It is terrifyingly sobering to consider that Hugo Grotius, historiographically considered, acting out a fundamentally TWAILian charge. Yes, he was not simply a young lawyer writing legal opinions. In fact, his point of view can be better appreciated when one considers that the supremely arrogant Treaty of Tordesillas had purported to share the world’s oceans between Spain and Portugal – Prof Anghie during the lecture chuckled at the ridiculous assertion of a certain property right to sea routes, once discovered. I dare say, the same will repeat with space routes in the not too distant future.
On a Saturday evening in Singapore in March 2022 – or as is in these days of webinars, evening, afternoon, morning as wherever one is on this fragile third rock from the Sun - Prof Anthony Anghie cheekily – yes, there’s a delightful cheekiness in his voice as one does when they know they intend to remind the Emperor of his nakedness – describes his critique of the eurocentric narrative of the foundation of international law by asking his audience to contemplate a few visual images that exemplify this narrative.
It is accepted that legal doctrine is a normative discipline, which is not only describing and systematising norms, but also predominantly a discipline which takes normative positions and makes choices among values and interests. Consequently, the quest to find “better law” by adopting certain interpretative or normative positions often leads to elements external to law and legal doctrine such as philosophy, morals, history, sociology, economy, and politics. Hence, looking for better law involves empirical research particularly as better, in the context of this post, refers to a historical and sociological perspective on the balancing of the Eurocentric make-up of international law. Thus, the teaching of precolonial African trade usages should be explicitly embedded into the public international law (and international trade law) curriculum in Nigerian universities. This has already been done in international relations programmes in some Nigerian universities.
Following the global financial crisis of 2007-08, which overlapped with a global food security crisis, the global land rush emerged as a key phenomenon that has since become the metonymic expression of the global response to these crises. Cochrane’s and Andrews’ The Transnational Land Rush in Africa: A Decade After the Spike provides a timely and necessary update of the land rush “a decade after the 2007/08 commodity price spike.” The book addresses some of the major misconceptions about the land rush on the African continent and, especially, the Eurocentric coverage of the land rush in Africa within the international political economy discourse by attending to local, national, and transnational land grabs and actors that have been largely marginalized in these debates.
Over time, I have collaborated with researchers and practitioners to investigate the global land rush and support responses to it. This action research taught me about the material dimensions of the deals, including their scale, location, crop types, intended markets, varying degrees of implementation, and the way they shook the very foundations of local life, livelihoods and culture. It also highlighted deep-seated tensions between competing visions of agriculture, food systems, territory and society; connections to an evolving global political economy and contested notions of sovereignty and statehood; and the role the law — from land tenure systems to international trade, investment and human rights treaties — has played in facilitating the deals or resistance to them.
The most recent rush for African land was accompanied by a literature rush on contemporary global land grabs comprised of a fast-growing body of reports matrices, articles and books. Responding critically to this literature rush, scholars are increasingly calling for a more robust and grounded methodology to link macro-level insights to more local level analyses. The edited volume The Transnational Land Rush in Africa: A Decade after the Spike answers these calls by taking a decidedly macro-level approach to the global land rush, without sacrificing nuance and country-specific historical, political and legal context. It does this in part, by investigating the impact of large-scale land investments in various African countries over time, considering not only the decade since their spike, but also the varied colonial and post-colonial histories that have shaped them.
This symposium opens up our book to examination, reflections and critical perspectives from experts such as Lorenzo Cotula, Nisrin Elamin, Wegayehu Fitawek and Kariuki Kirigia. As shown in their contributions, these discussants offer a depth of knowledge as well as passion for orienting people before profit.
With this post I seek nothing more than prompt the reader to question their experiences, recount their anecdotes and challenge how the way we learned, and what and how we teach today. I invite you to take the chance of making a pause in the inertia that academic life entails, and become part of the discussion on how to transform our discipline to be better researchers and more effective teachers to the lawyers of the future. There is no excuse not to, the debate is alive and happening in fora, such as AfronomicsLaw, REDIAL and TRILA.
The book titled Multi-Sided Music Platforms and the Law: Copyright, Law and Policy in Africa is a timely contribution to literature in this era, with regards to the music boom in Nigeria and other parts of Africa and the existence of music platforms for entertainment as well as commercial purposes. There is a voluminous scholarship in this book on law and multi-sided platforms generally on one hand and copyright law specifically on another. The author focused on the legal and regulatory issues that arise from the use of copyright-protected content by multi-sided platforms in digital advertising.
A proper assessment of Rudahindwa’s monograph on the subject of establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) is one that cannot exclude the currents of ongoing reform efforts and the extent to which they are able to move the continent faster towards the dream of achieving the AEC. This invariably raises some methodological questions that border on multidisciplinary approach to regionalism, and the issue of context. The author highlights these two imperatives in the monograph. By using the concept of “developmental regionalism” as an analytical prism, the author situates the discussion within a multidisciplinary paradigm.