While many voices are questioning the development model imported into Africa from Western countries, the book “The Commons: Drivers of Change and Opportunities for Africa” opens up new perspectives. It helps to make visible a wide range of citizens' initiatives on the continent, some of which go back a long way, and all of which have the characteristic of inspiring endogenous development models. These 'Commons' cover a wide range of fields, from farmers' groups and housing cooperatives to hybrid cultural places and collaborative digital platforms.
Without claiming to provide a systemic response to the many issues facing the continent, the book looks at the conditions under which the Commons can contribute to objectives of general interest, beyond the interests of the communities that created them. The immediate corollary of this questioning is the way in which the Commons and public actors can enter into a relationship, the opportunities that such a relationship represents for each of the parties involved, but also the risks. It is therefore clear that if public and development actors wish to become involved with and alongside the Commons, they must 'think Commons' by questioning their own practices, positions and tools.
The aim of this conference was to discuss the first milestones set by the book in the African context, but also to broaden the geographical scope beyond the continent, so that the experiences of some become inspirations for others. It opened with a debate on the desirability of devising a political project for the African continent, based on securing and developing the Commons.