The process of normalizing drones throughout Africa has received little scholarly attention. Discussions of drone proliferation tend to assume that the drone industry is a monolithic, geographically concentrated entity, and that drone use will look the same and engender the same controversies, regardless of geography. The article aims to think through African drone proliferation by analyzing how drones and Africa are being construed as solutions to each other’s problems, and by exploring the interface between images of Africa and the notion of the drone as a game changer for development and security. The article also reads the African drone in the context of the early deployment of surveillance drones in Africa in the 1970s, as well as the legacy of technological imperialism and colonial airpower. The perception of Africa as being in need of external drone intervention dovetails with the drone industry’s efforts to identify and promote good uses for drones — efforts that are central to increasing the legitimacy of drones in the eyes of the Global North. Hence, the article argues that the ‘African drone’ has become a vehicle for the production and distribution of norms, resources, and forms of legitimacy that have implications for drone proliferation, both within and outside Africa.
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