Many African governments have set ambitious targets for the production of biofuels in the last decade, yet results remain largely disappointing. What factors explain that the majority of biofuels projects initiated to date have failed and what do they reveal about the capacity of African states to implement their policies?

A host of political actors with competing interests are involved in biofuel projects. In this panel, we will examine how social hierarchies and relations of power in the periphery constrain governmental power. The different contributions will explain how local elites involved in the management of land influence the trajectory of large-scale land acquisitions in function of their normative position and motivations.

In addition to the features of host rural societies, we will analyse how the strategies employed by foreign companies mandated by the government undermine its objectives. Outright land cession by the national government or decentralized authorities represents only one modality through which private corporations access land in African countries. Firms that seek to avoid popular discontent associated with “land grabs” increasingly adopt sophisticated acquisition schemes, including but not limited to, contract farming, management contracts, and joint ventures.

While not directly involved in these projects, the state remains the interface that oversees, at least formally, the legal procedures to acquire land and the commercial operations of these companies. In this panel, we will examine as to whether state authority is contested differently by local populations depending on the companies’ strategies and business model.

In sum, this panel will shed light on power relations between an array of actors that may contravene the state’s efforts to develop the biofuel sector.

Please forward your abstract by March 13, 2015 at [email protected] and [email protected]