“BRICs and Region Building in Africa: The Nacala Logistics Corridor”
The engagement of the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – in Africa is an issue of the upmost topicality and world economic and political concern. A new wave of foreign investment is leading to mining and natural resource development, infrastructure projects, migration and the import of consumer goods. It has generated a lot of media interest and many writers are questioning if these emerging powers can help kick-start African development or if new engagements represent a resurgence of colonial style relationships between Africa and other powerful nations?
While this subject has grabbed much attention there has been limited empirical fieldwork with Africans to explore if, how and why the BRIC are transforming specific cities and regions. Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, and has been a major target of investment by all the BRICS (aside from Russia). The capital, Maputo, is being transformed by new enterprises and foreign business people can be observed across different areas of commercial life.
Drawing on research with 100 businesses based in Maputo this project explores how the city is changing and investigates the impacts of foreign investment. Fieldwork was undertaken working with three Mozambican Geography Students, João Nhavene, Alfredo Sitoe, Gil Chuquela, who interviewed business people across the city. Research questions focus on if economic growth is improving the livelihoods of workers and explores the regional relationships with neighbouring South Africa. Preliminary findings demonstrate that while foreign investment is generally welcomed there are concerns over the treatment of local workers.
Further analysis will uncover how the diverse impacts of different businesses are contributing to urban change in Maputo. Future work will disseminate the research findings at international conferences and includes organising a workshop titled ‘Southern Africa beyond the West: Political, Economic & Cultural Relationships with the BRICS Countries and the Global South’ in Livingstone, Zambia.
Could you tell us more about your recent projects?
I have recently published Clothing Poverty: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Second-hand Clothes, Zed Books: London, 2015. This book has been developed from PhD research and also examines Chinese investment in southern Africa. Visiting Mozambique early in 2014 on research funded by the RSA, allowed me to cross check some final issues and also re-visit research sites and has helped contribute to the quality of this publication and make some important final additions. I will also present field research from my main RSA project at the Association of American Geographers conference in Chicago, April 2015 and am currently working on multiple new publications.
What tips could you give for a successful Early Career Grant application?
When preparing an early career research application it is important that the work does more than simple extend or repeat your PhD topic. The funds can enable a new research avenue and are a great opportunity to return to the field as well as network with established academics.
How did this grant help you further your career?
This grant has really provided me with great support for funding new and exciting research. I have completed work in Mozambique and began tackling new types of questions. This grant has both helped me consolidate my research profile be attending international conferences and workshops and enabled new empirical fieldwork.
Could you share with us a few words on the application process and how supported you have been by the RSA?
The application process was relatively straight forward and more accessible than some of the Research Council systems. However, it is still really important that you make your idea exciting and interesting to a wide academic audience. I have used the notion of the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – as a means to communicate part of my proposal to a broad audience.