HomeSubsaharan Africa and Current Ecological Challenges

HomeSubsaharan Africa and Current Ecological Challenges

Subsaharan Africa and Current Ecological Challenges

L’Afrique subsaharienne face aux enjeux écologiques actuels

Transdisciplinary Perspectives

Perspectives transdisciplinaires

*  *  *

Published on Monday, November 13, 2023


In the face of the ecological crisis currently gripping the world, the consequences of which are spreading across the globe, Africa, once considered an ecological fallow land, has also embarked on the path of a development model requiring the abusive exploitation of nature. In this context of diminishing ecological habitus, the forthcoming collective book aims at exploring the pervasiveness of the environmental paradigm in the arts, letters, crafts, humanities, discourses (political, social, etc.) and media of sub-Saharan Africa. Such a transdisciplinary perspective is intended to highlight the complexity of the object of analysis, and the contributions will explore its impact on all scales of existence. 



The Anthropocene era has established the human being as the planet’s main geophysical force, with a praxeological role that gives him the power to modify the environment at his convenience. Spurred on by anthropocentrism and technoprogressism, his actions towards his oikos (living environment) are triggering environmental crises whose effects are felt on a global scale: climate change, extinction of species, pollution of the biosphere, degradation of ecosystems and biodiversity, natural disasters, sewage spills, drying up of wadis and of natural lakes (lake Chad for example), oil spills, depletion of the underground water level, shrinking of the ozone layer, melting of glaciers, over-exploitation and impoverishment of soil and water resources, among others. In the Western world, these dysfunctions have their origins in the mad rush towards unbridled industrialisation, materialised by the all-out development of laboratories and the belief in the omnipotence of technoscience. Considering these phenomena, researcher Anaïs Boulard (2014) sees in contemporary anthropogenic action the apocalyptic signs of the end of Man. Aware of the irreversible annihilation of his species, man is quick to express an eschatological sentiment, relayed by media imagery conveying the anxiety-inducing idea of a world in danger. As a reflection of everyday life grounded in its time, artistic and literary creation is reinventing itself. A number of authors (J.M.G Le Clézio, Alice Fernay, Éric Chevillard, Daniel Maximin, Patrick Chamoiseau, etc.) are producing ecofictions (Chelebourg, 2012), a kind of positive reaction from humankind facing its future nothingness, which they propose to resolve efficiently through poetic creativity.

In the same vein, the epistemological discourse on the subject is being renewed, by widening its focus from the anthropocentric point of view to an ecocentric perspective, which questions in a fresh way the Cartesian technoprogressive utopia enshrining man as master and possessor of nature. In L’an I de l’ère écologique (2007), the French philosopher and anthropo-sociologist Edgar Morin has developed an “ecologised way of thinking” based on three pillars: the reintegration of our environment into our anthropological and social consciousness, the ecosystemic resurrection of the idea of nature and the decisive contribution of the biosphere to our planetary consciousness (Morin, 2007: 26). Equally concerned with the eco-anxiety consubstantial with the human species, literary criticism developed in the Western world is undergoing a revival. As a matter of facts, there is a blossoming of new text exegesis software, such as geopoetics, ecocriticism and ecopoetics, all of which are keen to make ecological data a major paradigm of the scientific discourse produced in these lands. The least we can say is that the need to include all ecosystemic elements in the axiological vision of the universe is increasingly becoming a sine qua non condition.

