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africa in Focus

Governance Governance
in the 21st Century
The Africa in Focus series is an initiative of the Human and Social Sciences in the 21st Century
Research Council (HSRC) that creates a forum for African scholars to
frame research questions and examine critical issues affecting the African
continent in the 21st century. The series should inspire robust debate to
help inform the orientation of public policy in Africa.
Will Africa’s recuperative powers have dispelled the shadows of historically
imposed predicaments by the end of the century? This question is at the
core of this first volume in the series, in which contributors wrestle with
‘lived realities’ related to the unfolding process of democratic transformation

Governance in the 21st Century

across the African continent. The volume interrogates a range of issues:
knowledge and its transformation; the need to manage natural resources;
the economy viewed through the lens of actual livelihoods; other thorny
challenges affecting social well-being in Africa, and Africa’s relationship
with the rest of the world.
In the early part of this 21st century, colonial legacies continue to
circumscribe many of the hopes and aspirations pinned on democracy by
people of the African continent. The challenges of the African state cannot
always be explained through reference to the past, and the contributors put
forward strong arguments for self-reliance among African people, ethical
leadership, economic democracy, the indigenisation of knowledge and
institutional reform.
This seminal collection will be of interest to political scholars, students and
professionals in the field of African Studies as well as to policy-makers and
Edited by
public officials across the continent. Kwandiwe Kondlo | Chinenyengozi Ejiogu

I S B N 978-0-7969-2344-8
in F cus
9 780796 923448

Africainfocus_final_spots.indd 1 2011/02/28 7:08 PM

in the 21st Century
africa in F cus

in the 21st Century

Edited by
Kwandiwe Kondlo | Chinenyengozi Ejiogu
Published by HSRC Press
Private Bag X9182, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa

First published 2011

ISBN (soft cover) 978-0-7969-2344-8

ISBN (pdf) 978-0-7969-2345-5
ISBN (e-pub) 978-0-7969-2346-2

© 2011 Human Sciences Research Council

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not necessarily
reflect the views or policies of the Human Sciences Research Council (‘the Council’)
or indicate that the Council endorses the views of the authors. In quoting from this publication,
readers are advised to attribute the source of the information to the individual author concerned
and not to the Council.

Copy edited by Lee Smith

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Tables and figures viii

Abbreviations and acronyms x

Foreword xiii
Olive Shisana
Preface xv
Louis Jeevanantham and Gerard Hagg
Introduction: Towards a ‘new’ consciousness about Africa’s imperatives
in the twenty-first century xvii
Kwandiwe Kondlo and Chinenyengozi Ejiogu

Section 1 The African state in the twenty-first century

1 Introduction 3
Kwandiwe Kondlo
2 Measuring democracy and ‘good governance’ in Africa: A critique of assumptions
and methods 10
Victor AO Adetula
3 Public expenditures, governance and education system performances
in sub-Saharan Africa 26
Alban AE Ahoure
4 Revisiting the Westphalian model: The Chewa trans-border traditional political entity 49
Happy Mickson Kayuni

Section 2 Knowledge and transformation

5 Introduction 63
Yona Ngalaba Seleti and Joseph Lesiba Teffo
6 Elites and donors: Interrogating the African ICT agenda 68
Sarah Helen Chiumbu
7 Wrestling with intellectual hegemony: The dwarfed status of knowledge production
in South Africa 81
Mpilo Pearl Sithole
8 Indigenous knowledges: Transforming and sustaining communal food production
in Zimbabwe 90
Maurice Taonezvi Vambe
Section 3 Environment and natural resources
9 Introduction 103
Muchaparara Musemwa
10 Climate change and African agriculture: Review of impact and adaptation choices 110
Ernest L Molua
11 Exploring environmental consciousness in South Africa 130
Barbara A Anderson, Marie Wentzel, John H Romani and Heston Phillips
12 The challenges of implementing an African water resource management agenda 146
Mike Muller
13 Reducing climate change risks by ‘living with drought’: Investigating local institutional
design in Zimbabwe 163
Sithabiso Gandure

Section 4 Economy and livelihoods in Africa

14 Introduction 179
Lovemore Rugube and Innocent Matshe
15 Social insecurity, youth and development issues in Kenya 188
Priscilla Wamucii and Peter Idwasi
16 Informal cross-border traders and the creation of the SADC common market 200
Nsolo JN Mijere
17 Reintegrating former child soldiers into their communities in northern Uganda:
A case study 221
Lyn Snodgrass and Julaina Obika

Section 5 Public health and well-being

18 Introduction 235
Laetitia C Rispel and Daniel J Ncayiyana
19 Whither the MDGs? Stewardship for health in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa 240
Laetitia C Rispel and Thomas N Kibua
20 Violence, masculinity and well-being in Africa 259
Kopano Ratele and Shahnaaz Suffla
21 Social fabric of violation and transformation in a South African correctional facility 282
Sandra M Hoffman
22 Populations’ health status in WAEMU countries: An analysis according to the theory of
convergence 299
Tito Nestor Tiehi
23 Recommendations for improving mental healthcare systems in Africa: Lessons from Ghana,
Uganda, South Africa and Zambia 309
Sara Cooper, Arvin Bhana, Natalie Drew, Edwige Faydi, Alan Flisher, Ritz Kakuma, Sharon Kleintjes,
Crick Lund, Angela Ofori-Atta, Sarah Skeen and the MHaPP Research Programme Consortium
Section 6 Africa and the world
24 Introduction 329
Gilbert M Khadiagala
25 The Berlin Conference in disguise: Revisiting the interface between globalisation
and imperialism in contemporary Africa 333
Moses Tofa and Eliot Tofa
26 The United Nations: Between paternalism and partnership 340
Tim K Murithi

Contributors 352
Tables and figures

Table 3.1 Descriptive statistics of the variables, sub-Saharan Africa, 2002–07  32
Table 3.2 Pearson correlation coefficients between public expenditures and educational
outcomes according to states of governance  34
Table 3.3 Effect of public expenditures in education and governance on education outcomes
(EC2SLS)  36
Table 3.4 Role of governance on the relationship between public expenditures in education and
primary school enrolment (EC2SLS)  38
Table 3.5 Role of governance on the relationship between public expenditures in education and
pupil–teacher ratio (EC2SLS)  41
Table 3.6 Role of governance on the relationship between public expenditures in education and
primary completion rate (EC2SLS)  42
Table 3.7 Role of governance on the relationship between public expenditures in education and
literacy rate (EC2SLS)  45
Table 11.1 Explanatory variables used in survey  132
Table 11.2 Households with various characteristics (%)  133
Table 11.3 All households, African households and non-African households with perceptions,
behaviours and awareness in various environmental areas (%)  133
Table 11.4 Logistic regression results for perceptions of environmental problems  134
Table 11.5 Multiple regression results for analysis of factors related to the number of
environmental problems perceived (all households)  139
Table 11.6 Logistic regression results related to water pollution and littering behaviours  140
Table 11.7 Logistic regression results for awareness of initiatives related to water pollution and
littering  141
Table 12.1 Competing versions of IWRM: Differences between the Rio and the Dublin
approaches  153
Table 13.1 History of droughts in Mwenezi District (Rutenga Weather Station)  166
Table 13.2 Community perceptions of climate variability in Mwenezi District  166
Table 13.3 General impacts of drought on agriculture in Mwenezi District  167
Table 13.4 History of drought in Mwenezi District and local institutional responses  168
Table 13.5 Institutional relevancy in responding to drought in Mwenezi District  171
Table 16.1 Membership of SADC countries in other sub-regional organisations  203
Table 16.2 Economic and demographic indicators in the SADC, 2003  204
Table 16.3 ICBTs and size of their initial capital in rands  210
Table 16.4 Gender of ICBTs by their sources of take-off capital  210
Table 16.5A Goods from South Africa traded on the SADC market  212
Table 16.5B Goods from peripheral countries traded on the SADC market  212
Table 16.6 Estimates of average cargoes per trip  213
Table 16.7 ICBTs and the SADC common market  214
Table 16.8 Origin of ICBT merchandise  215
Table 16.9 MCBTs’ country of origin and origin of purchases  215
Table 16.10 Money spent in rands, by gender of trader  216
Table 16.11 Rank of customs officers and average estimations of revenue collected per trip  217
Table 16.12 Traders and their customers  218

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Table 19.1 The eight Millennium Development Goals  241
Table 19.2 Three country human development and public health indicators, 2007  243
Table 19.3 Summary of appraisal of MDGs and stewardship in case study countries  254
Table 20.1 HDI rank and value, life expectancy at birth, and rates of adult mortality for African
countries  268
Table 20.2 GPI ranking and score, and rates of intentional injury of African countries  272
Table 22.1 Life expectancy at birth, 1970–80 and 1995–2005  299
Table 22.2 Infant mortality, 1970–80 and 1995–2005  299
Table 22.3 Coefficients of health status convergence  305

Figure I.1 The interaction of transformational factors during state building in pre-jihad
Hausaland  xxii
Figure 4.1 Boundaries of the Chewa kingdom  53
Figure 10.1 Shared responsibility in promoting adaptation through national and international
collaboration  124
Figure 11.1 Percentage distribution of households by number of environmental problems
perceived  138
Figure 12.1 Rainfall zones in Africa  147
Figure 12.2 Drought risk and vulnerability  148
Figure 12.3 World hydroelectric potential and hydropower production, 2004  149
Figure 16.1 SADC: Informal cross-border trade  202
Figure 19.1 Under-five mortality rates for Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa
as a whole  244
Figure 20.1 WHO typology of violence  261

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Abbreviations and acronyms

AEC African Economic Community

AISI African Information Society Initiative
ALR adult literacy rate
AMIS African Mission in Sudan
AMTA American Medical Team for Africa
APRM Africa Peer Review Mechanism
ART antiretroviral therapy
AU Africa Union
AUA African Union Authority
BOP Balance of Payments
BRIC Brazil, Russia, India and China
CADEC Catholic Development Community
CEO chief executive officer
COMESA Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa
CORN Community Organisation Regional Network
CR completion rate
DCS Department of Correctional Services (South Africa)
DDMC District Drought Management Committee (Zimbabwe)
DRC Democratic Republic of Congo
EAC East African Community
ECA (United Nations) Economic Commission for Africa
EPA Economic Partnership Agreement
EU European Union
FAC formerly abducted children
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization
FDI foreign direct investment
Frelimo Front for the Liberation of Mozambique
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GER gross enrolment rate/ration
GHS General Household Survey
GIIC Global Information Infrastructure Commission
GMB Grain Marketing Board (Zimbabwe)
GMM Generalised Method of Moment
GNP Gross National Product
GPI Global Peace Index
GUSCO Gulu Support the Children Organisation (Uganda)
GWP Global Water Partnership
HDI Human Development Index
HIV/AIDS human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency (or acquired immunodefi-
ciency) syndrome
HLWG High Level Working Group
IARC International Agricultural Research Centre
ICBT informal cross-border trade/trader/trading
ICT information and communication technologies

IDRC International Development Research Centre
IFAD International Fund for Agricultural Development
IFPRI International Food Policy Research Institute
ILO International Labour Organization
IMF International Monetary Fund
IPC International Poverty Centre
IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
ITU International Telecommunication Union
IUST informal urban street trade/trader/trading
IWRM Integrated Water Resource Management
KANU Kenya African National Union
LMICs low- and middle-income countries
LPA Lagos Plan of Action
LRA Lord’s Resistance Army (Uganda)
MCBT micro cross-border trade/trader/trading
MDG Millennium Development Goal
MHaPP Mental Health and Poverty Project
MHIS Mental Health Information System
MMR maternal mortality rate
MNC multinational corporation
NARC National Agricultural Research Centre
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NEPAD New Partnership for Africa’s Development
NER net enrolment rate
NGO non-governmental organisation
OAU Organisation of African Unity
OECD Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
PCR primary completion rate
PICTA Partnership for Information and Technology in Africa
PPPO public private partnership organisation
PTR pupil teacher ratio
PTSD post-traumatic stress disorder
REC Regional Economic Community
RMA Rand Monetary Area
SACU South African Custom’s Union
SADC Southern Africa Development Community
SAP structural adjustment programme
SES socio-economic status
SIDO small entrepreneur development organisation
SSA sub-Saharan Africa
STD sexually transmitted disease
STI sexually transmitted infection
TB tuberculosis
TLR total literacy rate
UN United Nations
UNAMID African Union/United Nations Hybrid operation in Dafur
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
USAID United States Agency for International Development
VAT value-added tax

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WAEMU West African Economic and Monetary Union
WHO World Health Organization
WIPO World Intellectual Property Organisation
WSSD World Summit on Sustainable Development
WTO World Trade Organization
ZRA Zambian Revenue Authority

xii |

There has always been some validity to the lamentation among emerging African scholars that their
views in debates on Africa’s issues and challenges are drowned out by the voices of scholars outside
of Africa, with their amplified and overly zealous diagnosis of and prescriptions on Africa’s problems
and issues. Many organisations, networks and individual researchers have been working over the years
to rectify this situation. The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) has now taken the initiative to
establish Africa in Focus, a series dedicated to serving as a platform from which African scholars at
home and in the diaspora can project and disseminate the outcomes of their research work on Africa.
Given their often well-anchored understanding of, and their relationships to, the age-old diversity
that characterises society, culture and people in Africa, emerging African scholars are well placed to
properly address Africa’s issues and challenges with dedicated scholarly commitment.

As one of its contributions to addressing the issues and challenges facing Africa in the twenty-first
century, the HSRC decided to assemble a group of scholars from all over the African continent and
the diaspora to examine a range of topics pertinent to the African state in the twenty-first century:
knowledge and transformation, environment and natural resources, economy and livelihoods in Africa,
public health and well-being, and Africa and the world. In the context of this varied range of topics,
the HSRC was particularly interested in bringing together political scientists to examine the normative
dimensions of democratic governance in Africa and the role of multilateral institutions such as the
African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the International Monetary Fund, the
United Nations and the World Bank. Combined with empirical research on Africa’s experiences of
democratisation and the challenges of knowledge governance on the continent, this makes the first
volume of Africa in Focus rich in both theory and empirical details. A diversity of disciplinary perspectives
informed the contributions in the various sections of the volume. These include contributions from
natural scientists in the areas of public health and well-being as well as in the area of environment
and natural resources. A series of workshops were arranged by the Democracy and Governance
Research Programme of the HSRC, where the project was hosted, to interrogate the abstracts; a few
were selected for development into full papers. This happened under the guidance of an advisory
committee constituted by distinguished African scholars. The external peer review of the contributions
and the time it took the authors to update the papers resulted in delays in publication. However, the
publication is still timely and is a valuable contribution to the store of knowledge about the African
continent, especially its challenges in the twenty-first century.

All contributors to this volume sought to interpret their topics based on both scholarly understanding
and theoretical and empirical research. Neither the introductory chapter by the editors nor the
perspectives presented in subsequent chapters represents the views of the HSRC and, as is the case in
all HSRC publications, editorial independence is respected and upheld as a matter of principle.

The success of this publication is in large measure due to the commitment and efforts of its editors as
well as the various support committees, especially the advisory committee which was established to
guide the publication of Africa in Focus. I would like to thank Dr Peter Kagwanja who we funded and
mandated to initiate the series. Professor Kwandiwe Kondlo and Dr Gerard Hagg took over after his
departure to finalise the publication. Tapping into collaborative networks was an important resource
in strengthening the contents of the publication. I therefore thank Professor Chinenyengozi Ejiogu of
the University of Maryland (US), who assisted Professor Kondlo in checking the final content details
and the coherence of the entire publication.

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It is hoped that Africa in Focus will serve as a mechanism for dialogue and public debate on developments
and issues affecting the continent, as well as engender the knowledge that public policy in Africa
needs in order to be more effective.

Rowan Phillips, reporting for the Sunday Times when I took over the helm of the HSRC in 2005, claimed
that I was ‘obsessed with Africa’s issues’ and that I planned to ‘turn the HSRC into an organisation
that invites others throughout Africa to ask and answer the key questions for the entire continent’.
This series of Africa in Focus, together with the African Research Fellowship Programme, the Social
Aspects of HIV/AIDS Research Alliance, as well as cooperative research agreements with the Council
for the Development of Social Research in Africa, is part of a systematic programme aiming to achieve
that objective.

Dr Olive Shisana
Chief Executive Officer, HSRC

xiv | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century


Louis Jeevanantham and Gerard Hagg

Africa in Focus 2011 is the premier issue of a new series being published by the Human Sciences Research
Council, aimed at giving emerging African scholars on the continent and in the diaspora a platform
from which they can make their voices heard in the academic and wider community. The series will
contribute to debates about Africa from an African perspective rather than through observations from
outsiders whose Africa commitment is suspect.

