Skip to main content

Centre of African Studies: People


Kate Symons

Kate Symons
Dr Kate Symons
Career Development Fellow - International Development
Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
Research Interests
International development, Political ecology, Extractive industries and resource governance, Conservation and development, blockchain

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • 2-4pm Wednesdays during term time in room 5.19 CBM. Please email for an appointment outwith this time

Overview and research interests

My research focusses on the politics of natural resources in Africa, particularly conservation areas and the extractive industries. I take a political ecology approach which seeks to understand ecological issues through in-depth engagement with people and places, and which focusses on political issues of access to, and framing of, social nature. My PhD research focussed on trans-frontier conservation areas (TFCA), focussin on the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve (PPMR), part of the Lubombo TFCA in southern Mozambique. I explored what the TFCA reveals about neoliberal developments in conservation and development, how the area is governed, contested and held together as a coherent project, and the uneven interventions into the lives of people and animals that are permitted by the TFCA discourse. As part of this research I also engaged with community organisations contesting extractive projects in Mozambique, especially concerning recent large gas finds in the north of the country.

I studied MSc Africa and International development at the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh, and PhD in Human Geography in the School of Geosciences, also at the University of Edinburgh. I hold a BA (Hons) in Philosophy from the University of Nottingham.


I currently teach development research practices and methodological debates in the Centre as part of the growing Online Distance Learning offering.

I have also taught political ecology and geographies of development online, in person and in the field throughout my time in different schools in the University of Edinburgh.

Current research

My current research focusses on two areas. I am currently a researcher on a major new interdisciplinary project, OxChain. OxChain is investigating what new forms of digital exchange and value (especially the blockchain, cryptocurrencies and smart contracts) mean for international development. We are working closely with Oxfam to understand the challenges and opportunities for doing development which this new data technology might bring. OxChain is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and is running for three years across three research universities – Edinburgh, Northumbria and Lancaster. For more information see

I also research the changing political topographies of major conservation areas and extractive projects in Mozambique and southern Africa more broadly, with a focus on marine and coastal aspects (marine reserves, blue and green growth discourses, extractive projects, and contested and illicit marine resources). 


Symons, K. The tangled politics of conservation and resource extraction in Mozambique's green economy. Under review, please contact for a draft copy.

Symons, K. (2018). Land rights and justice in neoliberal Mozambique: The case of Afungi community relocations. In Apostolopoulou, E. and Cortes-Vazquez Eds. (2018). Conservation and Transformation: ‘Rights to Nature: Tracing alternative political ecologies against the neoliberal environmental agenda’. Environmental Justice series, School of Advanced Studies, University of London.

Nissen, B., Symons, K., Tallyn, E., Speed, C., Maxwell, D., & Vines, J. (2017, June). New Value Transactions: Understanding and Designing for Distributed Autonomous Organisations. In Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference Companion Publication on Designing Interactive Systems (pp. 352-355). ACM.

Symons, K. (2017, April). Trans-frontier Conservation and the Neoliberalisation of Nature: The Case of the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, Mozambique. PhD thesis awarded April 2017. Available at the University of Edinburgh online repository.

Symons, K. (2016). Transnational spaces, hybrid governance and civil society contestation in Mozambique’s gas boom. The Extractive Industries and Society, 3(1), 149-159.

Symons, K. (2014). Anti-politics, Apocalypse and Adaptation in Kenya's National Climate Change Response Strategy. Scottish Geographical Journal, 130(4), 266-278. 

Topics interested in supervising

Politics of conservation areas (marine and land) The extractive sector in Africa Blockchain innovations in international development

If you are interested in being supervised by Kate Symons, please see the links below for more information:

PhD In African Studies; PhD in International Development