Environmental awareness has long been an integral part of African traditional ethics. In contrast to the reality described above, a holistic moral ideal has, under African sky and since time immemorial, integrated the anthropological, ecological and spiritual components of everyday life. In this case, human beings were believed to be endowed with the power to transform themselves into animals, plants such as trees, or forces such as the wind. This belief was widespread in the praxis, and had important implications for the way in which nature, as a whole and in its various specific manifestations, was viewed. The pre-colonial African traditional system was characterised, for example, by eco-bio-communitarianism, egalitarianism, a tendency towards levelling and an obsession with moral rectitude (Tangwa, 2010). Inculcated in Africans from an early age, this value was based on the sacred nature of taboos, which, according to Godfrey Tangwa (1996), were intended to guarantee that goods, which were by no means luxuries, were essential for simple survival. Traditionalist peoples were thus forbidden to eat or kill certain animals, a state of affairs that contributed to the survival of the fauna. They were also forbidden to slaughter pregnant animals, and if they were killed by mistake, cathartic rituals had to be performed. What’s more, taboos prohibited the killing of domestic animals bred to provide companionship and assistance to humans. (Tangwa, 1996:189)

In other words, the Weltanschauung of traditional pre-colonial Africa was linked to the recognition and acceptance of the interdependence and peaceful coexistence of the Earth, plants, animals and humans. Viewed from the angle of the natural environment to be preserved for future generations, the eco-bioconservative modus vivendi of sub-Saharan Africa was positioned as a benchmark of environmental awareness, with a love of nature governed by a cultural, cultic and ritual dimension that protected the community from large-scale ecocide. Hunting and tree-cutting were carried out not for the purposes of industrial development but for food subsistence and shelter, and the rare ecological accidents that occurred were due more to ignorance of environmental standards than to any desire to damage the ecosystemic stability. All in all, man’s relationship with the environment, as conceived in traditional sub-Saharan African lands, was a springboard for sustainable development, to the extent that, far from anthropocentric concerns, it encouraged environmental ethics and interspecific empathy.

Unfortunately, the situation has changed significantly. Today, the sub-Saharan African, whether in the village or the city, tends no longer to be humble and cautious, suspicious and uncertain of his ecocidal capacities. He is less accommodating and less respectful of other people, plants, animals, inanimate things and the various invisible/tangible forces. In short, he is no longer very inclined to adopt an ecophilic attitude, i.e. a protective stance towards life and the natural environment. At an individual level, our behaviour towards nature is marked by poaching, which is the cause of the rarefaction of wildlife species; the occupation of high-risk areas, which is responsible for ecological accidents such as landslides; and the abusive use of firewood, which is the cause of global warming. Today’s sub-Saharan Africans happily consume dog and cat meat and many domestic animals (including those in gestation). In sub-Saharan Africa, the distinction between plants, animals and inanimate things, between the sacred and the profane, matter and spirit, community and individual, is no longer as thin and plastically flexible as it was in the golden age described above. Concerning African government policies, they are not always worried with environmental education, when political leaders, through prejudicial administrative tolerance measures, are being permissive when it comes to investment in non-constructible areas. As a result, cases of landslides are now countless. Such was the case of the very deadly landslides that devastated South Africa (in particular the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape) after three days of heavy rain in April 2022, a situation that led the country to declare a state of national disaster. Similar ecological accidents occurred on 29 October 2019 in Ngouache in Cameroon and, more recently (08 October 2023), in Mbankolo, a suburb of the Cameroonian capital. Frequent and devastating, the phenomenon seems to spare no sub-Saharan country. In addition to permissiveness, governments allow the plundering of natural resources by foreign firms, with the corollary of environmental degradation, about which Western NGOs are constantly raising awareness.  

From a geomorphological point of view, sub-Saharan Africa is not spared the effects of coastal erosion, a phenomenon partly caused by human action but amplified by extreme weather conditions. Its impact on the GDP of West African coastal states is not insignificant. Makhtar Diop (2015) has already highlighted the threat in the east of Lomé (Togo), noting that it encroaches on the coast by seven metres a year. It seems that when it comes to contributing to the preservation of the Earth as a public good, sub-Saharan Africa, once a showcase for environmental awareness, now faces major challenges, as the ecological issue has become an eminently political concern. This was evidenced at COP21, where African countries demanded compensation to stop polluting, highlighting their decisive role in resolving current ecological problems. In this context of diminishing ecological habitus, the forthcoming collective book aims at exploring the pervasiveness of the environmental paradigm in the arts, letters, crafts, humanities, discourses (political, social, etc.) and media of sub-Saharan Africa. Such a transdisciplinary perspective is intended to highlight the complexity of the object of analysis, and the contributions will explore its impact on all scales of existence. How is the related knowledge on the ecological issues affecting the future of this part of the world expressed?