African voices are, in many instances, drowned out by the hegemonic forces permeating every aspect
of our African existence, from economic markets to knowledge production to cultural consumption.
Despite the attainment of political independence, Africa is largely in chains because the minds of
its diverse peoples are enslaved to thoughts that are inimical to the continent’s development and
progress. Outsiders are quick to arrogate the privilege to set the agenda of discourse on Africa’s issues
and challenges to themselves for selfish gains and advancements. By so doing, they circumscribe the
discourse time and time again to the utmost disadvantage of the continent and its peoples. The time is
therefore overdue for African scholars to step up to centre stage and use Africa in Focus to get involved
and reinvent Africa’s discourse.

Publishing in peer-reviewed journals is a major condition for participation in global discourses. However,
academia and the publishing world do not escape the debilitating influence of the dominant forces that
more often than not tend to silence dissenting voices through gatekeeping publishing opportunities.
Thus, what and who gets published are carefully screened through the lenses of ‘superior’ western
cultural forms. Those who are positioned outside the boundaries of collective western culture find it
extremely difficult to enter and are compelled to languish in their own cultural spaces that lack the
necessary platforms for the expression of their endogenous cultural experiences.

Western publications’ insistence on original research is fully justified not only politically but also in
its acceptance by leading African scholars, institutions and publications. However, original research
requires resources that are often out of the reach of most emerging African scholars on the continent
and in the diaspora. In an era when funding available for African scholars, universities and research
institutions is extremely limited, when national budgets for research and development in African
countries are often almost non-existent, when international grants for research that have always been
limited have become even more so sequel to the financial crash of 2007/08, every committed output
from African scholars at home and in the diaspora must not languish in oblivion.

Internationally, platforms for publication have decreased, mainly due to the high costs of printing and
distribution. In both Anglophone and Francophone Africa, opportunities for producing international
publications are extremely scarce. Emerging African scholars are faced with an increasing competitive
global environment, which discourages them from practising and excelling in their areas of endeavour.

Africa in Focus 2011 represents a collection of contributions by scholars from a variety of backgrounds.
They are strung together by the common thread of their ‘African-ness’. The process through which their
contributions became part of this premier volume in the series involved rigorous peer-review scrutiny,
which is vindicated by the high quality of presentation and arguments evident in each chapter. The

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variety of backgrounds reflects the range of academic disciplines and specialisations from which the
contributors are drawn.

The volume is divided into six thematic sections – the African state in the twenty-first century, knowledge
and transformation, environment and natural resources, economy and livelihoods, public health and
well-being, and Africa and the world. Each section encapsulates the different sectors in which the
continent and its peoples experience a set of issues and challenges. Each section is introduced by an
established scholar who sets the stage for the arguments raised by contributors in the chapters that
follow. This premier volume of Africa in Focus will no doubt chart the course of a much-needed phase
in the debate on the best way forward for Africa.

xvi | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century


Towards a ‘new’ consciousness about Africa’s

imperatives in the twenty-first century
Kwandiwe Kondlo and Chinenyengozi Ejiogu

Quite often we fall back on ‘a diagnosis of probability’ and in correlation propose ‘approximate
solutions’ (Fanon 1964: 4) to deal with the crises in Africa. In many instances, solutions prescribed for
the continent are like ‘cures that do not heal’ (Friedman 2005: 15), hence ‘old troubles’ (e.g. ethnic wars)
continue to bedevil the continent to this day. The solutions are like cures that do not heal when they are
premised on inexact diagnoses preoccupied with the ‘functioning’ of an element rather than with the
‘wholeness’ of the organ. The issue is not only about how bureaucracies work in Africa but about the
wholeness of the African condition, which requires a major shake-up if the continent ‘is to navigate the
twenty-first century more successfully than it did the twentieth century’ (Zaleza 2008: 1). The sources of
the problems facing Africa today go beyond the ‘other’, who in most cases is of European descent, back
to Africans themselves. A radically transformed vision of ‘ourselves and our capacities for changing our
lives and our objective conditions’ (Harding 1982: xiii) is key to the revitalisation of an African praxis of
transformative governance in order to make the twenty-first century an African century. ‘We must turn
over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts, and we must try to set afoot a new humanity’ (Fanon
1964: 255). But this cannot be done without a revitalised, people-centred liberatory consciousness
(not premised on elite leadership by African nationalists), and forms of knowledge consonant with
the vision of a transformed Africa to assert the claim to an African century. The imperatives of Africa
in the twenty-first century embody both challenges and prospects. The century is a ‘make or break’
one for Africa, for at the end of it the world may pronounce with a degree of certitude whether Africa’s
recuperative powers will ever dislodge the continent’s historically imposed predicament. Moeletsi
Mbeki infers a similar point, despite the rather pessimistic overtones, as he argues that ‘the world had
done just about everything it can to help Africa develop but there are few positive results to show
for its efforts. While Asia forges ahead in the development stakes Africa is marking time at best, and,
at worst, marching backwards’ (2009: 3). The help Africa has received from the world has never been
‘disinterested’; it has always related to the economic interests of western powers. There is a difference
between ‘help’ that comes out of compassion and is for purposes of coexistence and ‘help’ in order
to dominate, to contain, to mould and eventually to blunt original initiative by creating conditions of
perpetual dependence. The latter, from a nuanced examination of Africa’s history, is the kind of help
Africa has received from the world. But this does not mean Africa has made no contribution to the
‘main circumstances of her [sic] actuality’ (Said 2003: 11).

Walter Rodney summarises Africa’s predicament and argues that

… the question as to who, and what, is responsible for African underdevelopment can
be answered at two levels. Firstly, the answer is that the operation of the imperialist
system bears major responsibility for African economic retardation by draining African
wealth and by making it impossible to develop more rapidly the resources of the
continent. Secondly, one has to deal with those who manipulated the system and those
who are either agents or unwitting accomplices of the said system. (1982: xii)

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The second issue raised by Rodney is critical to Africa’s progress in the twenty-first century. This is a
century dominated by a knowledge-based economy; a return of the state into the arena of economic
development; growing private military corporations (mercenary firms) that profit from conflicts on the
continent (Uesseler 2008); the refashioning and strengthening of the nation-state under conditions of
globalisation; and the uncertain prospects of global peace due to the unrelenting unilateralism of the
United States in Afghanistan and Iraq, under the cloak of a global war on terror. James Martin, in his
book The Meaning of the 21st Century, argues that ‘the 21st century is a very critical century. If we get it
right, we have an extraordinary future. If we get it wrong, we face a disruption that will set humanity
back centuries’ (2007: 4). As the first decade of the twenty-first century closes, Africa is still unfit to deal
with these challenges. The weakness emanates first and foremost from a lack of critical consciousness,
a new awakening, among the masses of African peoples – a consciousness that insists on a people-
centred definition of the agenda of transformation.

The African state in the twenty-first century

The chapters that constitute Section 1 of this volume explore different but important subjects that
relate to the state, society and people in contemporary Africa. These are introduced in the section
introductory chapter by Kwandiwe Kondlo. In Chapter 2, Victor Adetula takes aim at the assumptions
and methods used most often in attempts to measure democracy and good governance in Africa,
while Alban Ahoure (Chapter 3) examines the subject of public expenditure and what the outcome
might be on the education system if there were good governance. Happy Mickson Kayuni (Chapter
4) devotes his attention to evolving attempts by the Chewa nationality in Malawi, Zambia and
Mozambique to navigate their existence, even as it is mediated by the exigencies of statehood in the
three contemporary African states.

The chapters in Section 1 beg the following question: if Africa has produced ‘failed states’ or ‘collapsed
states’ – that cannot guarantee democracy, good governance, and efficient public expenditure to
deliver social service goods to the peoples of Africa – in the post-independence period, what is the
reason for this? This question resonates in different forms throughout this volume, and for that reason
merits a multifaceted and comprehensive answer that focuses on state building and the democratic
transformation of the state in Africa. Evident in some of the arguments raised by Adetula in his chapter
is the fact that the existence of democracy and good governance in Africa is still debatable. Ahoure’s
chapter indicates that good governance is a necessary precondition for efficient public expenditure,
which in turn can lead to improved performances in the education system. Be it democracy, good
governance, efficiency in public expenditure or public service delivery, they all derive from properly
built states that earn legitimacy in the eyes of the people through effective governmental performance.
There are a number of other pertinent questions, related to the one above, that also need to be
addressed, even though they were not explicitly raised by contributors in the first and subsequent
sections in the volume. Two such questions are: has state building on the African continent been
completed? To what degree or extent has it been completed?

On the eve of Ghana’s political independence from British colonial rule in the late 1950s, Kwame
Nkrumah, who later became his country’s prime minister at independence in 1957, underscored the
importance to Africans of political awareness and the freedom to determine their own affairs when
he admonished: ‘Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all things shall be added unto you’ (Nkrumah
1957: 164 in Mazrui 1993: 105). In a related vein, judging by the issues raised by the authors of
Section 1 chapters, as well as the arguments that can be derived from those issues, it is not unrealistic
to infer that in an era when all of Africa, from Cape to Cairo, has freed itself from de facto colonial rule,
Nkrumah’s words still hold considerable relevance. This is because the African state, as the arena in

xviii | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

which all politics on the continent are played out, has become the proverbial monkey on the back of
Africa’s quest for political, economic and social progress. In the post-colonial era, the state in Africa
has held too tightly to its colonial antecedents to the detriment of such progress on the continent. We
must add here that, given the crucial role that the state plays and must play in the realms of politics,
the economy, etc. in society, it would not be out of context for us to echo Ali Mazrui, and enjoin
contemporary Africans in the same biblical terms invoked by Nkrumah to also proclaim, ‘Seek ye first
the economic kingdom – and all else will be added unto it’ (Mazrui 1993: 105).

The issues and arguments raised by Adetula, Ahoure and Kayuni are pertinent because they epitomise
crucial debates about some of the issues and challenges that face Africa in the twenty-first century,
such as incomplete state building and ineffective state transformation. We believe that both issues
pose debilitating obstacles to efficient delivery of public service goods to the people by the state
in most if not all of Africa. African scholars have postponed or deliberately ignored the debate on
incomplete state building on the continent for far too long. However, it is a debate worth raising
because it will address and possibly resolve the ‘Nationality Question’, which is prominently echoed by
Kayuni in Chapter 4 on Chewa identity revival in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. The non-resolution
of the ‘Nationality Question’ continues to feed political instability and poor governmental performance
in Africa. Perhaps its resolution will subvert the essence and logic of Africa’s post-colonial states, which
are for all intents and purposes mutations of their colonial predecessors – what Catherine Boone (1994)
aptly described as colonial projects.

Incomplete state building: The roots of political instability in Africa

The arbitrary manner in which European powers carved up the continent into colonial states produced
enduring negative implications that impact on interstate relations, the rights of nationalities within
the states they constitute and, of course, governance in contemporary African states. Apart from the
Chewa situation raised by Kayuni, another related implication of Europe’s arbitrary partition of Africa is
that the resultant colonial states, in all cases, were carved from existing indigenous states and polities
founded by Africa’s distinct nationalities. The deliberate disregard by European colonisers for those
African nationalities whose normatively democratic societal institutions they found incompatible with
the colonial projects they erected throughout the continent, was another factor which helped to create
negative consequences for governance in post-colonial contemporary Africa. The truth is that neither
de facto colonial rule nor its post-colonial sequel by indigenous men and women has successfully
consigned Africa’s distinct nationality groups and their socio-cultural institutions to history’s ash heaps.
In fact, in view of their persistence, there is no indication that Africa’s nationality groups will cease to
affect political developments in contemporary states with their distinct socio-cultural peculiarities.

Aristide Zolberg (1966, 1968) pointed out in the 1960s, when most of Africa emerged from colonial
rule, that indigenous Africa had survived colonialism almost intact. It has been more than four decades
since Zolberg observed that the ‘more or less disparate societies, each with a distinct political system,
and with widely different inter-social relationships’ that constitute Africa’s colonially created states, all
survived to a significant extent ‘everywhere…[with their] sets of values, norms and structures’, to exist
side by side in the same ‘territorial containers’ with the values, norms and institutional structures of
the colonial and post-colonial states (Zolberg 1968: 71). Contemporary African societies are therefore
‘syncretic’ arrangements of ‘two sets of values, norms, and structures, the “new” and the “residual”
with the latter itself usually subdivided into distinct sub-sets’ (Zolberg 1968: 71). Zolberg then argued
that it is therefore the ‘syncretic character of contemporary African societies [that] tends to be reflected
in every sphere of social activity, including the political’ (Zolberg 1968: 71). Another African scholar,
Osaghae, recently argued that the resilience of Africa’s nationalities is a mere function of the failure of
Africa’s post-colonial states ‘to respond satisfactorily’ (2003: 57) to their economic demands. Falola and

Introduction | xix
Ihonvbere (1985) and Badru (1998) have gone as far as to dismiss Africa’s distinct nationalities – even
in the light of their persistence – as relics of the past whose continued existence hinders the rise of a
viable bourgeois hegemony in the ‘social formation’ (Falola & Ihonvbere 1985: 234) in each of Africa’s
post-colonial societies.

The complexity that we must grapple with in Africa concerning the dysfunction that characterises
our contemporary states is considerable. Successful state building involves organic as opposed to
mechanical processes. Over time, every society or social unit, through the activities of its members,
evolves some specifically ‘political traits: …internal authority relations’ (Eckstein 1969: 277) or patterns
in its non-governmental or segmental institutions that play proximate roles in its governance. Those
internal authority relations derive from a set of societal authority patterns consisting of indicators of
‘influence relations’ and four dimensions of those influence relations – directiveness, participation,
responsiveness, and compliance – as well as some bases of legitimacy perception that underscore the
interactive relationship between leaders and people in the course of directing the affairs of society and
its members. Democratic authority patterns constitute the foundation upon which durable democratic
governance that protects life and limb and delivers equitable public service goods to the citizenry is
anchored. In any society where state building is successful, the authority patterns of the polity – that
is, the state and its governing units – must mirror societal patterns of authority. The dimensions of
influence relations evolved by a society can configure in ways that engender the practice of authority
therein in a manner that allows, on the one hand, extensive participation by individuals and groups
in the direction of the affairs of society and, on the other, mandatory responsiveness on the part
of leaders. Conversely, authority patterns in society can also configure in ways that dispense with
leadership responsiveness and impede participation of members of society in the direction of the
affairs of society. The former scenario denotes democracy while the latter denotes autocracy.

Colonialism deliberately fashioned authority patterns with autocratic dimensions in the colonial states
that it built on the continent. Given that prior to colonial conquest, some of Africa’s nationalities
evolved authority patterns with democratic dimensions in their respective indigenous societies,
colonial states and their post-colonial mutants emerged carrying with them legacies of unresolved state
building on the continent. Colonial rule was quick to strike alliances with ruling classes in nationalities
where indigenous state building fashioned authority patterns that enabled the institutionalisation
of autocracy in society in most if not all of Africa. The political instability and the abysmally poor
governmental performance evident in most of Africa are indicators of the lack of consonance and
congruence within and between the authority patterns in African states and the societal authority
patterns in the nationalities that constitute them. Europe’s colonial intervention made this clash of
authority patterns a constant factor in African politics. Africa must acknowledge and accommodate the
internal variations that characterise its distinct nationality groups, which have shown no signs of going
away. Without doing so, the ‘nationality question’, which also contributes to incomplete state building
in Africa, will remain unresolved. On a culturally diverse continent, Africa’s post-colonial states are
supranational, unitary and therefore inherently unsuitable for democratic governance. There is every
need, therefore, to embark on a thorough debate that will address the question of incomplete state
building in Africa. The authors of the chapters in Section 1 of this volume may have raised arguments
that will initiate that debate.

Colonial legacies versus Africa’s structures and desires

In his critique of the Eurocentric criteria used by western institutions in promoting democratic
transformation on the continent, and the measures of democracy and good governance that are
currently employed, Adetula (Chapter 2) argues in general terms that Africa has a heritage of transparent

xx | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

and accountable governance to respond to the sweeping assertion made by Chabal and Daloz that
paints all traditional African institutions as ‘anti-democratic and anti-developmental’ (1999: 95).

By no means is Adetula implying that his assertion obtains in all African cases. Of course, clear cases
abound on the continent in which autocratic societal authority patterns hold progress and development
hostage in specific African countries. In most cases, colonial powers were quick to ally themselves
with African nationalities in which autocracy was normative in the practice of authority, and even
relinquished power to their elites before departure at independence. The Hausa-Fulani in Nigeria is
a glaring example of an African nationality whose autocratic societal authority patterns constitute
obstacles to democratic progress; yet the British colonisers conferred political power in Nigeria upon
their conservative elite class during the waning years of colonialism and subsequently ensured that its
members held on to that power and control of the state at independence.

