, GAPSYM9
seeks to critically investigate and scrutinize the complex interactions (both human and material) that
are brought about by trade with Africa, in order to better understand and judge the opportunities
and the challenges it offers for the future.
1 August – deadline abstract submission (maximum 500 words, excluding references)
15 September – notification of acceptance
15 November – deadline full paper submission (maximum 15 pages, excluding references)
17 December - symposium
Proposals for presentations or posters should not exceed 500 words (excluding references) and
should be written in English or French. Abstracts should be submitted before 1 August 2015 to the
GAP secretariat (Gap@UGent.be), mentioning “GAPSYM9 – proposal name”. Posters do NOT have to
stay within the topic of the symposium. Through these poster presentations GAP seeks to give an
overview of all current, Africa-related projects and doctoral research at the Ghent University
Association. By 15 September the scientific committee will notify which papers have been accepted.
The posters (A0 format-portrait) should be delivered to the GAP secretariat (Mrs. Dominique
Godfroid), Ghent University – Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Coupure links 653, 9000 Gent,
Building A, Dpt. Plant Production, 2nd Floor, room A2.062 by Monday, 14 December 2015.
Each presenter will be asked to act as a discussant for one of the other presentations in the same
session. Discussants provide the opportunity to give more in-depth feedback to presenters and
encourage lively discussion. As a discussant, you are expected to thoroughly read the paper
beforehand and motivate what, in your opinion, is the biggest contribution of the paper and the
biggest weakness. In addition, you are required to prepare one question to open the discussion. You
are not expected to prepare any slides. Papers will be allocated by the scientific committee and sent
to discussants at least one week before the start of the conference.
Best paper award
An award will be given based on the evaluation of the full-text paper by the scientific committee and
the quality of the presentation. Nominees will be notified before the conference, and awards will be
handed out during the closing ceremony.
The 2016 autumn edition of our international and double-blind peer-reviewed journal Afrika Focus
will largely be devoted to the theme of GAPSYM9. Regular speakers as well as guest speakers are
invited to submit their papers for publication in this special issue of Afrika Focus. The deadline for
submitting the manuscript is 1 January 2016. If the paper is accepted, it will be published in the
autumn of 2016.
Mrs. Dominique Godfroid
ICRH – K4 – 6th Floor
De Pintelaan 185
B-9000 Ghent, Belgium