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)
3 Market liberalisation and continental expansion: The repositioning of Eskom in post-apartheid South Africa
4 Cheap at half the cost: Coal and electricity in South Africa
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
7 Renewable energy: Harnessing the power of Africa?
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?
10 Power to the people? A rights-based analysis of South Africa's electricity services
11 Still in the shadows:Women and gender relations in the electricity sector in South Africa
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
15 Connected geographies and struggles over access: Electricity commercialisation in Tanzania
Conclusion: Alternative electricity paths for Southern Africa
David A McDonald
Technical appendix: Electricity 101
Electronic Appendix: Statistical data