Mobilizing Research on Africa’s Development Corridors

Across Africa, development corridors – networks of roads, railways, pipelines and ports that facilitate the movement of commodities between landlocked production areas, processing zones and global markets – are being built at an unprecedented pace. In mainstream development discourse, these mega-infrastructure projects have been framed as an effective way of creating conditions that are attractive to investors while simultaneously driving inclusive economic growth and development. Yet, recent geographic research on new development corridors has revealed certain tensions and inconsistencies in this win–win narrative, drawing attention to cases where the spatial reorganization of land that has accompanied corridor development has introduced new patterns of spatial exclusion and immobility. This article shows how approaching the study of development corridors using the new mobility paradigm – paying attention to uneven and conflicting mobilities along new corridor routes – stands to generate important empirical and theoretical insights about peoples’ lived experiences with corridors, as well as about the trajectories of power enacted through corridor development. Ultimately, it is argued that applying the new mobilities paradigm in future research on development corridors may help researchers to better understand emergent forms of spatial exclusion and immobility created by new corridors.