We must expatiate more on Nigeria here, since it has been mentioned as a typical case where traditional
institutions pose obstacles to progress and democratic transformation. What emerged by colonial fiat
as present-day Nigeria is composed of distinct nationalities that settled various parts of the Niger basin.
The Igbo, who inhabit parts of the lower south-east basin; the Yoruba, who inhabit parts of its lower
south-west; and the Hausa-Fulani, who inhabit parts of the upper Niger basin, are the more populous
of the nationalities that the British carved into Nigeria. A series of political events took place over a
period of time that helped to transform Hausaland and other parts of the upper Niger into the bastion
of centralised rule that it became in the waning years of the nineteenth century when the British
arrived on the scene.

Long before the Fulani jihad, the Hausa witnessed the gradual evolution of centralised autocracy
championed by fellow Hausa people, which obliterated their distinctively indigenous and democratic
political system. The political developments that robbed the Hausa of this system were initiated in the
thirteenth century when some Hausa groups began to evolve leaderships that acquired state-building
inclinations (Smith 1964). With time, the ambitious leaders of those groups were able to found and
transform seven city states in Hausaland. They even transformed themselves into all-powerful despotic
rulers of their own people, whom they made subjects. They assumed the title of Sarki or king. Later still,
those same ambitious leaders founded an additional seven states and made them the vassals of their
seven independent states (Lugard 1907/1997: 238).

Hausa society under the Sarki rulers was highly stratified into rulers and their commoner subjects who
were called the talakawa (Smith 1971). The rulers routinely expropriated surplus values from their
subjects, with which they kept and maintained extensive courts in their respective capitals. With the
surplus resources that they realised from their subjects, they were able to raise and maintain well-
equipped standing armies with which they protected themselves and their autocratic political system
in Hausa society (Yeld 1960). They utilised those armies to attend to the business of state building:
extending the frontiers of their domains and extracting more resources with which they sustained
themselves and their states. As Figure I1 shows, there were ‘close linkages between the success of
a chiefdom in war, its prosperity and degree of centralization, royal absolutism and tendency to
oppression’ (Smith 1964: 170) in pre-jihad Hausaland.

The transformation of society and politics in Hausaland by the Habe rulers encompassed the four
elements of state building through war as suggested by Charles Tilly (1985, 1990) with regard to early
modern Europe. The ruling groups in pre-jihad Hausaland made wars and used wars to neutralise their
rivals and pave the way to extract the resources with which they augmented their capacity to execute
the first three activities, that is, war making, state making and protection (Tilly 1985).

Introduction | xxi
Figure I.1 The interaction of transformational factors during state building in pre-jihad Hausaland

Prosperity of chiefdoms

Degree of centralisation SUCCESSFUL WAR MAKING Royal absolutism


Increased oppression of subject peoples

Source: Author’s conceptualisation

Then began the jihad, which the Fulani embarked on in 1803 and utilised to defeat and conquer
the despotic rulers of Hausaland. Following that conquest, the Fulani and the Hausa became one
nationality, the Hausa-Fulani, and co-opted their despotic ruling classes as rulers of the Caliphate
Empire which emerged through the jihad in the upper Niger and beyond. The jihad was halted by
British colonial conquest when Frederick Lugard defeated the last of the Caliphate army in 1904 and
declared the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria over Hausaland and the rest of the upper Niger basin.

Single-handedly, in the period 1900–06, Frederick Lugard, one of imperial Britain’s most successful
empire builders in Africa, began to construct in the upper Niger part of what became Nigeria (Afigbo
1965). Lugard formulated undemocratic authority patterns and influence relations resembling those
that the Fulani had put in place and used to administer their Caliphate Empire. He subsequently made
them the foundation of the regime he instituted and relied on to project British colonial authority all
over the Niger basin after he used the amalgamation of the Protectorates of Northern and Southern
Nigeria and founded the entity called Nigeria in January 1914 (Hubbard 2000; Perham 1968). It is
not surprising that Lugard recognised almost immediately that the authority patterns and influence
relations in the Fulani-ruled Caliphate Empire contained almost all the autocratic traits that he needed
to build an imperial outpost in the Niger basin for Britain. The alliance that he entered into with the
Hausa-Fulani rulers after his forces defeated the last of the Caliphate’s army on the plains outside the
city of Sokoto in 1904 became a factor that played a crucial role in the evolution of the colonial state
called Nigeria. The same alliance has influenced the course of politics in Nigeria ever since the end of
de facto colonial rule in 1960. It was an alliance that derived from the logic of the congruence between
Hausa-Fulani authority patterns and the authority patterns of the Nigerian colonial state. It was on its
strength that the British manipulated Nigeria’s first national census in 1951 to pave the way for the
1959 national elections that they rigged and relied on to relinquish power to the Hausa-Fulani rulers at
independence in 1960. The hegemony that the Hausa-Fulani have over the control of political power
in post-colonial Nigeria and their imposition of de facto political authority over other nationalities in
the country still hinder progressive political and economic development in Nigeria.

What this demonstrates is that many African states continue to live with the indelible marks of
colonialism into the twenty-first century. Furthermore, it demonstrates the resilience of the internal
variations that exist in each of Africa’s diverse nationalities, as well as the large extent to which those
variations impact the course of politics for both good and bad in contemporary Africa.

Democratic transformation and economic development

Another important issue raised in Adetula’s piece concerns the interactive relationship between the
economy and politics vis-à-vis democratic transformation in Africa. This issue is worthy of serious

xxii | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

attention because the relationship between democratic transformation and economic development has
for a long time been the subject of great interest to West European and North American scholars, pundits
and policy-makers who focus their attention on Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is therefore heartening
to note that the issue is scrutinised in this premier volume of Africa in Focus. What use is democratic
transformation on the continent if it does not ameliorate the problem of economic underdevelopment?
This is a puzzle that underpins the discourse on democracy and good governance.

Seymour Martin Lipset’s (1959, 1960) treatises on the subject claimed that economic development is a
necessary condition for the sustenance of democracy in the wealthy industrialised societies of Western
Europe and North America. A substantial number of other Euro-American scholars, writers and even
policy-makers have ever since continued in their bid to either use Lipset’s ideas as the premise, or to
extrapolate from them, in order to weigh in on the subject with specific regard to Latin America, Asia
and Africa. Lipset, his followers and those who concur with them are adherents of the modernisation
theory school of thought. Although their arguments derive from Aristotle’s ‘theory of class balance and
the majority middle class’, which Ronald Glassman described as the ‘theory of democratic transition’
(1995: 4). The sum of Aristotle’s proposition is that ‘where democracies have no middle class, and
the poor are greatly superior in number, trouble ensues, and they are speedily ruined’ (Aristotle in
Glassman 1995: 26). Aristotle’s rationale, according to Glassman, is that, ‘Trouble would ensue because
the poor, having no property and little education, would not be “reasonable”, or follow the rule of
law, but tend to follow a tyrannical leader who would give them immediate economic relief’ (1995:
27). However, Lipset and other scholars who subscribe to the tenets of the modernisation school of
thought and apply them to their country case studies are motivated by a conservative ideology.

There is a need here to put the interactive relationship between democratic transformation and the
economy in its historical context. The position that democracy has economic origins (Acemogu &
Robinson 2005) that are tied strongly to the existence of the middle class, whose presence constitutes
an indispensable precondition for the take off and sustenance of democracy in society, is associated
with the Cold War ideological mindset that underpinned American foreign policy, which was used
at the time to provide ‘support for selected dictators across Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and
Asia…[based on] the conviction that democracy in poor countries breeds economic stagnation and
civil unrest’ (Halperin et al. 2005: 1). Proponents of this conviction assert that democracy can take hold
and grow in societies that have a well-educated and urban-residing middle class which can prevent
the rise of opportunistic politicians who will deceive and ride to power on the votes of ignorant masses
and feather their nests at the expense of economic development. For proponents of this conviction,
the antidote for the rise of such opportunistic political actors who would capture power by means
of electoral deceit and mutate into demagogue, is an autocratic system of governance which, the
former claim, is well suited for the efficient management of scarce and much needed resources in poor
countries for the best developmental outcome. The crux of this claim, therefore, is that

… only authoritarian governments can match resources to the urgent tasks besetting
them of increasing savings and investing them in public works like highways and dams,
building up a disciplined military, enforcing the rule of law, and creating a functional
educational system. (Halperin et al. 2005: 3–4)

According to Halperin et al., ‘the disciples of Lipset argue…[that] while democracy is a desirable goal,
it is one that can best be achieved after a sequence of economic development and social maturation
occurs. Democracy should be seen as the crowning achievement of a long process of modernization’
(2005: 3). One such disciple, the late Samuel Huntington, used his book Political Order in Changing
Societies (1968), which is still well regarded in conservative circles, to, amongst other things, praise
and recommend single-party states ‘backed by the military…as unifying institutions…for low-income

Introduction | xxiii
countries’ (in Halperin et al. 2005: 4). However, unlike Lipset and others, Huntington did not go as far as
postulating that autocracy would mutate into democracy in poor countries after preparing the stage
by ushering in economic development.

Even the World Bank subscribed to and supported this orthodoxy propounded by Lipset and his
adherents in a report that it released in 1993 entitled The East Asian Miracle: Economic Growth and Public
Policy. In a report, the Asian Development Bank subscribed to the same orthodoxy and adds:

…whereas democracies have been slow in grappling with poverty, the authoritarian
regimes in the miracle economies achieved spectacular success…In a democracy with
a thriving civil society, the process of policy consultation, adoption, and execution
is much more time-consuming and involves many more procedural formalities than
under an authoritarian regime. (Quibria 2002 in Halperin et al. 2005: 5)

Fareed Zakaria, one of Huntington’s former graduate students, repostulated this conservative mantra
in his The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad (2003), where he observed, inter
alia, that: ‘when countries become democratic at low levels of development their democracy usually
dies’ (in The Pew Research Center 2009: 2).

What, then, can we make of this orthodox proposition by Lipset and those who subscribe to it? If
Lipset and supporters of his position have their way, Africa will be condemned to wait indefinitely for
the dawn of democratic transformation only after the day when it is economically ripe for it! But when
you come to think of it, the situation in most of Africa on the orientation of the middle class towards
democratic transformation might be similar to what prevails in China, where a recent study by Chen
and Lu (2007) found a low level of support for democratic reforms by the Chinese middle class. The
authors interpret this as the function of ‘the convergence of interests and values of the middle class
with the current [Chinese] regime (i.e., diffuse support for regime), and the middle class’s lack of desire
for any major political change’ (Chen & Lu 2007: 21).

However, there is also cause for cheer, particularly because there are scholars who have argued that
democratic transformation is certainly not a doomed project in Africa, Asia and Latin America. One
such scholar is Larry Diamond, who points out that: ‘Over the past three decades, an unprecedented
number of very poor countries have embraced democratic forms of government’ (in The Pew Research
Center 2009: 2). Diamond is quite right. Support for democracy is neither a function of wealth, nor is
it restricted to the middle class. The Pew Research Center confirmed this when it disclosed that its
‘Global Attitudes Project has consistently found widespread support for democracy across regions
and countries, regardless of a nation’s wealth, [even though] when compared with their poorer fellow
citizens, members of the global middle class tend to express a somewhat more intense desire for
democracy’ (2009: 3). This finding is true about South Africa (the only sub-Saharan African country
included in the Pew Project in 2009), as it also is about Egypt and India.

In the same Pew project, almost equal percentages of middle- (41 per cent) and low-income (40 per
cent) South Africans rated democracy and a strong economy as being important to them.

The linkage between regime type and economic growth is another issue which is drawn into the
democracy transformation debate. Some quantitative studies that rely on regression analysis have come
up with findings that can at best be called mixed on the impact of regime types in Africa, Asia and Latin
America on economic growth. An assessment of one such study by Adam Przeworski and Fernando
Limongi (1993), which examined 21 cases, revealed that the outcome of the study was inconclusive
because eight cases respectively indicated that democracy and autocracy favoured economic growth,

xxiv | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

while the remaining five cases fell flat on both indicators. Even the authors of the study concluded
that there is no relationship between economic growth and regime type. In another study, Shashvat
Saurabhi asserts that a ‘closer look at the regression coefficients of [his] dummies…reveal[s] that a free
country has a better economic growth than countries which are partly free and much better than the
not free status countries’ (2006: 9). Furthermore, according to Saurabhi:

R. C. Kormendi and P. G. Meguire (1985) [who studied a group of 47 countries] found

that countries in the high civil liberty category experience about 1% greater annual
economic growth. Similarly, K. B. Grier and G. Tullock (1989) conclude that repressive…
[countries]…in Africa and the Americas have about a 1.5 percentage [negative]
point lower annual growth rate than do other countries included in their study. R. J.
Barro’s (1989) results for a sample of 98 countries also indicate that political rights are
associated with lower per capita growth. (2006: 9)

Yet, although Saurabhi acknowledged that he ‘found some support for the view that political instability
directly hampers economic growth in Africa and Latin America but not in Asia’, results from his own
regression analysis still ‘show that autocracy in Africa, bureaucracy in Asia fosters[sic] economic growth
significantly’ (2006: 13).

Everywhere and throughout recorded history, political instability and the violence that accompanies
it are not conducive for economic growth. Ted Gurr underscored this assertion when he observed that
political violence often destroys men and property, and is ‘corrosive of political institutions’ (1970: 10).
We all know that autocratic regimes in Africa and elsewhere are prone to all sorts of instability (Halperin
et al. 2005). Objective persons who are knowledgeable about Africa and African affairs would be
conversant with the political instability that characterises Africa’s autocratic regimes and the misery
that it afflicts on people and society on the continent. No one would correctly call what obtained in
Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco and Malawi (which Saurabhi included in his case study as autocracies) at any
time in their respective histories as durable economic growth. The human misery associated with the
economic collapse in all four countries since the 1980s is enormous. The serious deficiencies inherent
in those regression studies may have been why Halperin et al. argue that the evidence they produce is
quite weak, given that: ‘Not only can poor countries democratize, poor democracies can [also] develop
quite effectively’ (Halperin et al. 2005: 10). Adam Przeworski and his colleagues were unequivocal
when they argued that: ‘There was never any solid evidence that democracies were somewhat inferior
in generating [economic] growth – certainly not enough to justify supporting or even condoning
dictatorships’ (Przeworski et al. 2000 in Halperin et al. 2005: 10). A logical sequel to the argument by
Przeworski et al. is to urge scholars and policy-makers who believe otherwise – especially if they are
from West European and North American democracies – to consider persuading their own societies
to renounce democratic systems of governance and to embrace autocracy. In the event that they
succeed, their success will, indeed, help furnish them with the typical real-life laboratories that they
would use to prove or disprove their hypothetical orthodoxy that autocracy and dictatorship inspire
the growth they associate them with in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The objective peculiarity about
such real-life laboratories is that they would be represented by North American and West European
societies instead of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Indeed, there is no rational basis for advocates and
activists of democratic transformation and good governance in Africa to relent an iota in their efforts
to counter and condemn the fallacy peddled by advocates of this conservative orthodoxy.

Happy Kayuni’s contribution (Chapter 4) sustains the breath-of-fresh-air trend evident in Adetula’s
in that it lays bare his arguments against grafting the tenets of the Westphalian state system onto
Africa, despite the model’s known shortfalls. As crucial as the Treaty of Westphalia was to political
development in early modern Europe, in the main it gave rise to a state-based system that linked

Introduction | xxv
Europe’s nation-states in international relations. Actually, it was wars and war making that played
landmark roles in state building and transformation in Europe in the early modern era (Kiser & Linton
2001). Europe’s princes and kings relied on wars to extract much needed resources that they utilised
to build their states. They then utilised their states to make more wars and extract even more resources
that went into transforming those states into all the realms of their societies. ‘War was therefore the
agency through which European state builders extracted the resources they used to run state affairs
including the prosecution of more wars’ (Ejiogu 2007: 5). Charles Tilly (1975, 1990) captured the
processes that accompanied that symbiotic interaction between war making and state building in
early modern Europe when he asserted that wars made states and states made wars. According to Tilly
(1985), state builders in Europe at the time embarked on
• War making: eliminating or neutralising their rivals outside the territories in which they had clear
and continuous priority as wielders of force.
• State making: eliminating or neutralising their rivals inside those territories.
• Protection: eliminating or neutralising their enemies for their clients.
• Extraction: acquiring the means of carrying out the above three activities.