Non-exhaustive Themes

  • Sub-Saharan African arts and crafts and ecological awareness: music, slam, painting, sculpture, basketry, pottery, architecture.
  • Sub-Saharan African literature and ecology: ecocriticism, ecopoetics, geopoetics and zoopoetics.
  • Environmental ethics in sub-Saharan African literature: legends, tales, lullabies, myths, songs of labour.
  • African science fiction and ecological motifs (Ecotopia, eco-dystopia).
  • Media discourse and ecology in sub-Saharan Africa (written press, television programmes, radio).
  • Digital media devoted to the natural environment in sub-Saharan Africa (blogs, websites).
  • Ecologism in the speeches and political programmes of governments in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Ecological discourse in the humanities in sub-Saharan Africa: ethics, bioethics, African environmental ethics, African culture and sustainability, (bio)conservatism, agro-industrial biotechnologies.
  • Tourism and (geo)political issues of African environmental awareness in the arts, humanities and social sciences: environmental aesthetics, promotion of ecological living/housing, promotion of green cities, tourism and seaside resorts.

Writing languages: French and English

Submission procedures

Abstracts of approximately 350 words accompanied by a brief biobibliographical note (and five key words) must be sent simultaneously to the following addresses:  and ,

no later than January, 30th 2024.

Time Schedule

  • Publication of the call: October, 30th 2023
  • Proposals Submission deadline: January, 30th 2024

  • Notification to contributors: February, 28th 2024
  • Reception of completed papers: May, 30th 2024
  • Return of expert comments: July, 30th 2024
  • Return of corrected papers: August, 30th 2024
  • Publication of the book: December 2024

Scientific Committee

  • Pr Pierre Martial ABOSSOLO, University of Ébolowa (Cameroon)
  • Pr Flora AMABIAMINA, University of Douala (Cameroon)
  • Pr Marie Louise BA’ANA, University of Douala (Cameroon)
  • Pr Pierre FANDIO, University of Buea (Cameroon)
  • Pr Roger FOPA KUETE, University of Maroua (Cameroon)
  • Pr Albert JIATSA JOKENG, University of Maroua (Cameroon)
  • Pr Thomas MINKOULOU, University of Ébolowa (Cameroon)
  • Pr Roger MONDOUE, University of Douala (Cameroon)
  • Pr Roger ONOMO ETABA, University of Ébolowa (Cameroon)
  • Pr Bachir TAMSIR NIANE, Université Général Lansana Conté, Conakry (Guinea)
  • Pr Godfrey B. TANGWA, University of Yaoundé I (Cameroon)
  • Pr Mbih Jerome TOSAM, University of Bamenda (Cameroon)
  • Pr Williams Fulbert YOGNO TABEKO, University of Dschang (Cameroon)
  • Dr Laurain Lauras ASSIPOLO, University of Douala (Cameroon)
  • Dr Aristide BITOUGA, University of Douala (Cameroon)
  • Dr Alain Roger BOAYENIAK BAYO, University of Douala (Cameroon)
  • Dr Joseph Patrice FOUMAN, University of Maroua (Cameroon)
  • Dr Wendnonga Gilbert KAFANDO, Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo (Burkina Faso)

Reading Comittee

  • Dr Albin Nelson Georges HOUACK, University of Douala
  • Dr Denis-Ghislain MBESSA, University of Douala
  • Dr Mouhamadou NGAPOUT KPOUMIÉ, University of Dschang
  • Dr Floribert NOMO FOUDA, University of Yaoundé I
  • Dr Stéphane SOH SOKOUDJOU, University of Dschang

Project Coordinators

  • Dr Denis-Ghislain MBESSA, University of Douala
  • Dr Floribert NOMO FOUDA, University of Yaoundé I

Indicatory Bibliography

Abéga, Séverin Cécile (2000), La hache des chimpanzés, Yaoundé, CLÉ.

