ROAPE special issue – The climate emergency in Africa: crisis, solutions, and resistance

ROAPE is excited to announce a call for contributions for a special journal issue on the climate crisis and its disproportionate impact on the African continent. In this special issue, titled ‘The climate emergency in Africa: crisis, solutions and resistance’, we aim to underscore the urgency of current conditions, the roots of the crisis, and debates over solutions, highlighting the resistance of those struggling for climate justice.

Editors: Lee Wengraf and Janet Bujra

Despite the outpouring of narratives about the climate crisis in Africa, there is still a gap in attempts to synthesise the dynamics as seen in and from the continent, to generalise and develop a wider understanding of the crisis globally, and to centre the analyses of those most engaged in this work. ROAPE aims to offer a unique contribution through this project by locating analyses and reports in a political economy framework, and by bringing together researchers and activists grounded in a radical approach of resistance and system change.

Our hope is that this special issue will embrace the complex interplay of the continent’s shifting patterns of capital accumulation, imperialist expansion, and competition in relation to the climate emergency. The global consequences of the climate breakdown are expressed in the profound and ongoing environmental emergency on the continent and embedded in specific class relationships and inter-imperialist competition. Ideally the special issue will grapple with these issues, highlighting the transformation of the continent’s political economy as it becomes profoundly intertwined with the environmental crisis, and the contradictions and opportunities for political mobilisation and organisation.

Manifestations of the depths of the crisis in Africa are stark: from the disappearance of Lake Chad to the flooding in Durban, drought conditions in East Africa and the cyclones of Mozambique. This special issue seeks to understandwhy Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change, despite being a low contributor to the causes of it. This assertion is commonly recognised but requires a thorough unpacking: how do we account for this development from a historical and political economy perspective?

How can we understand climate ‘solutions’ from the perspective of conditions on the continent? The November 2022 UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm Al Sheikh, Egypt, is an ideal conjuncture to take up dimensions of the crisis and elite responses. Africa is the site of rich renewable energy resources as well as a ‘deep bench’ of knowledge from an agroecological perspective, and a long history of struggle against extraction, pollution and land displacement, all of which have fed the current crisis.

The existential nature of the climate emergency compels a thorough engagement that may bring ruptures and disagreements into focus, but that overall can be generative in charting a path towards genuine solutions and a just and revolutionary transition.

A single special issue is not adequate to this large task: we envision the project as a jumping-off point for ongoing and future work.

Themes and exploration

The following are some themes we are eager to explore. We encourage discussion on other related topics. We invite proposals for full-length articles as well as shorter blogposts.

  • Extraction and the exploitation of fossil fuels – We are eager to look closely at these processes historically and welcome proposals for articles and blogposts examining resource nationalism and the interplay of state-building and capital accumulation. We also are interested in discussion on the alarming pace of extraction projects on the continent such as the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline and the drilling in the Okavango preserve, to name just two recent examples.
  • War, repression and climate change – Analyses of the numerous examples from the continent could explore themes such as the shrinking of arable land and water supplies and militarisation. We are curious to examine the role of the state in relation to these conditions: how has conflict unfolded in the context of the deepening climate urgency? How might repressive state rule undermine the promise of reform and challenges from below?
  • Renewable energy sources and labour – The African continent offers wide opportunities – currently unrealised – for the development of renewable energy sources. The potential impact of such development on policy and wage labour systems is profound, such as through the creation of new ‘green industries’, systems of production and employment and, likewise, the role of trade unions and the question of labour negotiation over the terms of exploitation.
  • Climate disaster in Africa and its impacts – Accounts and analyses of the climate emergency’s impact across the continent will be crucial for the issue.
  • Land sovereignty and displacement – we hope to explore the historical roots of land grabs and the loss of land and food sovereignty as central elements of the national project and the drive for accumulation. Displacement of people from their land has both facilitated and exacerbated the climate emergency, while the transformation of land for non-sustainable industrial and large-scale commercial purposes has been devastating.
  • Solutions – An array of debates and discussions on solutions to the crisis have engaged scholars and activists from the continent (and elsewhere). For one, how do we understand and struggle for a truly just transition in the context of dominant market-based solutions? How are the processes of socialising technological solutions and ‘energy democracy’ bound up in questions of class conflict? Likewise, how might we assess the international financial institutions and non-profit organisations’ embrace of methodologies of ‘adaptation and resilience’ and the implications for economic development? Finally, what are the lessons from social movements and the possibilities for life-saving reforms and wider change?


We welcome proposals to contribute to this special issue, with an anticipated print date of September 2023. Contributions can include articles, briefings, debates and reviews for the print journal and also blog reports for

Your proposal should:

  • include an abstract and an outline of what type of contribution you’d like to make
  • address the objectives and themes set out above
  • be sent to by the deadline of 1 February 2023.

Your proposal will then be sent to the special issue editors, Lee Wengraf and Janet Bujra. As well as the subject matter and approach you plan to take, they will be looking for:

  • a willingness and agreement to engage in prior discussion about formats
  • accessibility and political engagement in the material you hope to submit.

Subject to acceptability of the proposed contribution, the editors will then spell out the process and timelines. Brief queries to the editors about the special issue can also be sent via

We look forward to your proposals!


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