University of Birmingham academic Dr Benedetta Rossi’s book From Slavery to Aid engages two major themes in African historiography: the slow death of slavery and the evolution of international development, and reveals their interrelation in the social history of the region of Ader in the Nigerien Sahel.

Methods of aid

The book traces the historical transformations that turned a society where slavery was a fundamental institution into one governed by the goals and methods of 'aid'. 

It, published in 2015 by Cambridge University Press, considers developments over a long period of time, from the pre-colonial power of the Caliphate of Sokoto, to the French empire’s colonial rule, to the aid-driven policies of the present. 

See Benedetta Ross's recent reflections on what her book's findings mean for understanding contemporary aid policy in her interview for Humboldt University, Berlin.

Enduring legacies

Successive governments promised to improve the circumstances of those at the bottom of Ader’s society, but continued to expect them to work for little or no pay. Enduring legacies of slavery are due partly to the challenges posed by the Sahara’s climate. But environmental explanations fail to account for the continuing exploitation of particular groups and to explain changes in strategies of oppression and resistance.

The book provides a critical analysis of the relationship between environmental and political factors, and asks how the most vulnerable can better their conditions.

See Rossi's blog-post for Open Democracy on connecting the dots between migration, aid, and the global legacies of exploitation of vulnerable workers.