It got to the point when Europe’s subject peoples, who bore the brunt of the ceaseless extraction
of resources following the extensive war making, asserted themselves by refusing to pay tributes
and levies to their princes and kings. The outcome of their resistance was the institutionalisation of
citizenship within the ambit of Europe’s states. Citizenship codified a set of rights that people began
to claim as individuals in Europe’s states, as well as a set of their obligations to the state. Thenceforth,
they could willingly pay taxes to the state as citizens, and the state could no longer ride roughshod
over them as used to be the case when they were subjects. This process never occurred in Africa, where
states were imposed instead by colonial conquest. Any wonder then that the relationship between
state and individual in Africa is such that the former takes the liberty of riding roughshod over the
latter? Citizenship in Africa is imagined and bogus as opposed to being natural and institutionalised.

Yet, in spite of the Treaty of Westphalia, Europe’s states would not desist from making wars beyond
their national boundaries to feed their avaricious quest for extractable resources to supply state
revenue. Those wars in Europe provoked other major historical events that resonated in Africa over
subsequent centuries, with serious implications for the lives of Africans and their affairs. One such
event is the economic crisis that the wars helped to generate when continental Europe ran out of land
that its war-making states could conquer and acquire by ‘the use of illegal violence’ (Wallerstein 1974:
6–7). Portugal, which Wallerstein says pioneered the European foray into other lands, including Africa,
was compelled by that crisis to lead other states in Europe in the quest to acquire territories outside of
Europe. Europe’s trade foray into Africa, which was pioneered by Portugal in the middle of the fifteenth
century, later acquired imperial undertones and a life of its own. Subsequently, this all culminated in
the scramble for and partition of Africa and de facto colonialism, which in turn led to the construction
of colonial states and colonial rule on the continent.

In essence, Westphalia put a cap on wanton inter-border brigandage among Europe’s states, almost
all of which reflect nationality lines. Except in rare cases, of which Switzerland is a good example, state
building in Europe adhered to John Stuart Mills’ prescription, which stipulates that ‘the boundaries of
governments should coincide in the main with those of nationalities’ (in Marx 1998: 4 and Katznelson
1996: 119). Westphalia was therefore an instrument that compelled Europe’s nation-states to recognise
and respect each other’s sovereignty. But its paradox was that Europe elected to disregard Westphalia,
preferring to disrespect the sovereignty of Africans and their states during and after the scramble for
and partition of the continent.

xxvi | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Europe’s disregard for the sovereignty of pre-colonial African states was evident when it imposed its
state model on Africa (Tilly 1990) without giving a thought to the mantra that state boundaries should
reflect those of nationality. African states cannot in their contemporary mould be called nation-states
as they comprise an amalgam of erstwhile politically independent groups, many of which ‘are both
potential and incipient nations’ (Coleman 1958: 423).

There are two additional points worth mentioning about the Westphalian model and Africa. The
designation of Africa’s nationalities as ‘ethnic’ groups derives from the Westphalian state model. One
wonders why Kayuni, who is critical of the model’s graft onto Africa, sounds uncritical about that
designation in his argument. Close scrutiny of Mark Bessinger’s (2007: 74) definition of ethnicity ‘as self-
ascribed membership in a collectivity that claims memories of a shared past and a cultural boundary
separating it from others…[where those] cultural boundaries typically are based on such differences
as language, religion, race, caste, way of life, or region of residence’ reveals that it applies more to
societies such as the United States, Canada, Australia and, to some extent, Britain than to Africa. It
applies more to the former three countries, particularly because of the immigrant origin of all but the
tiny indigenous groups that constitute them. Britain is in the same category with the United States,
Canada and Australia because members of all of its immigrant groups belong to the fold of British
citizenry in their respective individual capacities rather than in the capacities of their respective groups.
The implication is that in all four cases mentioned above, none of the immigrant groups involved can
make claims on any of these four states on the basis of their natural attachment to a homeland. More
than all other reasons, not being naturally rooted to America was probably why the demand made on
the United States by the black nationalist and militant Black Panther Party during the heyday of the
Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, for a part of the American south – Mississippi and Alabama – to
be ceded as homeland to the descendants of slaves, could not endure. But unlike Europe’s immigrant
groups, all of Africa’s diverse nationality groups are naturally rooted to a homeland in every case.
Moreover, because Africa’s nationalities possess all the ‘strongest cultural basis for nationhood at the
highest level and on the largest scale of all traditional groupings’ (Coleman 1958: 423), they have what
constitutes the necessary and sufficient legitimate bases to make claims as distinct entities on the
state in each African case. From the anthropological perspective therefore, colonialism’s graft of the
Westphalian model onto Africa is utterly baseless.

The other point worth making in this context is that even in Europe, Westphalia has not been sacrosanct.
There have been instances when state-centred events in Europe unfolded in total disregard of aspects
of what was codified by Westphalia: the French Revolution unfurled the banner of Republicanism in
state craft and threatened the status quo in Europe to a degree that further opened the boundaries
of participation in governance by the people and leadership responsiveness. The Russian Revolution
gave rise to the Soviet Union, a supranational state in the heartland of Eastern Europe. Moreover, the
Soviet Union’s allied participation in World War II against Nazi Germany encouraged the rise of Soviet-
backed supranational states in Eastern Europe and the Caucuses. Subsequently, the pan-European
world encouraged the dissolution of all those Soviet-backed supranational states, including the Soviet
Union, after the collapse of Soviet communism. All these issues speak to the unresolved question of
state building on the African continent, where the state, irrespective of its de facto status as a warped
legacy of colonialism, continues to enjoy recognition as a sovereign in international relations – this is
still the case despite the fact that in many instances the state in Africa is not perceived as legitimate by
some of the nationalities that were made to constitute it by European colonial fiat.

Alban Ahoure’s contribution (Chapter 3) is further proof that Africa must not continue along a path of
either a misconceived democratic agenda or a crippled transformative ‘praxis’. If efficient delivery of
public service goods is to obtain in Africa, there is no alternative to building complete states in which
vigorous participation by the people and leadership responsiveness are normative hallmarks of politics.

Introduction | xxvii
When people participate in the direction of their affairs, and there is leadership responsiveness, the
outcome is often good governance, which is necessary for efficiency in public spending, which can in
turn achieve targeted social policy goals in society.

Knowledge and transformation

The transposition of modes of consciousness into popular claims for reciprocity and dialogic governance
cannot be discussed in isolation from the regimes of knowledge and knowledge production in Africa.
The contributions in Section 2 of this volume deal with ideational configurations necessary in order to
transcend the limitations of the past without repudiating it. In Chapter 7, Pearl Sithole focuses on issues of
intellectual production in South Africa. She demonstrates how ideological exclusion occurs in knowledge
production to a point where knowledge production continues to be radicalised and gendered. In other
words, the knowledge regime reproduces itself as it reproduces conditions suitable for its continuing
existence. According to Sithole, this occurs behind the anonymity of peer reviewing. The key issue
explored in her chapter is the qualitative ideological scrutiny of historical attributes and power struggles
within knowledge production. Sarah Chiumbu (Chapter 6) takes the argument to another level when
she examines the roles of donors and local elites in Africa in the development of African information and
communication policies. She exposes and problematises the dynamic interaction between donors and
policy elites in governments. The promotion of dominant information and communication technology
(ICT) discourses, largely from the west, has inadvertently become a job of African policy elites who
depend on donor funding for their projects. As a result of this relationship between donors and policy
elites, hegemony and ‘constructed consent’ have become key channels in the colonisation of mental
and intellectual spaces on the African continent. Chiumbu also argues that the African ICT agenda can
be rethought so that it is authentic to African people. In Chapter 8, Maurice Vambe provides an empirical
dimension to the issues of knowledge and consciousness raised in Section 2. He examines how non-
western knowledges (indigenous knowledges) could be used to enhance African people’s quest for
self-reliance. His chapter uses empirical data from communal food production initiatives in Zimbabwe.
What Vambe’s chapter demonstrates, and also throws up as a challenge to Africa in this century, is that
democracy in Africa will only succeed when men and women on this continent start doing things for
themselves – with the help of friends, neighbours, communities, family and other relatives – instead
of depending on the interventions of the state. Self-reliant communities are the building blocks of
democracy; this is what is lacking on the African continent.

The foundational predicament of the post-colonial African state continues to affect the present and
thereby circumscribes the hopes and aspirations pinned on democracy by people of the African
continent. This issue is being raised again, deliberately, for reflection. Of course, it is a position which
smacks of ‘foundationalism’, which Benhabib describes as ‘the pre-occupation with the originary or the
foundational political act; a fascination with the paradoxes and aporias of the foundational moment’
(2006: 132). This raises the question of the extent to which the conjuncture of circumstances in which
the African state was born should matter in an analysis of current dilemmas and hopes. One view is
that the predicaments and possibilities of the African state cannot always be explained through
reference backwards. Kapstein and Converse’s (2008: xv) argument that ‘history is not always destiny’
may be used to reinforce this position. Their argument is premised on the fact that the influence of
the character a state acquires may go a long way towards changing the awkward circumstances of the
foundational moment. In other words, circumstances may not always determine character but character
may influence and change circumstances. Kapstein and Converse (2008) therefore invoke the notion of
political agency, which infers that the choice that actors make, the institutional and policy choices and
the type of democracy they establish, matter greatly to the chances of forging durable regimes.

xxviii | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Be that as it may, in the final analysis, no future can exclude the past, except under the deceptiveness of
political theory. As Michael Pickering puts it, the challenge is ‘to combine close attention to the present
with historical awareness’ (1997: 29). The ‘complexity of the historical process’ out of which political
‘development’ took place, when individual ‘nation-states’ in Africa became independent (Kaarsholm
2006: 8), is a premiss which cannot be ignored for it carries both ‘determinate’ and ‘indicative’ force in
the analysis of the possibilities of today’s African state. The historical dimension unearths the complex
constructions and conjunctures of Africa’s political economies, the patterns of Africa’s insertion in
the global system, particularly ‘the savage terms’ (Saul 2005: 6) of the continent’s incorporation in
the global economy (Saul 2005; Zaleza 2008). Reflecting on the causes and costs of war in Africa, Paul
Zaleza makes the point that ‘there is hardly any zone of conflict in contemporary Africa that cannot
trace its sordid violence to colonial history and even the late nineteenth century’ (2008: 1). Quoting
Neils Kastfelt (2005), Zaleza explains, ‘the region from southern Sudan through northern Uganda to
Rwanda, Burundi and Congo – now the scene of brutal civil wars and genocide – has a long history
of colonial violence in the form of slave trading, slave labour, plantation labour, plantation terror and
a violent gun culture which all have to be taken into account when explaining the contemporary
situation’ (2008: 2) on the African continent. As the African state, the central force in the fashioning
of Africa’s future, finishes the first decade of the twenty-first century, it is still saddled by a history of
striving and strife, but now also faces ‘a present’ in which new arenas and theatres of oppression and
subjugation have emerged. The changed character of imperialism transposes its colonial power to the
realm of moral and spiritual spaces, something which infers ‘the colonization of the future and being’
of historical subjects (Sadar 1998: 13). The point is: the African state was born under siege and will
continue to be under siege until it chooses to play the game differently and on its own terms.

At the centre of the crisis is the African middle class, especially the political leadership and ‘state elites’
of independent African states. Fanon’s prophesy has endured the test of time. He indicated long ago
that the black elite (whom he called the national bourgeoisie) in charge of the state in Africa would be
incapable ‘of extending its vision of the world sufficiently’ since it is ‘strung up to defend its immediate
interests, and sees no farther than the end of its nose’ (Fanon 1964: 128). Today, the continent faces
numerous conflicts and crises of governance. In countries like Zimbabwe and Kenya, democracy seems
to have reached a cul-de-sac as the contestation between competing elite factions and political parties
struggles to broker democratic peace. In Uganda, Eritrea and Ethiopia, difficulties in sorting out political
competition have also generated views and impressions of political crisis, whereas in Sudan and the
Congo, ‘civil war and challenges to the legitimacy of the central national government’ are growing
into a near-permanent feature of political life (Kaarsholm 2006: 2; Nzongolo-Ntalaja 1999). In Nigeria,
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia, the authority of national government is weakened by sub-national
forms of mobilisation and contestations. The situation in Angola also has little to emulate in terms of
democratic state formation and nation building. A ‘macho’ political culture dominates the polity and
seems to be the one holding the state. This is contrary to the broad, open and inclusive participatory
democracy of the neoliberal canon.

But Zaleza argues that all these inadequacies combined do not attest to a particularly wretched
condition peculiar to Africa:

The distortions that mar discussions and depictions of African conflicts are rooted in
[a] longstanding tendency to treat African social phenomenon as pathological, beyond
the pale of humanity, let alone rational explanation. Yet from a historical and global
perspective, Africa has been no more prone to violent conflicts than other regions.
(2008: 1)

Friedrich Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols puts an interesting spin to the universal phenomenon of
conflict and war when he says, ‘war has always been the great policy of all spirits who have penetrated

Introduction | xxix
too far into themselves or who have grown too deep; a wound stimulates the recuperative powers’
(Nietzsche 2007: 3). The question is whether on the African continent the wounds inflicted by the many
conflicts and wars will eventually stimulate ‘recuperative powers’ to make the twenty-first century an
African century.

Environment and natural resources

Section 3 of the volume contains contributions in which the authors address subjects that echo the
observation made earlier that Africans must step up to the plate and remake their states in every sense
of the word and render them fit for confronting the challenges that face the continent in the current
century. In Chapter 10, Ernest Molua examines some of the adaptation measures and policy-induced
risk management options that are being implemented in parts of the continent to mitigate the impact
of climate change on African agriculture. Sithabiso Gandure (Chapter 13) provides insight into ways that
a community in contemporary Zimbabwe grapples with the risks posed by climate change. Mike Muller
(Chapter 12) explores the political and practical challenges of designing and implementing an African
water resource management agenda, while in Chapter 11, Barbara Anderson and colleagues report the
findings from a study they conducted to ascertain environmental consciousness in South Africa.

In the course of the last couple of decades, the ubiquitous rise in aggressive claims in the international
scene for a central role in global affairs by some non-state actors – of which the Al Qaida is the most
prominent – has not sounded the death knell for the state everywhere in global and domestic affairs. For
better or for worse, even though they have become more and more willing to share roles and views with
non-state actors on global and intra-national issues and challenges, states are still relevant in the lives of
their citizens and individuals who reside within their borders. States are still, and will remain, the engines
that drive things in society. At a time of evident climate change and the need for proper management
of Africa’s natural resources, the environment and healthcare issues continue to pose serious challenges
to Africa’s states. Everywhere, states have been known to acquire much needed social power when
they confront, address and solve problems that afflict society. African states cannot be exceptions in
this regard. The extensive public works projects that delivered underground piped water and waste
treatment facilities that helped to solve sanitation and public health problems in cities in England in
the second half of the nineteenth century stand out in this regard (Mann 1986). Challenges that crop
up in society encapsulate the sources of social power that a state can tap from and utilise to transform
itself in the lives of citizens when it makes itself relevant in society through responsive and responsible
delivery of the social services required for the well-being and survival of people.

Africa cannot pull itself out of poverty and paralysis through donor aid and the associated mindset
which encourages and fosters the practice of wholesale grafting of institutions and models from
elsewhere onto the continent’s realities. The truth in this assertion is underscored by the analyses
presented in Section 3 chapters. Some analysts who focus on Africa and its issues and challenges
tend to couch their arguments about the age-old asymmetry in the Africa–west relationship in tones
that imply that, amongst western aid and donor agencies that operate in Africa, there is a common
conspiracy of some sort aimed at undermining Africans. This may well be so. However, the situation
should rather be explained in terms of the cultural differences that separate us from the west. In the
context of the quest to address the big problem of the non-availability of potable water for the people in
Africa, it is understandable that the industrial countries of the north and their donor agencies give high
priority to the ‘generic area of water’, as pointed out by Mike Muller in his contribution. What is evident
from Muller’s analysis is that aid and assistance to aid-dependent African countries on water issues
is neither value-free nor cost-free. He argues that the desire for aid agencies and industrial countries
that assist Africa on water issues to adopt common objectives and approaches towards achieving their

xxx | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

objectives is wishful. Muller believes that the involvement of aid agencies in Africa’s water provision
and management issues is strictly driven by market economy tenets. We must add here that there is
nothing wrong with the involvement of aid agencies that are driven by market economy tenets in
water issues on the continent if African states can develop the necessary capacity to ensure that the
marketplace they will engage and participate in is structured and managed sufficiently well to properly
respond to and benefit Africa’s needs without prejudice. After all, recorded history shows that Africa
has never been averse to the marketplace, trade, and what comes with them. The continent has not
yet come to that point in its engagement with aid agencies when the latter put a gun to the heads of
Africa’s policy-makers to compel them to adopt whatever prescriptions they peddle around. If the truth
be told, Africa gets a raw deal from donor agencies principally because African states are yet to develop
what Michael Mann (1986) called autonomous power, which is the capacity by states to act in and for
their own interests. As Muller’s analysis clearly indicates, autonomous power is a necessary capacity
for states in the so-called developing world to also have in order to effectively deal with the challenges
of managing their water resources efficiently and for the benefit of their societies and people. The
fact that South Africa, Chile, Mexico and China have consistently shown that capacity – which Muller
qualifies as ‘sovereign’– as they grapple with the challenges that they face in water management is
proof that it is not a peculiar attribute of states in the industrial world.

