There has been a recent growth in the scope of foreign investment in Africa, and the consequent greater financialisation of resource-based economies…
The Centre for Civil Sociey invites you to the following seminar:-


Topic:        How do investors value the environment? Why a pile of stones is not a


Speaker:  Sarah Bracking

Date:        Tuesday 13 September 2011

Venue:     CCS Seminar Room, 602, 6th Floor, MTB Tower, Howard College

Time:       12:30-14:00


There has been a recent growth in the scope of foreign investment in Africa, and the consequent greater financialisation of resource-based economies. Some of this investment has been speculative and based on perceived high value ‘futures’ in biodiversity, bio-fuels and land, carbon capture or finite minerals. However, the financialisation of the various economic sectors which extract wealth from Nature includes older markets in agribusiness, agriculture, mining and infrastructure, and these are the principle subject here. This article explores how financial networks in Africa (and tax havens) link natural assets to international private equity funds, and donor development finance, serving as a political technology over the future of non-human resources. To do this, it reviews how ‘impact investing’ or ‘developmental’ private equity funds build in concern for the ‘environment’ into their investment decision-making. The argument here is at three levels: 1) that private equity currently employs a thin, partial, and pseudo mathematical method of assessing environmental impact and worth; 2) that environmental and developmental impact ‘science’ is a performative political technology which adds legitimacy to the authority of financiers, but does little or nothing of benefit to the ‘environment’; and finally, that 3) private equity has lead to the financialisation of the non-human world through a power relationship which favours financiers. This is facilitated by the wider dissembling of sovereignty and national economic space in the global economy over the last 30 years, the growth of secrecy jurisdictions, the consequent making of spaces of exception from law and regulation, which together challenge the future of democratic management of environmental resources. Thus this paper asserts financialisation as a political relationship, which (de)values the non-human world.

The Jubilee South network, the Climate Justice movement, Tax Justice, Counter Balance, Cornerhouse, the Bretton Woods Project (UK) and many other civil society groups have been concerned about how to rearrange international finance and investment in the interests of people traditionally oppressed by the global economic system. What can they add to policy debates, and what can they learn from theories of ‘neoliberalised nature’? Should activists engage with the authority of the ‘expert’ on environmental impact assessments, or reject outright efforts to produce financialised ‘concern’ for the environment? 


Dr Sarah Bracking attended first York University in the UK (BA Hons Politics), then Leeds University (MA International Resources and Development; PhD on Business and the State in Zimbabwe 1991-7), and then worked as a Researcher at the Centre for Democratisation Studies at Leeds University, principally on the International IDEA State of Democracy Project. She then moved to the University of Manchester where she is currently a Senior Lecturer in Politics and Development at the Institute for Development Policy & Management. Sarah teaches Politics and Development and the Political Economy of Development, particularly with regard to southern African states. She is editor of Corruption and Development (Palgrave, 2007) and author of Money and Power (Pluto, 2009) which is about development finance institutions and the financialisation of power as ‘aid’. Sarah is also a member of the Democratic Audit of the UK, the International-IDEA state of democracy network, the Review of African Political Economy Editorial Board and the Britain Zimbabwe Society. She has also worked with ZIMCODD on debt write-off; Counter Balance on reform of the European Investment Bank; A4ID in their training programme; and most recently with Norad on reform of European development finance institutions (DFIs) and tax haven use and Norwegian Church Aid on how DFIs represent their developmental impact. Sarah is currently working on a book on the financialisation of power.

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