Peace parks in Southern Africa: bringers of an African Renaissance?
The pursuit of an African Renaissance has become an important aspect of regional cooperation between South Africa and its neighbours. Transfrontier conservation areas, or ‘Peace Parks’ as they are popularly called, have been identified as key instruments to promote the African Renaissance dream, and are increasingly advocated and justified on this basis. By fostering joint conservation (and tourism) development in Southern Africa’s marginalised border regions, Peace Parks are claimed to further international peace, regional cooperation and poverty reduction, and thus serve basic ideals of the African Renaissance. This article critically explores this assumption. Using the joint South African-Mozambican-Zimbabwean Great Limpopo Park as a case study, it argues that in reality the creation of Peace Parks hardly stimulates and possibly even undermines the realisation of the African Renaissance ideals of regional cooperation, emancipation, cultural reaffirmation, sustainable economic development and democratisation. So far, their achievement has been severely hindered by domination of national interests, insufficient community consultation, and sensitive border issues such as the illegal flows of goods and migrants between South Africa and neighbouring countries. Furthermore, exacerbation of inter-state differences induced by power imbalances in the region, and harmonisation of land use and legal systems across boundaries, are increasingly becoming sources of conflict and controversy. Some of these problems are so severe, we conclude, that they might eventually even undermine support for African Renaissance as a whole. Utmost care is thus required to optimally use the chances that Peace Parks do offer in furthering an African Renaissance.