The Section 3 authors affirm in their respective arguments and analyses that there is no doubt that
Africa, Africans and their livelihoods are threatened by climate change as well as the wear and tear that
befalls the environment due to human activities. But there is some consolation: shifts and changes
are age-old features of Africa’s natural environment and climate, and, as they have always done in
the past, the continent and its peoples are adjusting to those shifts as they grapple with the vagaries
of the current changes in global climate. There is indeed hope in the fact that Africans are adapting
their agriculture and agricultural practices to those changes as they experience them. However, the
scenario is fraught with challenges that require the intervention of responsive states – surmounting
the challenges posed by climate change is not for the faint-hearted or the corrupt.

The exploratory study on environmental consciousness in South Africa by Anderson et al. (Chapter 11)
produced some findings that are quite revealing on the subject matter. For instance, their study reveals
that even though South Africans from all racial categories are environmentally conscious, race, level
of education and socio-economic status (SES) are factors that affect the degree of their consciousness
about the environment. The finding about the existence of a SES divide between South Africans of
different racial categories regarding environmental consciousness reflects the finding made by the
Pew Research Center in a 2009 global survey of the views of the middle class in select countries that
it described as ‘emerging nations’. In part, that survey found that: ‘About 45% of middle income…
South Africans expressed concern for pollution in their country, while just over one-third of their lower
income counterparts profess the same opinion’ (The Pew Research Center 2009: 20).

At the same time, one must desist from giving the impression that responsive states would emerge
by happenstance in Africa to assume the much needed responsibility of regulating human activities
to protect the environment. People make and run states. We can infer from the issues and arguments
raised by Molua (Chapter 10), Muller (Chapter 12) and Gandure (Chapter 13) that an aspect of the
challenges involved is for Africans to realise that real democratic reforms needed to transform states on
the continent into responsive entities that function to protect their interests do not fall from heaven.
Any such notion that Africa’s ‘vulnerable’ peoples can wait for and depend on the state, which is to a
large degree responsible for their ‘vulnerability’, to empower them sufficiently to the point that they
would self-liberate and then restructure the state itself for good is therefore unrealistic. Africans must
begin to push for and make claims on Africa’s states to expand the space and arena of democratic
participation in affairs and issues that affect their interests – drought, climate change and its mitigation,

Introduction | xxxi
food security, etc. In every case Africans must take the initiative to mobilise themselves, establish their
own NGO-like instruments – farmers’ groups, water-user/conservation groups, reforestation groups –
and use the same as vehicles to go out there on their own behalf and engage state actors and political
contenders in an era when states have been increasingly compelled to share space with non-state
actors in virtually every realm of human endeavour.

Economy and livelihoods in Africa

The ‘child soldier’ phenomenon in parts of Africa that are embroiled in conflicts is among the issues
that raise the question of ethics in African politics. In Chapter 17, Snodgrass and Obika provide insights
into how Africa is destroying its future to preserve ‘pockets of power’ in the present. The chapter
explains how children provide cheap military labour in all instances of conflict on the African continent.
It also demonstrates the extent of damage they suffer and the failing efforts to reintegrate them
into their societies. Priscilla Wamucii and Peter Idwasi’s chapter (Chapter 15) explores the concept
of ‘youth’ in Africa. A vibrant youth in Africa is a crucial investment and asset to turn the tide of the
current continental crisis. However, they demonstrate that this investment is depleted by elite power
struggles. The authors use Kenya as a case study to examine youth involvement in the violence that
occurred during the 2007 elections. They conclude that youth identities are reconfigured over time
and that ‘youth’ is a social construction heavily influenced by material circumstances. This raises the
following question: given the deteriorating material circumstances in many parts of Africa, are we
likely to have ‘an African youth’ of a calibre to match the challenges of Africa’s engagements with the
global community?

Public health and well-being

Section 5 deals with issues about which the African state has yet to establish its relevance in African
societies. The menu includes Laetitia Rispel and Thomas Kibua’s analysis in Chapter 19 of the stewardship
for health in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, using the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals
as their backdrop. In Chapter 20, Kopano Ratele and Shahnaaz Suffla assess violence and well-being
on the continent vis-à-vis the danger that manifestations of malignant masculinities pose to public
health in African societies. On a continent and amongst peoples and cultures that have been victims
of assorted forms of violence ever since that time when their interactions with Arabs and Europeans
became overtly predatory in favour of the latter, the attention that Ratele and Suffla bring to bear in
their piece on violence and its devastating impact on well-being on the continent is apt. The discourse
in Chapter 20 situates masculinity in the centre of the violence that afflicts the continent and Africans
in contemporary times. The discourse is an aspect of the whole picture that must be painted about the
subject of violence and well-being. Another vital aspect of the picture, which was not made explicit
by the authors, is that in and of itself, masculinity is not bad and corrosive in social life. In social life,
masculinity is the binary half of femininity. It is indeed malignant masculinity that lends itself to the
violence that inflicts wanton effects on people and their well-being in society. Readers are reminded
by Ratele and Suffla that well-being is a vital quality of life issue that should not be neglected in the
quest for Africa’s progress and transformation in this century.

Sandra Hoffman’s exploration in Chapter 21 looks at the social fabric of violence and transformation
in a South African correctional facility, and Sara Cooper et al.’s joint study in Chapter 23 of the mental
health systems in Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and South Africa produces recommendations for improving
that vital but neglected aspect of the healthcare sector on the continent. In Chapter 22, Tito Nestor
Tiehi analyses the state of health of the populations in the seven Francophone countries and one

xxxii | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Lusophone country that constitute the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). The
WAEMU member countries constitute a unique bloc as far as healthcare systems and delivery on
the continent are concerned, in that they jointly shifted from the policy of free care inherited from
their erstwhile European colonisers to introduce and embrace insurance coverage in their healthcare
systems during the 1970s. This development led to the emergence of private medical insurance in
their respective healthcare systems during the 1980s. Tiehi subjects vital and healthcare-related data
generated by the African Development Bank in the WAEMU member countries in the period 1985–2008
to statistical analysis aimed at ascertaining if the less advanced WAEMU member countries experienced
a growth rate in the health status of their populations which was faster than the rate experienced by
their more advanced counterparts. Although Tiehi can be faulted for his failure to provide readers
with what he designates as clear indicators separating the ‘less advanced’ WAEMU member countries
from their ‘more advanced’ counterparts, there are still some profound policy implications that can
be discerned from the outcome of his effort. One such implication, which ought to trigger alarm in
the community of healthcare policy-makers in Africa, is that a high fertility rate can have a negative
impact on life expectancy at birth in the population. Another policy implication from Tiehi’s endeavour
harps on the age-old logic that the causal relationship between literacy and longevity is positive.
Again, findings from Tiehi study aptly affirm the crux of the argument that resonates throughout the
other contributions in this volume – that Africa’s progress in the twenty-first century hinges on the
emergence of a responsive state in every case.

Congruence-consonance theory, which the late Harry Eckstein propounded and recommended for
application to discourse and analysis of state building, transformation and performance (in the effective
or non-effective discharge or non-discharge of services to and on behalf of citizens), can be used to
further illuminate the arguments and issues raised by the contributors to Section 5. Aspects of the
theory that Eckstein, with Ted Gurr, later detailed in Patterns of Authority: A Structural Basis for Political
Inquiry (1975) , dwell on why the authority patterns in those segmental institutions that are proximate
to the state in society must be consonant within themselves and congruent with those of the state, as
a precondition for the latter to perform well governmentally through the former in governance and of
course the delivery of public services goods to individuals and the society at large.

Health, well-being, safety and protection are some of the areas in which the modern state must and
is expected to get involved in order to remain relevant in the lives of citizens in every society. Just as
it provides hospitals and allied health institutions for the good health of citizens, the state also builds
and operates prisons and related institutions in society to protect itself and members of society from
‘deviants’ who are committed to prisons to atone for the act(s) of deviance they committed against
the norms that guide the affairs and conduct of people. Prisons enable the powers that be in society to
contain and control ‘deviants’. However, as Howard Becker pointed out, deviance ‘is created by society…
[in] that social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance, and
by applying those rules to particular people and labeling them as outsiders’ (1973: 8–9).

Some of the legacies of the apartheid state in South Africa can be used to illustrate this discourse
on crime and its punishment in post-apartheid South Africa. The apartheid state was successful in
its political and governmental performance with regard to the delivery of services to white South
Africans, whom it favoured at the expense of Africans and members of the other racial categories that
constitute the population of South Africa. The apartheid system was also successful in the containment
of African, coloured and Indian South Africans, to whom it extended poor services. Clearly then, with
regard to the delivery of services in society, a state can simultaneously target different racial categories
of its citizens for benefits and containment respectively. At the same time, there are no guarantees
that members of each category will receive the benefits or be contained exactly as prescribed in the
policies that guide the discriminatory treatments they receive from their state. In other words, there

Introduction | xxxiii
is the likelihood that some members of each targeted category will fall through the cracks by default
and receive treatments that are not meant for their category. The apartheid state was successful in
this regard because the authority patterns in its proximate governmental segments (the prisons,
military, courts, Parliament, police, etc.) and in their proximate non-governmental counterparts (family,
schools, media, etc.) were in harmony with its own authority patterns. In the post-apartheid era, with
the gradual withering and transformation of the authority patterns that existed during apartheid in
the same segmental institutions that are still in existence in contemporary South Africa, it is unrealistic
to expect a 360 degree turnaround in those institutions. In spite of policy changes and proclamations,
there are and will continue to be shortcomings in services delivery by those institutions in today’s
South African society.

Thus, as Hoffman shows in Chapter 21, the prison system in post-apartheid South Africa is still
capable of dehumanising inmates. Prisons are total institutions. Like other total institutions that
include concentration camps, religious cults, some mental institutions, and boarding schools, prisons,
according to Erving Goffman (1962), operate to isolate individuals or inmates who are committed
into them from society at large, while being under the almost total control of their ‘specially trained’
agents. At the time of admission into a prison – which has been re-designated in many societies as
a correctional facility on the rationale that it should rehabilitate individuals who spend time in it and
make them fit to rejoin life in society after they pay their debt and regain their freedom – individuals
are deliberately treated in a degrading manner that includes head-shaving, confiscation of personal
items, fingerprinting, compulsory stripping, and provision of a uniform aimed at stripping them of
their current identity to pave the way for a new one. Total institutions are meant to be effective in
the resocialisation of inmates because of their capacity to isolate them from outside information and
influences during the course of their incarceration.

The structure, dynamics and purpose of prisons and other total institutions make them impervious to
certain changes which occur in society at large. Thus, in spite of the demise of the apartheid system
well over a decade ago in South Africa, it would be unrealistic to expect that the prison system that
thrived during apartheid would be transformed in the course of just 15 years of multiracial democracy.
Hoffman’s piece is proof that the future of prisons and the punishment of crime in post-apartheid
South Africa still present serious cause for concern. Given South Africa’s racial history, the chances are
still high that the punishment of crime in the country and its prison system in the post-apartheid era
will be path-dependent, i.e. the prison system in post-apartheid South Africa will continue to mirror
much of its apartheid-era mode.

This assertion is informed by a logic that derived from research findings about crime and its punishment
in the United States, a society that shares similarities in race relations with South Africa. The penal
system in the United States followed a historical path and grew into what Lois Wacquant (2002:
41) called one of ‘several peculiar institutions’ that ‘have successively operated to define, confine,
and control African Americans’ in the history of the society, to the point that each one of them was
used to ensure their social death in society during different historical eras. Each of those ‘peculiar
institutions’ is associated with a period in the wretched history of race relations in the United States.
Chattel slavery was the first of those institutions. It was also ‘the pivot of the plantation economy and
inceptive matrix of racial division from the colonial era to the Civil War’ (Wacquant 2002: 41). The Civil
War itself, which almost tore the United States into shreds, was fought over chattel slavery, which
sustained the plantation-based economy of its southern states. Not even President Abraham Lincoln’s
Emancipation Proclamation, which ended chattel slavery, could deter the emergence of the second
‘peculiar institution’, ‘the Jim Crow system of legally enforced discrimination and segregation…that
anchored the predominantly agrarian society of the South’ (Wacquant 2002: 41). When the descendants
of slaves embarked on the Great Migration out of the share-cropping life of destitution that they were

xxxiv | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

confined to in the South and moved to ‘the Northern industrial metropolis’ in the periods 1914–30
to the 1960s, the ghetto was created as the third ‘peculiar institution’ to define, confine and control
them. What was left of the ghetto after the explosive urban race riots, the last of which took place in the
1960s, became part of ‘the novel institutional complex formed by the remnants of the dark ghetto and
the carceral apparatus with which it has…joined by a linked relationship of structural symbiosis and
functional surrogacy’ (Wacquant 2002: 41) to form the modern prison system in the United States. The
latter is the fourth ‘peculiar institution’ for the control, containment and definition of African Americans
as a category of people who were deemed inassimilable in American society.

Historically, the ghetto, whose equivalents are South Africa’s African townships and the residential
enclaves inhabited exclusively by the coloured population, has featured prominently in segregated
societies where it is used to protect ‘residents from pollution of intercourse with tainted but necessary
bodies of an outcast group in the manner of an “urban condom” as Richard Sennet aptly describes it’
(Wacquant 2002: 19) in Flesh and Stone: The Body and City in Western Civilization (1994). In this context,
the ghetto also facilitates the ‘exploitation of the interned category’ of people (Wacquant 2002: 52).

The ghetto became obsolete as an institution for control, definition and confinement in the United
States when the descendants of slaves used the Civil Rights Movement to secure ‘voting and civil
rights…[and became] full citizens who would no longer brook being shunted off into the separate
and inferior world of the ghetto’ (Wacquant 2002: 49). The demise of the ghetto gave the American
white power structure cause to devise ‘policies that pointed to yet another special institution capable
of confining and controlling if not the entire African American community, at least its most disruptive,
disreputable and dangerous members: the prison’ (Wacquant 2002: 49). Presently, the penal system
in the United States

… serves only to warehouse the precarious and deproletarianized fractions of the black
working class, be it that they cannot find employment owing to a combination of skills
deficit, employer discrimination and competition from immigrants, or that they refuse
to submit to the indignity of substandard work in the peripheral sectors of the service
economy. (Wacquant 2002: 54)

David Ladipo (2001) points out that in the entire industrialised world, the United States has the
highest number of people under penal confinement. Jerome Miller (1996) adds that the descendants
of slaves, especially males, claim a proportion of that number higher than their 13 per cent share of
the general population. The American penal system has long been a huge multi-billion dollar prison-
industrial complex composed of Fortune 500-type corporations that trade shares on the New York
Stock Exchange (Ladipo 2001; Parenti 1999).

The essence of these details about crime and its punishment in the United States is to emphasise the
concern that Hoffman’s chapter raises about crime and its punishment in post-apartheid South Africa.
There is deliberate emphasis on the fact that although the apartheid system ended in South Africa more
than 15 years ago, South African society still retains the trappings of apartheid: the squalid townships
that epitomise the ghetto; unequal economic opportunities for significant proportions of the African
population; coloureds, and even whites, who have fallen on hard economic times since the demise of
the apartheid state, which used to steer privileges and favours their way. This could potentially result in
a penal system which would warehouse huge numbers of people and condemn them to a social death
in post-apartheid South Africa. As in the United States, the elements – deproletarianised fractions of
the black working class – are also present in significant proportions in South African society.

Equally worrisome is the fact that an increasing prison population in South Africa will trigger increases
in public expenditure on prisons. Such increases could encourage corporations to get involved in the

Introduction | xxxv
operation and management of prisons. As has been the case in the United States, this could in turn
pave the way in South Africa for systematic lobbying of politicians by well-heeled experts to enact
laws to increase jailable offences, extend sentencing and so keep the prison populations rising. This
would create a prison-industrial complex in South Africa at the expense of rehabilitation. As is the case
in the United States, private involvement in the punishment of crime enhances and perpetuates the
sorts of perversion evident in Hoffman’s narrative. The front-page story in The Star of Johannesburg on
22 March 2009, detailing the huge bonanza reaped by private agencies contracted by South Africa’s
bureau of prisons to recruit prison warders, is a signal that the possibility that a prison-industrial
complex could emerge in South Africa is there.

