Report on Extractive Industries, Land Rights and Indigenous Populations’/Communities’ Rights, East, Central and Southern Africa


Africa’s quest for development has largely, if not wholly, been premised on its rich land and natural resources. Although for most African countries achieving economic growth driven by natural resources has been illusive at best and devastating at worst, they continue to hinge their hopes and dreams on it. Especially in the last two decades, African countries seem to have redoubled their efforts to explore and extract every natural resource within their jurisdiction with a view to ‘industrialize and modernize’ their economies. This has been exacerbated by the skyrocketing of the global demand for natural resources driven especially by the rapid growth of non-Western economies with huge populations such as China and India, and the establishment of liberal investment regimes and proliferation of risk-mitigating investment agreements that have enabled transnational enterprises to operate in regions that were previously beyond reach.

Indigenous communities of Africa are the ones who feel the brunt of this phenomenon the most. This is mainly because, first, indigenous communities in Africa live on or near lands and territories where most of these remaining natural resources are found. Second, traditionally indigenous communities by and large have collective land tenure systems which is not recognized by many African states and even worse is considered terra nullius (no one’s land) since there is no ‘visible’ use or occupation of the land. Hence, they are evicted from their ancestral lands and territories without any free, prior and informed consultation/ consent or compensation to give way to the exploration of natural resources by extractive industries or for the construction of mega infrastructural projects such as dams, pipelines and roads.

The study attests to these plight and suffering of indigenous communities in Africa by looking into the lived-experiences of indigenous communities in Uganda, Namibia, Cameroon and Kenya. The findings of the study clearly establish that irrespective of the nature of the extractive industry, the community affected or the country they operate in, extractive industries pose the greatest challenge to the land rights and survival of indigenous communities’ culture and way of life in present day Africa. The lack of adequate national procedural and normative guarantees against dispossession of land and the deficiency of laws that regulate the activities of extractive industries coupled with misguided and patronizing state policies towards indigenous communities and development have threatened the existence and survival of indigenous communities across Africa.