Nature in Africa has long occupied a special place in the global imagination: the prevailing images associated with the continent are of a “wild Eden,” of rugged, “pristine” landscapes, and of some of the world’s most charismatic “megafauna” (elephants, gorillas, rhinos, etc.) (Adams and McShane 1996). Indeed, whereas references to Africa’s people are often negative and associated with war, poverty, and famine (Dowden 2008), Africa’s nature is habitually framed in positive terms: nature as it “should be,” “unspoiled” and “pure.” Thus, when the famous Virgin millionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson asks the question “What is Africa?” there seems to be no irony in his answer, “Africa is its animals. That is the beauty of Africa, that’s what makes it different from the rest of the world. And to lose those animals would be catastrophic.” Branson lays the blame for “dwindling wildlife numbers” squarely on “Africa’s increasing (human) populations,” and argues that Africa should “increase the amount of land for the animals and by increasing the amount of land for the animals, that will help human beings.”

Africa, global imagination, nature
ISS Staff Group 4: Rural Development, Environment and Population
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Büscher, B.E. (2012). Inverted Commons: Africa’s Nature in the Global Imagination. ISS Staff Group 4: Rural Development, Environment and Population. Retrieved from