This article contributes an economic geography perspective on the envisioning and implementing of mega-infrastructure projects in Africa. Focusing on development corridors and their implicit spatio-temporality of “global integration,” we conceptualize corridors as spatial imaginaries for strategic coupling processes. We distinguish between emptying the future and claiming space as two fundamental mechanisms of spatial imaginaries. Together, these mechanisms can render crucial territorial and relational “insides” and “outsides” available for coupling processes. Spatial imaginaries are then sources of power in the coupling between corridor regions and global production networks.
Empirically, we focus on the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) in relation to the coupling process between global fertilizer manufacturer YARA International and the Tanzanian agricultural market. Facing unfavourable coupling conditions with Tanzania’s fertilizer sector, the early mobilization of SAGCOT served to promote a narrow imaginary of Tanzania’s agrarian future, thereby making a soft claim to territorial (through the corridor) and networked space (through a network of corridor stakeholders). Although YARA and Tanzanian counterparts initially capitalized on SAGCOT’s mobilization due to its promise to transform Tanzanian agriculture, a gradual disenchantment with SAGCOT’s vision and its subsequent disintegration jeopardizes these coupling process today.
Approaching corridors as spatial imaginaries reveals therefore their instrumental but fragile power in coupling processes. Such power is not about blunt domination or coercion but rather builds on persuasion and consent. Only when spatial imaginaries succeed in maintaining persuasive arguments about the future, is their function of initiating and stabilizing otherwise unfavourable coupling processes available.
Tups. G., Dannenberg, P. (2021): Emptying the Future, Claiming Space: The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania as a Spatial Imaginary for Strategic Coupling Processes. Geoforum, Volume 123, pp. 23-35. DOI
Keywords: Spatial Imaginaries, Strategic Coupling, Power, Futures, Development Corridors, Tanzania