CRC-TRR Public Lecture: Emmanuel Sulle & Dorothea Kleine

Mon | June 12, 2023 | 14:15 – 17:45  CET

We are excited for the next volume of the Future Rural Africa Public Lectures Series.

Prof. Dr. Dorothea Kleine is the Director of the Institute for Global Sustainable Development at the University of Sheffield where she leads the Digital, Data and Innovation research theme.

Dr. Emmanuel Sulle is a research director at the Aga Khan University (AKU), Arusha Campus, Tanzania and a Global Faculty at the University of Cologne, Germany.

Dorothea Kleine (University of Sheffield)

Reconceptualising Innovation in the Majority World: Future-making for Whom and by Whom?

Innovation as a term is widely used across different fields and communities of practice, however frequently it remains insufficiently conceptualised. The talk draws on both policy work with the UN Inter-Agency Task Team on Science, Technology and Innovation, and practical co-design research with diverse marginalised groups in South Africa, Uganda and Jordan. It argues that innovation needs to be reconceptualised to incorporate interdisciplinarity, move within environmental limits, and pay attention to diversity (cultural and intersectional), justice, and inclusion in design processes. How can conceptualisations and practices of innovation from the Global South be amplified and recognised? Who is included in innovation as a practice of future-making? What role can universities play in multi-stakeholder innovation processes?    

Emmanuel Sulle (Aga Khan University, Arusha)

The Biofuel Boom and Bust in Africa: Lessons for Agricultural Grand Schemes

Policies promoting biofuels development through financial incentives in Europe and in the United States of America were the major drivers of the ‘land rush’ many African countries witnessed between 2005 and 2011. Currently, however, most biofuels projects have either been abandoned or have not achieved their intended objectives on the ground. Amidst these controversial and failed investments, in which investors continue to hold large tracts of land in Africa, the G8 initiative called the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition tried to attract substantial new private investment in agriculture in ten African countries. The New Alliance focuses on public-private investments, with host governments offering large tracts of land to investors, targeting large-scale initiatives like growth corridors in selected countries. These land-based investments follow similar patterns to unrealised ambitions of biofuel investments. Given the evidence of negative impacts of biofuel investments on rural communities’ access to use and control of land, water and forests, large-scale agricultural investments need to take stock of their past failures. In this presentation I argue that there are three key reasons for the failure of biofuel projects, those of New Alliance and those agricultural corridors in Africa. Firstly, most large-scale investments were purely speculative, i.e. financial transactions conducted with a high likelihood of loss, but with possibility of major gains. Secondly, most of the crops advocated as miracle fuel crops like Jatropha were neither fully researched nor understood, so many farms suffered crop failures. Thirdly, most initiatives ignored the politics of and difficulties of acquiring land in Africa. The failures of these projects follow the patterns of the colonial grand schemes’ failures, and they can thus provide critical lessons for new plans like the-in the pipeline agro-parks in Africa. 


University of Bonn, Department of Geography, Ü 8, Geozentrum

Meckenheimer Allee 176

53115 Bonn

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