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Büscher, Chris (2021) Water aid and trade contradictions: Dutch aid in the Mozambican waterscape under contemporary capitalism. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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In 2013, the Dutch government adopted its ‘aid, trade and investment agenda’, commonly known as the ‘aid and trade agenda’. This thesis examines the application of this agenda and its forerunner in the Mozambican waterscape and how it has reproduced and transformed the Mozambican-Dutch water aid relationship. The aid and trade agenda is a consensual agenda, in which state- and aid-driven approaches to water management were presented as complementary and compatible with trade- and market-based approaches. In contrast, this thesis argues that this agenda and its implementation in Mozambique can be better understood dialectically, in terms of ‘water aid and trade contradictions’. The dissertation distinguishes between a primary water aid and trade contradiction that is constitutive of the bilateral water aid relationship as a whole, and secondary contradictions. The primary contradiction is explained in terms of the territorial and capitalistic logics of liquid power. These refer to the politics revolving around water’s multiple use values and place-based waters on the one hand, and the subjection of water(-related processes) to market mechanisms and market imperatives such as competition on the other. I trace the rise of the capitalistic logic throughout the bilateral relationship’s history, as it developed in tandem with contemporary capitalism since the 1980s. I argue that this capitalistic logic has come to contradict with territorial logics of liquid power, in particular by the water politics of the government and central state of Mozambique. This primary water aid and trade contradiction is derivative of and manifests itself in various contradictory realities, or in what I call ‘secondary contradictions’. Firstly, the capitalistic logic translated in the will and attempts to apply market mechanisms in the bilateral relationship and in the Mozambican waterscape. However, these attempts were often negated by central state and bureaucratic power in Mozambique—the very power that these mechanisms sought to weaken. Secondly, a capitalistic logic underpinned a water access mechanism that Dutch and Mozambican actors jointly implemented in small towns in Mozambique, but this logic clashed with territorial logics in power struggles unfolding at the national and local scales. Finally, the capitalistic logic was expressed in exclusionary events, events that narrowed down imaginaries and pathways for hydrosocial development. These were therefore contested events and countervailed by agents based on social, political and environmental, rather than economic, grounds. The thesis argues that the aid and trade course followed in Mozambique has deepened rather than eased the primary water aid and trade contradiction. This has led to intensified power struggles and has complicated the governance and management of (Dutch) water (aid) in Mozambique. Moreover, rather than leading to inclusive and equitable hydrosocial development, it is argued that this agenda has left the root causes of uneven development in Mozambique and its waterscape by and large unaffected.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Peter Mollinga
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2021 17:32

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