Prisons do considerable damage to the human mind. Thus, unless the motive is to encourage recidivism,
which will definitely help to pave the way for the emergence of a prison-industrial complex in South
Africa, prison reform must include well-articulated programmes to prepare prisoners while they are
still serving their time for reintegration into society upon their release.

The passage in 2010 of a healthcare reform Bill into law by the United States Congress is another
reminder that the state in Africa has a vital but unfulfilled role to play in the provision of good healthcare
to all. But unfortunately, in general, African states have not shown the capacity to shoulder that role
in any reasonable or meaningful way. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (nicknamed
ObamaCare) is a far-reaching piece of legislation that will impact not just the American healthcare
sector, but also other sectors of its economy for years to come. The scope of the debate it provoked
since it was introduced as a Bill, and as it made its way through the legislative process, is comparable
to the Act’s projected scope and reach. The gigantic dimensions of ObamaCare were cause for Nigeria’s
NEXT newspaper to bemoan Nigeria’s National Health Insurance Scheme, which was passed into law
in 1999 but became operational only in 2005, as an adequate measure which seeks to cover ‘only a
tiny proportion of Nigeria’s population [including] only a few hundred thousand pregnant women and
children (under the age of five), under collaboration with the…Millenium Development Goals Maternal
and Child Health (MCH) Project’ (NEXT Editorial 29 March 2010).

The revelation in Chapter 19 that Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are laggards even on some of the
Millennium Development Goals that are healthcare-related is indeed an apt reflection of the abject
state of healthcare on the continent. More than 40 years after most of sub-Saharan Africa gained
political independence from their erstwhile West European colonisers, and almost 20 years since
the end of apartheid in South Africa, the healthcare system in sub-Saharan Africa is in a tailspin. The
tragedy of this situation is that it can be tied to the very entities (the states) that are de facto indicators
of political independence on the continent. The inability of African states to live up to expectations for
the development of a functional healthcare system and the delivery of adequate healthcare services
has been decried by almost everyone involved in healthcare advocacy on the continent. In an editorial
published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, the American Medical Team for Africa
(AMTA), a non-profit US-based philanthropy which has been involved in medical missionary activities
in Africa for more than 10 years, stated:

Diseases, both ancient and new, continue to wreak havoc across sub-Saharan Africa
(SSA) with little relief in [sic] the horizon and devastating consequences to every fabric
of African culture. The political climate to maintain and service the infrastructure,
one-party political systems, and the autocratic nature of most of these will continue
to complicate any initiatives designed to help SSA overcome these difficulties.
Unfortunately, this will serve to delay the establishment of economic recovery,
political stability with individual freedoms and development of the abundant natural
resources for the benefit of the indigenous peoples. Change will be necessary if the

xxxvi | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

people [sic] of SSA are to enjoy a higher standard of living resulting from a better-
educated workforce and a healthier population. They could then begin implementing
basic public health and environmental standards, which [sic] can improve over time as
opposed to providing only quick and unsustainable economic recovery. A major and
drastic overhaul of the way the developed nations interact with SSA is necessary if they
are to achieve the human freedoms, economic stability and relief from the diseases of
poverty that can only benefit the world community at large over time.

As the rest of the world marches inexorably forward, how can SSA be included for
the benefit of almost half a billion human beings who are afflicted with HIV/AIDS,
malaria, tuberculosis, foul water, inadequate hospital systems, failing sewage systems,
malnutrition, high unemployment, dysfunctional governments and increasing
international apathy, all beyond their control? In 2002 worldwide, there were
42 million adults and five million children living with HIV/AIDS, 70% of them in SSA.
In 1999, an estimated 860,000 children in SSA lost teachers to AIDS. Malaria accounts
for approximately 1.1 million [annual deaths in SSA]. Tuberculosis kills two million
people a year worldwide with a quarter of these deaths occurring in SSA. It is estimated
that a 95% cure rate could be achieved for tuberculosis, even in poor countries with
existing, affordable drug regimens. There are an estimated 14 million AIDS-related
orphans in the world today, and 11 million reside in SSA. This will insure [sic] that the
totality of these diseases will pass into the next generation because the spread of HIV/
AIDS in SSA is greatest among youth ages [sic] 15–24 years. Approximately 8.6 million
of these patients in SSA are in this age group, and 67% are female. (Hoover et al.
2005: 397–398)

In the same editorial piece, the AMTA is categorical that all over Africa:

Medical equipment and instrumentation in most government-run hospitals is vintage

pre-independence era, for which there are no longer any spare parts. The same applies
to equipment in the kitchen, laundry, water/plumbing, electrical grid and facility
support systems, especially generators…[that operate only for ‘a few hours’ due to
inadequate supply of fuel]. (Hoover et al. 2005: 398)

About the poor state of communications infrastructure, the team said:

Most of the secondary roads are dirt and not well-maintained. Therefore, travel
becomes particularly problematic during the rainy season…Because of the difficulties
with communications, poor road service to the remote regions and lack of anything
more than first-aid care in villages, this is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
(Hoover et al. 2005: 398–399)

There is a conspicuous absence of state-mandated regulation and oversight, and the result is that
even the healthcare services provided by private practitioners in sub-Saharan Africa raise ‘questions
about standardisation, measuring quality and monitoring patient safety and outcomes since many of
the surgical specimens are not routinely submitted for pathological examination’ (Hoover et al. 2005:
399). The AMTA’s prescription for ‘re-engineering healthcare equipment and instrumentation’ on the
continent is as revealing as it is damning:

The clock must be rolled back to a point in time where laboratory instrumentation
in America was approximately 30 years ago. The expense, frequent power outages,

Introduction | xxxvii
lack of air conditioning and degrees of latitude too close to the equator do not bode
well for placing sophisticated, heavily electronic and microchip-controlled laboratory
equipment in the remote provinces of developing nations. (Hoover et al. 2005: 401)

Hence, the recommendation for ‘several of the major medical equipment and instrumentation
companies…to partner and enter joint ventures with governments and foundations to design simple,
affordable, user-friendly, easy-to-maintain, reagent-simple and environmentally sensitive medical
equipment for basic test procedures…with essential equipment’ (Hoover et al. 2005: 401). Since this
prescription requires the involvement of Africa’s states, it underscores the consistent position taken
by the editors of this volume that there is no getting around the absolute need to democratically
transform Africa’s states to make them relevant and responsive entities that can deliver public service
goods to people in Africa.

When the focus shifts to healthcare workers on the continent, the picture that emerges is as alarming
as the one just painted by the AMTA. The harsh conditions and poor quality of life in Africa constitute
the most prominent factors that compel skilled healthcare professionals to migrate to greener
pastures in Europe, North America, New Zealand and Australia. Africa is a continent that presents
an estimated 25 per cent of humankind’s disease burden, but can muster a mere 1.3 per cent of the
world’s healthcare professionals to handle the burden. Naicker and colleagues have furnished data
that show that 57 African countries experience a ‘critical shortage of healthcare workers’ that translates
into ‘a deficit of 2.4 million doctors and nurses and midwives’ (2009: 60). Africa, they say, ‘has 2.3 health
workers per 1,000 population, compared with the Americas, where there are 24.8 healthcare workers
per 1,000 population’ (Naicker et al. 2009: 60). The latest data set from the World Health Organization
on the number of physicians per 10 000 population in Africa north and south of the Sahara is sobering.
The data indicate that the number of physicians per 10 000 population in 25 out of 53 African countries,
including South Africa, is in the single digits. Only six countries have numbers in the double digits.
The numbers for the rest of the countries are negative. No African country is spared in this outward
migration of skilled medical personnel. However, an aspect worth noting is that South Africa, which
presents the best infrastructural development as well as a stable political environment conducive
for middle-class existence, has consistently attracted an increasing number of qualified healthcare
personnel from other African countries. This is instructive because it indicates that individuals who
have high human capital will always migrate to contexts of comfort and plenty. Healthcare personnel
constitute ‘the linchpins of any healthcare system’ (Naicker et al. 2009: 62). No one should therefore
wonder why the system on the continent is in crisis.

In Africa, the truth of the matter is that states have lagged behind in their involvement in every aspect
of the healthcare sector. Perhaps the recommendations made by Cooper and colleagues in Chapter 23
for improving mental health systems in Africa can make a much needed difference if they get the
attention of concerned bureaucrats. In Europe and North America, improvements that have been made
in human capital in the area of healthcare and its delivery in society directly ‘influence the nature of
state intervention and thus indirectly affect system performance by modifying the role the state plays
in coordinating the delivery of medical services’ (Hollingsworth et al. 1990: 1). Given this, shouldn’t the
abysmal state of medical humanpower development in Africa, coupled with the paucity of medical
technology and allied healthcare infrastructure on the continent, justify quick reaction measures and
policies from African states to address the dire situation? Africa cannot supplicate its way out of the
critical situation that healthcare is in on the continent. The supplication by the African Union, which
called ‘on the international community to fill the $19bn…gap in health financing that the World Health
Organization…determined that Africa is unable to self finance…[to achieve the] health strategy of
the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)’ (Dare 2005: 1), is an orthodox measure. What
have been lacking in previous attempts to address the challenges that face Africa are fresh and bold

xxxviii | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

measures. African scholars who research healthcare policy must therefore recognise that there is a link
between the emergence of responsive public institutions that function normatively and according to
Weberian bureaucratic principles (Bendix 1962: 423–430) and positive shifts in healthcare policy. Only
a mobilised citizenry would make those happen by engaging the state.

Africa and the world

Section 6 of the volume covers a few critical areas. Most importantly, Moses and Eliot Tofa cover
an issue in Chapter 25 whose resolution has a direct impact on Africa’s fortunes in the twenty-first
century – the transformation of the Bretton Woods institutions. They argue that these institutions
are the safety valves of the imperialist project of international hegemony and the outcome of this
project is the transformation of the victory of Africa’s independence into a ‘pyrrhic victory’. Tim Murithi
(Chapter 26) completes the argument by examining Africa’s multilateral institutions of governance
against the backdrop of what he calls ‘aid colonisation’ and the ‘infection of aid addiction’ on the
African continent.

The issues covered in this section demonstrate that the challenges and possibilities of the African
state in the twenty-first century reside in the complex interaction of modes of consciousness, political
leadership and institutional capacity to deliver public goods, the ‘enablers and dis-enablers’ in the
global system, as well as the unresolved issue of nationalities or sub-nationalities which continues to
pose a challenge to state formation and nation building in various parts of the continent. The challenge
of the African state in the twenty-first century is to generate a cadre of ‘disinterested professionals
whose primary loyalty is to the ethos and solidarity of the public service’ (Berman 2004: 53). This implies
the transformation of the state bureaucracy from being the ‘instrument and prize of patronage politics’
to something which requires ethical leadership and a new consciousness on the part of the leaders and
the led. On the economic front, which Claude Ake (2000: 72) calls the arena of ‘substantive democratic
outcomes’, Africa continues to lag behind. This is largely because of ‘the savage terms’ (Saul 2005) of the
continent’s insertion into the global economic system, which is why the transformation of multilateral
economic institutions is so key to Africa’s development. As Cheru indicates, ‘the cross-conditionality’
of bilateral donors, something referred to in this publication as ‘aid colonisation’, continues to impose
a squeeze on African governments ‘to surrender on the economic planning front’ (2002: 19). Africa has
also produced a generation of nationalist leaders who fail to lead by example and who have instead
consumed among themselves the economic benefits of liberation – hence the notion of a ‘politics of
the belly’ (Bayart 1993; Kaarsholm 2006) and the criminalisation of the state in Africa by Afro-pessimists.
Extremes of wealth and poverty, which are an outstanding feature of the political economy of Africa
in the twenty-first century, are largely a result of the ‘crass materialism’ of the political elites and their
surrogates. Yet these ‘extremes of wealth and poverty would be fatal to the democratic experiment’
(Lasch 1996: 7) on the continent.

Amongst the Igbo people, who are one of the nationalities that inhabit the lower south-east portion of
the greater Niger basin, which the British partitioned into Nigeria, the belief is that a flute performance
kicks off with an initial tuu! sound that the flautist makes with his or her instrument. Like that initial tuu!
sound, the individuals and institution whose initiatives gave birth to Africa in Focus have accomplished
a remarkable feat: they have established a platform which will serve as a forum where young and
up-and-coming African scholars and intellectuals at home and in the diaspora can present their work
and actionable ideas on issues and challenges that the continent and its peoples are grappling with

Introduction | xxxix
in the twenty-first century. Every contribution in this premier volume is testimony to that assertion.
Together, all the contributions preview a necessary debate on those issues and challenges.

Readers will be quick to discern that some of the contributions examine aspects of the continent’s
predicament due to the lasting impact of colonial history and also as a result of the inability of state
rulers and their staff (Skocpol 1979), who in many instances ‘betrayed their mission’ to transform the
African state in order to deliver the dividends of democracy to citizens in virtually every case on the
continent. Some of those contributions raise issues that encapsulate two major challenges to the
African continent – state formation and nation building. These challenges have implications for the
economy and livelihoods on the African continent and Africa’s interface with world powers.

Issues about democratic transformation and economic development, knowledge and its transformation,
the environment and natural resources, the economy and livelihoods, public health and social well-
being and, of course, Africa’s relationship with the rest of the world and the challenges they pose
are also raised in this premier volume of the anthology in ways that clearly indicate that contributors
and the editors are also motivated by a desire to inspire the much needed healthy debate that we’ve
reiterated here. Nonetheless, we cannot claim that contributors to this volume have exhausted all
the issues that irk Africa. What we have here can at best be called the very first cut on a huge set of
problems. For contributors to this and future volumes of Africa in Focus, the platform is now in place. To
readers and everyone who is involved in the quest to address Africa’s issues and problems, we extend
a standing invitation to each and every one to step up and embrace the healthy engagement that will
ensue from Africa in Focus.

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xlii | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

1 the african state in the
twenty-first century
chapter 1

Kwandiwe Kondlo

One walks a tightrope when dealing with the subject of the African state in the twenty-first century,
as the line between realism about the African continent and outright cynicism is usually very thin.
Uncritical self-congratulation also does not allow for the required rigorous treatment of the complexity
of issues involved – no single storyline can encompass all the dimensions of Africa’s challenges. Aspects
of this complexity are articulated by Ali Mazrui, who contends that

…colonialism introduced capitalist greed without capitalist discipline and helped to

promote Western consumption patterns without Western productive techniques. By
the time [the] colonial powers departed, to return to Europe[,] what had started as
inadequate African greed exploded into a frenzy of post-colonial African acquisitiveness.
Western tastes had indeed taken root in Africa – but not Western skills. (1998: 3)

It is important to deal sensitively with the subject of the African state in a manner that challenges the
paradigms of the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank, International Monetary Fund), which have
for years tended to label the African state as ‘predatory’ or ‘kleptocratic’, without ‘empirically exploring
its daily functioning and the changes underway in its bureaucratic system’ (Blundo 2006: 22). The
complexity and sensitivity makes it imperative to combine ‘close attention to the present’ with clear
historical awareness in order to understand Africa’s past and the present in their historical relations
(Pickering 1997: 29). This chapter introduces Section 1 of Africa in Focus and provides a particular angle
of interpretation of the African state in the twenty-first century.

The nature of the state in Africa, particularly the post-independence state, has been a subject of debate
among scholars for a long time. Currently, the focus of the debate is on the African state in the twenty-
first century. Of course, the state as it exists in Africa does not have a homogeneous history. The political
elites have responded in various ways to a range of problems and made different choices in response
to opportunities. But there are core challenges common to all African states in the twenty-first century
and these require a collective response. The challenges include underdevelopment and economic
stagnation, shallow political democracy, collapsing public institutions and a growing number of failed
states on the African continent, despite interventions by organisations such as the African Union. The
twenty-first century is both a moment of hope and a moment of crisis – it is a make or break period in
the history of the African continent. A new awakening and a new consciousness among the masses of
African people, which will lead to a determination to turn over a new leaf and do things differently, is
the solution the continent has not yet found.

