Barnaby Joseph Dye

Barnaby Joseph Dye

Politics (2014 cohort)

The Resurgence of Hydropower in Africa: Ideologies, actors and power in planning and implementation. Following a decade that saw a near cessation in dam building across the world, and particularly in Africa, hydropower is back on the agenda with projects and funding widespread. My research seeks to interrogate this trend, asking why and how this resurgence is happening. It does this through taking three representative cases of recent hydropower projects in Rwanda and Tanzania, the Nyabarongo, Rusumo and Steigler’s Gorge hydropower projects. Through these cases the thesis explores a range of financiers and builders in this phase of hydropower, including actors from India, the World Bank and Brazil respectively. 

At an international level, the research examines the rationales behind these governments and institutions engagement in African dam-building and the practises they adopt. At a national level it explores the histories of these projects and their context in Rwanda and Tanzania’s energy sectors. This includes how the three case studies fit into the planning of new electricity generation projects in the two countries. The dam project’s locale is also interrogated. The inclusion of communities in knowledge-production and decision-making is assessed, as is the planners’ understandings of each dam’s local socio-environmental context. These three levels contribute to an understanding of the rationales and practises of this latest phase of resurgent hydropower.

I therefore have expertise on East and Central Africa, particularly in Rwanda and Tanzania, and on the foreign policies of India and Brazil, especially in relation to Africa 
Top-down and teleological modernisation theory has provided the ideological drive behind dam-building in past eras. Consequently, the thesis aims to build theory on whether the ideological drive and practises of modernisation theory, critiqued for their expert-orientated and elite-centric knowledge-production and decision-making, are continuing. Through this, the research contributes to broader reflections about the workings of a more infrastructure-heavy phase of global development. 

The research uses a qualitative methodology, aiming to use in-depth case studies to contribute to theory building. The research comes from a critical political economy perspective, aiming to build understanding of trends in political economy in Africa and in the politics and ideologies of governments on the continent. It also uses a political ecology perspective to analyses the power and politics of dam’s intervention. The research primarily uses interviews but also participatory research methods. 


MA (Cantab) in Geography at the University of Cambridge Geography
MA in Environment and Development at King's College, London