African Studies Association UK Conference is coming to Leeds in September

The Yorkshire African Studies Network (YASN) is organising a number of panel for the ASA-UK conference.  Under this banner JEFCAS has proposed a panel

Civil Society in the South and ‘Do it yourself’ Development from the North – globalising, humanising civil society or neo-colonial threat?

This panel explores the phenomenon of ‘do-it-yourself’ non-professional NGOs created by volunteers from the global north with a philanthropic urge to do something about poverty in the south.  In many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa thousands of such organisations operate at the local level.  Whilst they can be read a part of globalising and humanising civil society, we contend that the relationship between such organisations and local communities and CSOs can be in many cases neo-colonial and disempowering.

However, the panel seeks to analyse the multiple dimensions of this global civil society movement and to particularly consider how the transnational interaction of civil society organisations and faith groups shapes civil spaces in Africa.  We ask the question: to what extent do these interactions offer the potential for civil society actors in Africa to increase their political agency and hold the state to account?

The individual papers will draw on case studies from Uganda and Tanzania, two countries that host considerable numbers of such transnational organisations.  This empirical data suggests that local civil society organisations often develop clientelist relationships with the Northern partners, which results in dependency and weak capacity for action.   However, the papers will also consider how under certain circumstances the linking social capital provided by transnational relationships enables and legitimates previously marginalised individuals and civil society actors.

Job Akuni (JEFCAS) will explore what he calls ‘NGO clicktivism’ with a critique of the KONY2012 youtube campaign by Invisible Children; Chika Charles Aniekwe (JEFCAS) considers the dependency of funding relationships between a small UK and Tanzanian organisation;  David Ndiwanyu (The Nile- African Development) focuses on diaspora organisations raising support in the North for development ‘at home’ and finally Dr Andrew Mushi (Mzumbe University) argues that externally funded NGOs in Africa are a distraction to the young and educated who should be creatively driving a productive economy rather than begging for funds.

This panel looks set to ask some difficult but necessary questions- hope to see some of you there.  For those who can’t make it – we’ll produce a briefing paper capturing the debates.


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