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HSRC Press :: Electric Capitalism

Electric Capitalism
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Electric Capitalism

Recolonising Africa on the power grid

David A McDonald (ed)

Format168mm x 240mm (Soft Cover)
ISBN 100-7969-2237-3
ISBN 13978-07969-2237-3
Publish Year2008
RightsSouthern Africa Rights Only
DescriptionRelated ProductsEmail To A FriendProduct RatingCustomer Reviews

Electric Capitalism :: Recolonising Africa on the power gridFree DownloadElectric Capitalism :: Recolonising Africa on the power grid
PodcastEmploying the expertise of researchers, energy professionals, academics and activists to shed light on the larger social, economic, ideological and spatial dynamics shaping electricity reforms in southern Africa and the continent, 'Electric Capitalism' is an important book about the importance of electricity in Africa. In commentary that ranges from the use of nuclear power to the search for alternative energy sources, the gendered nature of the manufacture and distribution of electricity, the provision of free basic electricity, the building of hydro-electric dams and more, authors David McDonald, Liz McDaid, David Fig and Wendy Annecke probe the intricacies of the contemporary electricity sector in this podcast.

Duration: 9 min 32 sec


Although Africa is the most under-supplied region of the world for electricity, its economies are utterly dependent on it. There are enormous inequalities in electricity access, with industry receiving abundant supplies of cheap power while more than 80 per cent of the continent's population remain off the power grid. Africa is not unique in this respect, but levels of inequality are particularly pronounced here due to the inherent unevenness of 'electric capitalism' on the continent.

This book provides an innovative theoretical framework for understanding electricity and capitalism in Africa, followed by a series of case studies that examine different aspects of electricity supply and consumption. The chapters focus primarily on South Africa due to its dominance in the electricity market, but there are important lessons to be learned for the continent as a whole, not least because of the aggressive expansion of South African capital into other parts of Africa to develop and control electricity. Africa is experiencing a renewed scramble for its electricity resources, conjuring up images of a recolonisation of the continent along the power grid.

Written by leading academics and activists, Electric Capitalism offers a cutting-edge, yet accessible, overview of one of the most important developments in Africa today - with direct implications for health, gender equity, environmental sustainability and socio-economic justice. From nuclear power through prepaid electricity meters to the massive dams projects taking place in central Africa, an understanding of electricity reforms on the continent help shape our insights into development debates in Africa in particular and the expansion of neoliberal capitalism more generally.

Co-published with Earthscan.


Introduction: The importance of being electric
David A McDonald

1 Electric capitalism: Conceptualising electricity and capital accumulation in (South) Africa
David A McDonald

2 Escom to Eskom: From racial Keynesian capitalism to neo-liberalism (1910-1994)
Leonard Gentle

3 Market liberalisation and continental expansion: The repositioning of Eskom in post-apartheid South Africa
Stephen Greenberg

4 Cheap at half the cost: Coal and electricity in South Africa
Richard Worthington

5 The great hydro-rush: The privatisation of Africa's rivers
Terri Hathaway and Lori Pottinger

6 A price too high: Nuclear energy in South Africa
David Fig

7 Renewable energy: Harnessing the power of Africa?
Liz McDaid

8 Discipline and the new 'logic of delivery': Prepaid electricity in South Africa and beyond
Peter van Heusden

9 Free basic electricity in South Africa: A strategy for helping or containing the poor?
Greg Ruiters

10 Power to the people? A rights-based analysis of South Africa's electricity services
Jackie Dugard

11 Still in the shadows:Women and gender relations in the electricity sector in South Africa
Wendy Annecke

12 From local to global (and back again?): Anti-commodification struggles of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee
Prishani Naidoo and Ahmed Veriava

13 South African carbon trading: A counterproductive climate change strategy
Patrick Bond and Graham Erion

14 Electricity and privatisation in Uganda: The origins of the crisis and problems with the response
Christopher Gore

15 Connected geographies and struggles over access: Electricity commercialisation in Tanzania
Rebecca Ghanadan

Conclusion: Alternative electricity paths for Southern Africa
David A McDonald

Technical appendix: Electricity 101
Derek Brine

Electronic Appendix: Statistical data


About the Author/s

David A McDonald is Director and Associate Professor in the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen's University in Canada. He is also Co-Director of the Municipal Services Project.


Ben Fine, Professor of Economics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

"A timely, original and important contribution to the debates on electricity reform in Africa (and beyond) that will be of interest to academics, policymakers and activists alike. It covers an area in which oppositional intellectual contributions are relatively rare, offering insightful theoretical contributions, rigorous data analysis and useful alternatives to neoliberal restructuring."

Vishnu Padayachee, Senior Professor, School of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

"A rich and powerful conceptual framework built around a revised and updated version of the Minerals Energy Complex thesis, the essays in the volume are well researched, analytically appealing and highly topical."



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