Binet, Jacques (1983), « La technologie face à la culture de l’Afrique noire », in Le mois en Afrique, Revue française d’études politiques africaines, n° 203-204, pp. 46-65.

Boulard, Anaïs (2014), « La pensée écologique en littérature. De l’imagerie à l’imaginaire de la crise environnementale », Figura, n° 36, pp. 35-50.

Buju, Banton (2009), “Ecology and Ethical Responsibility from an African Perspective” in M. F. Murove (Ed.), African Ethics: An Anthology of Comparative and Applied Ethics, Scottville, MI: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, pp. 281-297.

Chelebourg, Christian (2012), Les écofictions : mythologies de la fin du monde, Bruxelles, Les Impressions nouvelles, coll. « Réflexions faites ».

Diop, Makhtar (2015), « La COP21 : une chance à saisir pour l’Afrique », in Géoéconomie, vol. 5, n° 77, pp. 63-71.

Elungu Pene Elungu (1987), Tradition africaine et rationalité moderne, Paris, L’Harmattan.

Gratani, M., Sutton, S. G., Butler, J. R. A., Bohensky, E. L., &Foale, S. (2016),  “Indigenous Environmental Values as Human values” in Cogent Social Science Volume 2, pp. 1-17.

Ikuenobe, Polycarp (2014), “Traditional African Environmental Ethics and Colonial Legacy” in International Journal of Philosophy and Theology, vol. 2, pp. 1-21.

Kouakou, Bah, Jean-Philippe, (2013), The Contribution of the Sacred in Traditional African Societies to Environmental Ethics, Anthropology, 1, 1-3.

Larrère, Catherine (1997), Les philosophies de l’environnement, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France.

Mbessa, Denis-Ghislain (2018) Les Rongeurs de troncs : plaidoyer pour la préservation de la biodiversité et de l’ethnodiversité, Saint Maur de Fossés, Jets d’encre.

Mbessa, Denis-Ghislain (2020),African Bioconservatism and the Challenge of the Transhumanist Technoprogressism”, Open Journal of Philosophy, November 2020,

Mbih, Tosam Jerome (2019), “African Environmental Ethics and Sustainable Development”, in Open Journal of Philosophy, vol. 9, pp. 172-192,

Morin, Edgar (2007), L’an I de l’ère écologique, Paris, Tallandier.

Mvé Bekale, Marc (2002), Les limbes de l’enfer, Paris, L’Harmattan.

Mveng, Engelbert (1980), L’art et l’artisanat africains, Yaoundé, CLÉ.

Otshudi, Damase Djongongele (2011), « Technoscience et culture africaine contemporaine » in Philosophies et cultures africaines à l’heure de l’interculturalité, Anthologie, Tome 2, Michel Kouam & Christian Mofor (dir), L’Harmattan, Paris, pp. 171-185.

Pliya, Jean (1971), L’arbre fétiche, Yaoundé, CLÉ.

Schoentjes, Pierre (2015). Ce qui a lieu: essai d’écopoétique, Marseille, Wildproject, coll. « Tête nue ».

Tangwa, Godfrey, B. (1996), “Bioethics: An African Perspective” in Bioethics, vol. 10, N° 3, pp. 183-200.

Tangwa, Godfrey, B. (2010), Elements of African Bioethics in a Western Frame, Bamenda, Langaa Research & Publishing CIG.


  • Tuesday, January 30, 2024


  • Afrique subsaharienne, écologie


  • Denis Ghislain MBESSA
    courriel : mbessadeghis [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Floribert NOMO FOUDA
    courriel : florinomo [at] yahoo [dot] fr

Information source

  • Denis Ghislain MBESSA
    courriel : mbessadeghis [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Subsaharan Africa and Current Ecological Challenges », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, November 13, 2023,

Archive this announcement

  • Google Agenda
  • iCal
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search