ROAPE’s Ruth First Prize: Japhace Poncian on resource nationalism in Tanzania

The winner of ROAPE’s Ruth First Prize is Japhace Poncian for his article on resource nationalism in Tanzania. Poncian argues that ‘while presenting itself as pro-participatory governance, resource nationalism reproduces structural constraints … in extractive resource governance.” 

The Editorial Working Group of ROAPE is pleased to announce that the winner of the Ruth First Prize 2021 is Japhace Poncian for his excellent article: ‘Resource nationalism and community engagement in extractive resource governance: insights from Tanzania‘ (Vol. 48, Issue 170). The prize is awarded for the best article published by an African author in the review in a publication year.

The prize committee argued that Poncian produced an excellent well-researched article about local and national class power and imperialist structures by examining the consequences of resource nationalism on community engagement. The article is well located within political economy, resonating with Ruth First’s focus on the role, participation, leadership and inclusion of grassroots communities and citizens in economic and political decisions, processes, and activities.

Through three detailed case studies, he demonstrates that successive state-led policies of resource nationalism in Tanzania have betrayed their promises to create more benefits and participation for the community by reproducing the marginalisation and exclusion of ordinary people. Furthermore, as one committee member notes, his article correctly shows that “there has been no bucking of ‘resource liberalism’ despite belligerent claims to the contrary”, as Tanzania continues to be dependent on rents from resource extraction and foreign investment.

As Poncian writes, “Resource nationalism has dominated resource governance politics across Africa. Resource-rich states have sought to both relegitimise extraction and secure more economic benefits …This paper compares two waves of resource nationalism, the second and third waves, to show whether and how resource nationalism promotes community participation. While presenting itself as pro-participatory governance, resource nationalism reproduces structural constraints on meaningful community engagement in extractive resource governance.”

Japhace is a lecturer in Development Studies and Head Department of History, Political Science and Development Studies at Mkwawa University College of Education in Tanzania. He researches on the politics of extractive resource governance and broader development issues in Tanzania and Africa. He holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Newcastle in Australia, an MA (Global Development and Africa) from the University of Leeds, in the UK, and a BA (Education) from University of Dar es Salaam.

Japhace’s article makes a singular contribution to ROAPE’s remit by making an important intervention in debates surrounding resource nationalism and popular participation. It is free to access until the end of the year, please click here to read the article.


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