Archie Mafeje seems to locate the problems of the state in Africa at the very foundational phase. As
he argues, ‘all African countries were born in the context of imperialism or Western capitalism which
emasculated indigenous social institutions and modes of organization for its own purpose’ (Mafeje
2002: 60). The historical dialectic out of which the post-independence states emerged in Africa and the
common challenges they now face make it important to examine the African state in the twenty-first
century as a ‘distinct moment’ of the disarticulation of the liberatory praxis in the post-independence
period. Rather than expanding the liberatory praxis through grass-roots participation, the African state
has in many instances shined the chains of Africa’s subjugation. Formal aspects of electoral democracy
(e.g. elections, constitutionalism, multiparty completion) have been emphasised over meaningful
participation by ordinary citizens in matters of governance. What is required is the expansion of public
spaces for citizen participation, which in turn requires an assertive and informed civil society. This will
take time to develop on the African continent, as clearly suggested in the arguments advanced in the
various chapters in this section.

But key issues in the history of the post-colonial state in Africa include the fact that the African state
emerged on the foundations of the colonial state rather than the indigenous pre-colonial stateform,
which was consonant with the authority patterns of the diverse African nationalities. The modern
African state has evolved through various phases, broadly classified as moving from the colonial
state to the post-colonial state. The latter also involved various phases, from the neocolonial phase
characterised by one-party and military dictatorships to the new African state resulting from the wave
of neoliberal democratisation in the 1990s.

The history of the state in Africa after independence is therefore characterised by a legacy of
dictatorships, military regimes and single-party rule. As a result of the democratic wave of the 1990s,
these kinds of regimes are now the exception rather than the rule in most of Africa.

At the end of the 1980s, 35 of the 45 states of Africa were under military or one-party rule;
the rest were under personal or monarchical rule and rather limited pluralistic systems.
By the end of 1993, the distribution had been neatly reversed with at least 35 countries
having accepted multiparty systems. By the end of 1994 virtually every country in
Africa, except some like Sudan, Liberia and Sierra Leone which were fighting civil war or
virtually in a state of anarchy (Zaire) or just recovering from a civil war (Uganda), had held
multiparty elections or were on the verge of doing so. (Ake 2000: 72)

Given the tumult of history from which the African state emerged, Mafeje asks whether the root cause
of the problems of the state in Africa is not ‘the dynamic of distorted capitalism with whose birthmarks
all African countries were delivered, irrespective of their subsequent policies’ (2002: 61). Mafeje seems
to emphasise the foundations of the African state as key to the problem. On the other hand, the late
Claude Ake questions the kind of democracy, born out of European culture and spiritual impulse,
which the African state has embraced. He argues that democracy is a nebulous concept and that it ‘has
been trivialized to the point at which it is no longer threatening to political elites around the world,
who may now embrace democracy and enjoy democratic legitimacy without subjecting themselves
to the notorious inconveniences of democratic practice’ (Ake 2000: 7).

The foundational issues raised by Mafeje imply that the post-independence African state literally
took over and built on an inherited colonial state architecture. ‘Much of state practices’, legislation,
procedures and even the routine of daily government, ‘despite massive quantitative expansion’,
reflected the inheritance of the colonial state (Mehta 2003: 106). Ake describes this situation as one
where post-independence African nationalist leaders ‘decided to inherit the colonial system, instead
of transforming it in accordance with popular nationalist aspirations’ and, as a result, ‘most African

4 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

leaders found themselves on a collision course with their people’ (2000: 34). In other words, the
two positions, one foundationalist and the other superstructuralist, tend to underline the weight of
colonial inheritance on the African state, indicating that this influence reverberates 40 years after the
first independent African states were established. The fact is that it is impossible to understand the
breadth and depth of the dilemma of the African state in the twenty-first century without reference to
the history of colonialism and an understanding of how, over almost a century of social engineering,
it shaped the political economy and social structures of the African continent.

Kapstein and Converse contest this view that emphasises the determinative role of ‘foundations’
or ‘initial conditions’ of colonialism (2008: xix). The contention is that the foundations (or history)
do not determine the character of the state. The state’s character may also influence and change
the foundations. The issue is how the character of the African state can exact influence upon its
circumstances. Ake’s (2000) seminal work, The Feasibility of Democracy in Africa, presents a rebuttal
of this position and argues that the problem in Africa is that ‘the character of the state’ remained as
it was in the colonial era, except for a change in the composition of managers of the state, hence the
rise of the movement of democracy in the 1990s. The question is whether the African state in the
twenty-first century is likely to shed this character, so that its practices of democracy reflect popular
power and aspirations. This is essentially the challenge of democratic transformation of the state itself,
which should be reflected as democratic governance. But scholars who have made contributions in
this section of the book seem to indicate that the challenge goes further than that. Their arguments
are introduced below.

The twenty-first century ‘African state’

and democracy’s elusive hope
Frederic Schaffer raises an important question which is central to the debates about challenges
facing the African state in the twenty-first century. He asks whether ‘the Senegalese understanding
of demokarassi relates to American understandings of democracy’ (Schaffer 2000: x). He argues that
this is important for the investigation and description of the functioning of democratic institutions in
societies dissimilar to one’s own. The question he raises in turn raises larger issues about the nature
and meaning of democracy. To expand his argument, Schaffer invokes TS Elliot, who writes that ‘when
a term has become so universally sanctified as “democracy” now is, I begin to wonder whether it
means anything, in meaning too many things’ (Elliot 1940: 11–12). The main issue Schaffer seeks to
demonstrate, without further trivialising the notion of democracy, is that the ‘frames of reference’
elicited by the concept (something which discourses of democracy, assessments of democratic
performance and governance often overlook) are multiple, hence the debate about democracy and
democratisation never ends. The multiple meanings of the concept (despite the use of modifiers such
as ‘pluralist’, ‘liberal’, ‘participatory’, ‘representative’) continue to underline its contestation in the
African context.

Pratap Mehta also raises these questions, based on India’s experience of liberal democracy. Besides
questioning what democracy means (apart from its obvious reference to practices of popular
authorisation), he further asks if one can ‘fix the meaning of democracy, the hopes and aspirations
it generated, in a setting as socially diverse as India’s’ (Mehta 2003: 2). More importantly, he poses a
critical question about whether ‘bonded labour, landless peasants’ could share the same expectations
of democracy, and all the liberal freedoms that come with it as, say, their middle-class counterparts.
It is these issues which confound the practical meaning of democracy. The issues of meaning and
modes of practice of democracy are contentious among African scholars, and cast democracy and
democratisation on the continent into an ever-descending spiral of relativity. De Sousa Santos

Section 1: Introduction | 5
and Avritzer postulate the ‘widening of the democratic canon’ as the solution to the challenges of
democracy worldwide. By this they mean that, ‘as is the case with bio-diversity, demo-diversity must
be preserved and, whenever possible, expanded and enriched’ (De Sousa Santos & Avritzer 2007: lxii).
In other words, let various versions of democracy develop rather than one dominant, hegemonic
version. The question is: what does this imply for semi or partially democratic states like Zimbabwe,
where one-party authoritarianism constrains the flowering of the democratic order? Is this a version
of democracy which should be allowed to develop? This is not only the case in Zimbabwe. Papau New
Guinea, Botswana, Kenya and other countries have ‘unique’ democracies which do not fit the liberal
norm. If one were to follow to the letter the idea of ‘widening the democratic canon’, one would have
difficulties in ascertaining exactly how far it should be widened in the African context.

Jacques Derrida takes the debate to another level. To deal with the dilemmas of democracy, he invokes
the notion of ‘democracy-to-come’ as distinct from the ‘future of democracy’ (Critchley 2006: 108). The
latter, according to Critchley’s reading of Derrida, would be ‘a modality of presence’ but the former is
not associated with the ‘living present’ of liberal democracy. Perhaps this is the democracy which Ake
says ‘is never given; it is always taken’, for it entails ‘the redistribution of power against those who are
in power and those who are privileged’ (2000: 70). What this implies is that the dilemma of the African
state in the twenty-first century is one of choice – choice between ‘the future of democracy’, based
on improving what exists, and ‘the democracy-to-come’, which is not a culmination of the present
trajectory of democratisation but rather something new.

Victor Adetula (Chapter 2) engages the discursive elements of liberal democracy and the practices it
engenders. He unpacks and problematises the theoretical assumptions as well as the methods used for
measuring democracy and good governance in Africa. He goes on to argue that many of the findings
and conclusions in the assessments of democracy and good governance in Africa have focused
essentially on regime type rather than on the nature of the state. The central issue in the discourse on
democracy in Africa, according to Adetula, is its feasibility in Africa’s social and economic conditions.
He explores polarisations in Africa’s discourses on democracy, to show how they reflect the positions
of modernisers versus the culturalist school of thought. The culturalist school, according to Adetula,
focuses on the culture of informality in most African polities, and within ‘such apolitical “order”, in
which there is little meaningful institutionalisation, the notion of corruption as habitually defined in
western polities is of little significance’.

Adetula argues that the modernisers, on the other hand, question the ability of African cultural traditions
to support democratic values and institutions. He then demonstrates how both the culturalist school
and the modernists elevate culture to such a degree that they ascribe to it a power it does not have;
the power to explain everything. Adetula challenges both schools of thought as he argues that they
ignore a fact of history – that no culture has ever successfully operationalised itself on the basis of poor
governance and corrupt practices. He concludes that the extent of the influence of African culture on
democracy, as well as the overall implications for good governance, require further studies, given the
differences between Eurocentric and Afrocentric political culture with regard to the form and content
of democracy.

The issues dealt with in Adetula’s chapter are explored further by Happy Kayuni (Chapter 4). Kayuni’s
arguments challenge the hegemonic Westphalian model of description of contemporary states
and its assumptions in the area of international relations. The chapter invokes African traditional
institutions as an important influence on democracy on the African continent. Kayuni’s chapter
exposes the ‘marginalised value’ of traditional African institutions in the enhancement of Africa’s
international relations. In fact, Kayuni poses the Chewa trans-border traditional political entity as both
a complementary and an alternative discourse to the Westphalian model of liberal democracy.

6 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Both Adetula and Kayuni have used their respective contributions to expose the inadequacies of
the liberal democratic model and explore alternative paradigms that they believe will best fit the
conditions that prevail in Africa. But their views do not engage with John Saul’s (2005) widely debated
contention that Africa needs to wake up from the dream of a ‘transformative capitalism’ and explore
socialist-oriented alternatives that are appropriate to the continent’s condition.

African scholars who work in this area seem very good at describing the nature of the problem, but
weak in offering solutions. For instance, Adetula argues that a ‘new brand of democracy’ associated
with the democratic waves of the 1990s has produced more contradictions than it has solved on the
continent. However, his critique falls short of spelling out how the contradictions emanate first from
the history of fragmented institutions of governance (a situation where traditional political institutions
developed differently from modern institutions of the democratic state), and second, from the dilemma
of distorted capitalism, as argued by Mafeje, with whose ‘birthmarks all African states were delivered’
(1992: 61).

These are some of the key challenges facing the African state in the twenty-first century. Kayuni’s
analysis responds to the challenge, but it remains to be seen whether the Chewa trans-border
traditional political entity is an example that can be extended to other parts of the continent.

Sidelining traditional political institutions adds to the weaknesses of African diplomacy and
international relations and blunts the ability of Africa’s contemporary states to deliver as expected.
Adetula articulates problems in both post-apartheid South Africa, where the success of multiracial
elections has not fully guaranteed the incorporation of all social groups into the democratic system,
and Nigeria, where, in spite of the success of the ‘second transition’ following the 2003 elections, the
state has failed to capitalise on the strengths of its indigenous institutions. These institutions have more
legitimacy and direct contact with the majority of rural inhabitants than do formal institutions. Kayuni’s
arguments and analysis show that Africa’s indigenous institutions have the capacity to strengthen
national and international relations, and she relates those to a widely debated assertion about the
incompleteness of state formation in Africa.

The key messages that emerge from the first section are that the democratic wave of the 1990s has not
saved the African continent from poverty, war, internal divisions, and the swelling ranks of ‘dissatisfied
democrats’ (Van Beek 2006: 28). In other words, democracy has not delivered material dividends to
the majority of Africa’s poor. The challenge is partially the discursive and representational dimensions,
as discussed above (Blundo & De Sardan 2006). Key to these dimensions is the understanding that
ideological configurations of democracy and good governance are contested, hence the measures of
democracy and good governance are themselves contested. In other words, there is a need to do more
research on the logics of the leaders and the led, of state and society, as a means to access local worlds
of legitimation. At another level are actual practices of supposedly democratic states as expressed in
the orientation and performance of public policy to ensure delivery of ‘public goods’. Ake calls this
‘substantive democracy’ and it is at the heart of the challenge of the African state in the twenty-first
century. Alban Ahoure (Chapter 3) takes the debate to the heart of service delivery challenges facing
the African state in the new millennium. The issues raised by Ahoure are elaborated on later.

Governance, institutional reform and policy outcomes

The lack of consensus on the meaning of democracy, its infirmities and the diverse repertoire of
practices that it engenders cannot be as great a danger as giving up the democratic project altogether.
This does not mean capitulating to liberal democracy. Mafeje describes capitulating to liberal

Section 1: Introduction | 7
democracy as being informed by minimalist arguments that ‘it is better than nothing or it is the best
thing we have’ (2002: 12). The fact of the matter is that African scholars are still debating the question
of democracy. Although they are successfully rebutting some of the neoliberal suppositions about
democracy, nothing ground-breaking has emerged yet, even as the conditions of ordinary people on
the continent keep worsening as they yearn for realistic interventions.

The urgency, then, is for effective governance to deliver the outcomes that will ameliorate the lot
of ordinary Africans on the continent. But what are the institutional and policy prerequisites that
could make the state more effective on the African continent? ‘Democracy in its institutional aspects’,
according to Schaffer (2000: 2), is realistic and requires effective action. One of the key institutional
aspects of democracy in Africa is the public service. It is often the major employer, the major buyer and
seller, and also the main deliverer of public goods. The challenge in the area of public institutions and
service delivery is one of sanguine political leadership, and the configuration of regime structures so
that they effectively respond to critical delivery demands and encourage cooperation within the state
first, and then with civil society and other non-state actors (Olowu 2003).

The strengthening of institutions of governance, especially the public service, is vitally important to
deal with the challenges of the state in Africa. But this is incomplete without considering the ‘savage
terms’ (Saul 2005: 6) of Africa’s present incorporation into the global economy.

During the current period of global economic recession, the question is whether Africa should
consider notions such as ‘strategic delinking’ from certain aspects of the global economy and ‘strategic
reinsertion’ therein, but on terms favourable to the continent. The other question is how those can be
accomplished when institutions of governance on the continent are deplorably weak. The approach
emphasising the improvement of state institutions of governance in Africa is criticised for being state-
centric and obsessed with administrative procedures. But as Ayee (2008: 16) indicates, ‘institutions
and structures’ are the arena ‘within which public policy making takes place’, despite the multiplicity
of nodal points feeding into the policy-making process. Therefore, institutional reform and concrete
outcomes of policy implementation are a critical imperative if the democratic project of the African
state in the twenty-first century is to succeed or is to be saved. In fact, no ‘responsible thinking about
democracy can avoid difficult institutional questions about how to organize power in a democratic
society’ (Mehta 2003: 26).

The failures of Africa’s post-colonial states in this regard are glaring, including their inability to competently
service the most elementary material and security needs of their citizens without bias (Berman et al.
2004). Perhaps the debate should shift towards an examination of the appropriateness of institutional
means used for the realisation of ‘substantive democracy’ in Africa. Which institutional models could
offer the best prospects for ameliorating the democratic governance challenges facing the African state
(Berman et al. 2004)? The resolution of this and other questions is important if African states are to meet
all the Millennium Development Goals that they willingly subscribed to and signed.

Ahoure (Chapter 3) uses education provision in sub-Saharan Africa to illustrate the point about the
correlation (not necessarily causal) between good governance, implementation of realistic policies and
education system performances. He highlights the role of governance on the long-term relationship
between public education spending and education system performance. Three important governance
indicators – socio-political stability, government effectiveness and control of corruption – are identified
in Ahoure’s analysis and are related to positive public education spending and better educational
outcomes. In essence, Ahoure demonstrates the reinforcement between governance and human
development, something which he argues requires ‘efficiency in public services’ and institutions.

8 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

In conclusion, the African state in the twenty-first century faces more challenges than ever before,
partly due to the democratic path which global events have forced it on but which its managers are
reluctant to take on. Although practices of ‘popular authorisation’ (Mehta 2003), including regular
elections, multipartyism, democratic constitutions, etc., are becoming deeply entrenched on the
continent, the modes of de facto good governance that produce effective social outcomes are still
to be achieved. These require the design of responsive and accountable institutions – institutions
that can be effectively sanctioned by the ordinary people that they serve. However, no amount of
democratic achievement on the continent should discount African scholars’ theoretical explorations
of new paradigms of democracy and democratic governance to recast the democratic model for the
fulfilment of our people’s aspirations.

Ake C (2000) The Feasibility of Democracy in Africa. Dakar: CODESRIA Press
Ayee JRA (2008) Reforming the African Public Sector: Retrospect and Prospects. Dakar: CODESRIA Press
Berman B, Eyoh D & Kymlicka W (2004) Ethnicity and Democracy in Africa. Oxford: James Currey
Blundo G (2006) Corruption in Africa and the social sciences: A review of the literature. In G Blundo & J-P Olivier
de Sardan (with NB Arifari and MT Alou) Everyday Corruption and the State: Citizens and Public Officials in Africa.
London & New York: Zed Books
Blundo G & De Sardan J-P Olivier (2006) Why should we study everyday corruption and how should we go about
it? In G Blundo & J-P Olivier de Sardan (with NB Arifari & MT Alou) Everyday Corruption and the State: Citizens
and Public Officials in Africa. London & New York: Zed Books
Critchley S (2006) Frankfurt impromptu: Remarks on Derrida and Habermas. In L Thomassen (ed.) The Derrida–
Habermas Reader. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
De Sousa Santos B & Avritzer L (2007) Opening the canon of democracy. In B de Sousa Santos (ed.) Democratising
Democracy: Beyond the Liberal Democratic Canon. London: Verso Press
Elliot TS (1940) The Idea of a Christian Society. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World
Kapstein EB & Converse N (2008) The Fate of Young Democracies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Mafeje A (1992) In Search of an Alternative: A Collection of Essays on Revolutionary Theory and Politics. Harare:
Southern African Political Economy Series (SAPES) Books
Mafeje A (2002) Democratic governance and the new democracy in Africa: An agenda for the future. Prepared for
presentation at the African Forum for Envisioning Africa, Nairobi, Kenya
Mazrui A (1998) The Power of Babel: Language and Governance in the African Experience. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press
Mehta PB (2003) The Burden of Democracy. New Delhi: Penguin Books
Olowu D (2003) Governance, institutional and public policy reform in southern Africa. In D Olowu & R Mukwena
(eds) Governance in Southern Africa and Beyond: Experiences of Institutional and Public Policy Reform in
Developing Countries. Windhoek: Gamsberg Macmillan Publishers
Pickering M (1997) History, Experience and Cultural Studies. New York: St Martin’s Press
Saul JS (2005) The Next Liberation Struggle: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy in Southern Africa.
Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press
Schaffer FC (2000) Democracy in Translation: Understanding Politics in an Unfamiliar Culture. Ithaca & London:
Cornwell University Press
Van Beek UJ (2006) Democracy under Construction: Patterns from Four Continents. Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers

Section 1: Introduction | 9
chapter 2

Measuring democracy and

‘good governance’ in Africa:
A critique of assumptions and methods
Victor AO Adetula

Since the end of the Cold War the world has witnessed significant political and economic developments
with far-reaching consequences for global order. For instance, the democratisation processes and
outcomes in some countries in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa have benefited from the
triumph of globalisation. Also, the new neoliberal global order under the influence of the United States
has created a favourable environment for the spread of western liberal democracy to other parts of
the world. Generally, the new global setting has provided the opportunity for the consolidation of
neoliberalism. The efforts to export neoliberal values beyond the frontiers of western societies have
recorded some successes in certain respects. Today, there is increasing global consensus on the
legitimacy of such western values as individualism, liberty, human rights, equality before the law,
free markets, the rule of law and, most significantly, liberal democracy. As can be expected, one of
the consequences has been the emergence of the west as the undisputed vanguard of the global
‘democracy crusade’. However, in effect, this is no more than the spread of liberal democracy and the
triumph of the neoliberal model.

The neoliberal global order generated significant pressures on Africa’s authoritarian governments,
which set the latter on the path of reform that culminated in different forms of liberal democratic
transition (Bratton & Van de Walle 1997). It is plausible to argue that the political reform programmes
were inaugurated in response to internal pressures. However, it is the international donors and
development agencies that were accorded the credit in western literature, while the role played by
domestic social forces in the struggle for democracy was played down deliberately. Readers are invited
to recall, in particular, the activities of civil society organisations, professional groups, student and
youth movements, and many other pro-democracy groups whose political actions, ranging from civil
disobedience to mass protests, made political transition imperative for several African authoritarian
regimes (Gyimah-Boadi 1996). Unfortunately, the transition processes did not run their logical courses
in most of the African countries. Instead, they were fast-tracked by discredited African power elites
that tactically diffused the rising social consciousness among the masses and then facilitated the
inauguration of foreign-aided reformist agendas, which positioned them as torch bearers of liberal

For their part, western countries were not only eager to share their ideas and experiences but were also
set on reproducing liberal democracy by giving overwhelming support for the installation of western
liberal social values, expressed overtly as respect for rule of law, individual freedom and civil liberty,
electoral competition, etc. Consequently, bilateral and multilateral donors, as well as international
development agencies such as the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme

10 |
(UNDP), made their facilities available to governments and NGOs in order to ensure democracy and
good governance in developing countries. For those countries needing aid, trade concessions and
other forms of development assistance, however, it means that they now have to satisfy western
political conditions and, in most cases, adopt liberal democratic principles. It was within this context
that many African countries made the transition from authoritarian and dictatorship-type regimes to
ones based on liberal democracy.

The initial euphoria about the possible global success of liberal democracy was short-lived. The world
recorded significant growth in the number of elected governments, but many new democracies – most
of them in Africa – have been labelled by the west as ‘incomplete democratic transitions’ and ‘illiberal
democracies’. The democratic ‘experiments’ in several African countries recorded unimpressive results
despite the introduction of constitutions, legislatures and electoral systems. The transition did not
result in better and improved living conditions for the citizenry. The Economic Commission for Africa’s
(ECA’s) African Governance Report (AGR) II stated:

Since the foundational elections of the 1980s there have been numerous elections
in Africa. But many countries have not had quality elections. Overall there has been
notable progress on political governance in some countries, while improvements have
been blunted or reversed in others. On balance the progress on political governance
has been marginal. (ECA 2009: 17)

Indeed, there have been many similar assessment and evaluation reports on democracy and
governance in Africa by other international donors, as well as a growing number of anthologies on
the ‘failure’ of democracy in Africa. The central question is why ‘the democratisation wave’ that swept
across the world in the 1990s has recorded less impressive accomplishments in Africa than, for instance,
in countries in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. Western donors and other observers of
trends and developments in democratisation processes in developing regions, including Africa, have
observed that the outcome of regime changes in many countries in these regions has been everything
but a consolidated democracy (Diamond 1996). The ECA’s report on Africa corroborates this verdict
that ‘the consolidation of democracy is still in its infancy in a majority of African countries’ (ECA 2009:
19). Although we might recognise and to a large extent share some of the concerns that western
donors and analysts have raised in their reports on the failure of democracy in Africa, there are still
sharp differences in the assumptions, methods, conclusions and policy prescriptions in those reports.

In this chapter, I discuss the limits of liberal democracy as well as the assumptions and methods used
for measuring democracy and good governance in Africa by international donors and western analysts.
I undertake a critique of liberal democracy, aided by the works of Omafume Onoge (1997), George
Nzongola-Ntalaja (1998, 2002), Thandika Mkandawire (1999, 2001), Archie Mafeje (1995, 2002), Issa
Shivji (2003), Claude Ake (1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 2002) and others. I argue that many of the findings
and conclusions in the donor-funded assessment reports on democracy and good governance in Africa
are concerned essentially with regime type rather than the nature of the state and its relationship to
the processes and outcomes of democratisation. Also, most of the reports fail to appreciate structural
contradictions as major constraints inhibiting the actualisation of democracy in Africa.

Overview of the discourse on democracy in Africa

The central issue in the discourse on democracy in Africa is whether democracy is feasible in Africa
considering the region’s social and economic conditions (Ake 2002). Academics and international
development experts have assessed this issue from different perspectives. On the part of western

| 11
scholars and analysts, the main issue is the ‘failure’ of the western model of liberal democracy and
the absence of positive signs of democratic consolidation in most African countries. A review of this
discourse will outline some of the arguments made by western scholars.

The culturalist/traditionalist perspective focuses on the African past and tradition, including the
implications of its overwhelming ‘culture of informality’ on African polities (Chabal & Daloz 1999). This
perspective is conceptually aligned with the ‘re-traditionalisation of society’ and the ‘instrumentalisation
of disorder’ frameworks, and its emphasis is on autocratic tendencies, corruption, chaos, anarchy
and violence, all of which are wrongfully linked with the traditional (Bayart 1996; Bayart et al. 1999;
Chabal & Daloz 1999; Ellis 2005). Chabal and Daloz argued that ‘the state in sub-Sahara Africa [sic] is
nothing other than a relatively empty shell’ (1999: 95). Disturbed that ‘the real business of politics is
conducted informally and more stealthily, outside the official political realm’, they hastily concluded
that within ‘such apolitical “order”, in which there is little meaningful institutionalization, the notion of
corruption as habitually defined in Western polities, is of little significance’ (Chabal & Daloz 1999: 95).
Their argument is similar to the assumption of the modernisation school that the pre-colonial culture
inhibited political development in Africa through uncivilised values and practices, which served as a
bottleneck to the emergence of democratic governance, hence the search for ‘anti-democratic and
anti-developmental traits in the cultural tradition’ of African states (Onoge 1997: 19).

The thesis of the culturalist/traditionalist school in relation to democracy in Africa can be summarised
thus: African traditional political institutions are autocratic, personalised and corrupt, and therefore
cannot provide appropriate historical and cultural foundations for democracy in modern societies. In
contrast, traditional African societies’ governments are open and inclusive. Fortes and Evans-Pritchard
pointed out that ‘the structure of an African state implies that kings and chiefs rule by consent’ and
that ‘ruler’s subjects are as fully aware of the duties he owes to them, as they are of the duties they
owe to him, and are able to exert pressure to make him discharge these duties’ (1987: 135–136).
Also, indicators of a wide spectrum of inclusiveness are observable in the decision-making process of
traditional African political systems.

In the traditional system generally, evidence abounds to show a heritage of transparent and accountable
governance. Traditional African societies place a high premium on accountable governance to the
extent that leaders are not only answerable for their actions, but in the past were also made to explain
natural events such as famines, epidemics, floods and droughts, for which many were forced to go
into voluntary exile or ‘asked to die’ (Ake 1991: 34). Also, a political culture that abhors corruption
is found among the Kanyok people of the southern Congo – the famous Luba story in which the
Kanyok approve of ‘community spirit’ and ‘deplore selfishness’ shows the anti-corruption content of
the political culture of the Kanyok people (Yoder 1998). It is a common belief among the Yoruba in
south-western Nigeria that their social misconducts can invoke the wrath of their progenitors. This has
served to check and regulate social behaviours among the Yoruba. Many such examples of democratic
values and orientations characterise political and social life in traditional African societies.

Archie Mafeje (2002) argued that ‘traditionally, Europe was a land of corrupt absolute monarchs and
predatory and callous feudal lords’ and that it was possible for liberal democracy to supersede the
influence of traditional European institutions and record success in Europe only ‘under changed socio-
economic conditions’. In contrast, attempts to reproduce western models of liberal democracy in post-
independence Africa failed because they only produced ‘one-party dictatorships under a veneer of
European bureaucratic structures and procedures’ (Mafeje 2002). On the basis of these historical facts,
I am inclined to argue against the misleading and prejudicial position of the culturalists/traditionalists
that associates African culture and tradition with non-democratic politics. In addition, they have
elevated cultural factors to such a degree that culture is imbued with the power to explain everything.

12 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

More importantly, the traditionalists/culturalists adopt a perspective that ignores a fact of history – that
no culture has ever successfully operationalised itself on the basis of anti-democratic tendencies.

The democratisation and modernisation discourse adopts Francis Fukuyama’s (1992) unilinear view
of historical development to explain political developments. The central thesis of his discourse is that
liberal democracy will become the only form of government for all states as a mark of the ‘end of
history’. Thus, to follow the path of modernisation and democratisation, indigenous cultural values,
practices and beliefs in non-western societies must be replaced with western liberal values, such as
the triumph of free markets, rule of law, and separation of powers. In The End of History and the Last
Man, Fukuyama (1992) argued that not only are all modernising societies going through basically
the same process, but that an almost inevitable outcome of the process is political democratisation.
According to him, the advent of liberal democracy may signal the end point of humanity’s socio-
cultural evolution and the final form of human government (Fukuyama 1992). Samuel Huntington
(1991, 1997), however, challenged the unilinear view of modernisation, as well as the fallacy that
modernisation equals westernisation. He argued that while all cultures experience certain similarities
in the modernisation process, cultures still retain their unique characteristics. Also, he pointed out
that the temporary conflict between ideologies is being replaced by the ancient conflict between
civilisations, and that it is the dominant civilisation that decides the form of government. Although
Huntington argued against regarding western values as permanent universal values, he too implicitly
alluded to the fallacy that ‘west is best’. However, there is growing concern, especially among African
scholars, about transplanting non-universal values from one cultural milieu into another.

Some have argued that African regimes remain highly patrimonial and neo-patrimonial practices
have been the core feature of post-colonial politics in Africa (Bayart 1996; Bratton & Van de Walle
1994; Lindberg 2003; Reno 1995, 1998, 2006; Villaion & VonDoepp 2006). The central argument is
that the neo-patrimonial nature of regimes in Africa is at the base of corruption, which in turn affects
the process of democratisation. The focus is on patron–client relationships and the personalisation
of power as the basis for structuring social relations in Africa. Also, the conceptual framing of the
‘economy of affection’ strengthens the assumption that many Africans participate in social networks of
the extended family, clan and village community that operate outside formal structures and institutions
and are not bounded by them (Hyden 1976). This in turn creates the conditions for lawlessness, poor
governance and corruption. The main limitation of this explanatory framework, however, is that in a
bid to explain everything, it ends up explaining very little.

It is generally acknowledged that the failure of democracy in many societies is due essentially to
weak democratic structures and underdeveloped political institutions. This stand is well captured in
a statement by Jacques Attali of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, who once
stated that ‘a democracy without institutions is anarchy and a market economy without institutions
is a Mafia’ (in Van Hoek 1993: 67). The weak governance environment in Africa is characterised by
underdeveloped institutions of democratic accountability, and this situation presents an extraordinarily
high risk for democracy. Underdeveloped political parties, weak civil society, an over-concentration of
power at the centre, non-separation of the branches of government, and lack of transparency and
accountability characterise political life in many African countries. Indeed, there is a fear that this
trend could undermine the foundations of democratic transition. It is in response to this trend that
international donors provided support for empowering institutions critical to the establishment of the
rule of law and the improvement of representative government in developing countries.

It is a valid argument that democratic ‘experiments’ have suffered major setbacks in almost all of
Africa’s new democracies and that, due to the non-functioning or total absence of relevant institutional
frameworks, the quality of political systems has not improved. The solution, however, does not lie in

Measuring democracy and ‘good governance’ in Africa: A critique of assumptions and methods | 13
transplanting institutions of western democracy to Africa. A historical reference to Latin America best
illustrates this point: in the early nineteenth century, Latin American countries adopted republican
institutions and liberal political values, including elections and open legislatures. However, the
establishment of viable democracies in the region was not accomplished until the second half of the
twentieth century because of a delay in the emergence of dominant coalitions around the liberal
values of competition and respect for civil liberties (Przeworski 2009). Africa’s new democracies present
a more contemporary example. A number of born-again democrats in Africa made declarations
promoting democratic values, and inaugurated new constitutions and legislative assemblies. However,
after being elected, these same leaders manipulated procedures, abused power and engaged in non-
democratic practices which resulted in authoritarian reversals rather than democratic transitions. The
note of caution by Steven Finkel et al. is appropriate: ‘the adoption of particular institutions (elections,
legislatures, universal suffrage, and so on) is…a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the
establishment of democracy’ (2008: 15). The struggle for democracy in Africa, therefore, must resist
the idea of transplanting principles and institutions of western democracy.

Internal deficits, weak constitutions, and strong institutions that are captured by interest groups that
undermine public interests all contribute to the problems of poor governance in Africa (Reno 1995,
1999; Rotberg 2003). William Reno (2006) argued that state failure has been a characteristic feature
of African politics since the dawn of the neoliberal global order. It is also the view in some circles in
the west that weak and ‘shadow’ states that are characteristically bedevilled by internal conflicts ‘can
no longer deliver positive goods to their inhabitants’ (Rotberg 2003: 1). Part of the argument is that
the governments of these failed states ‘lose legitimacy, and the very nature of the particular nation-
state itself becomes illegitimate in the eyes and in the hearts of a growing plurality of its citizens’
(Rotberg 2003: 1). To bolster the claim that failed states are utterly incapable of performing the basic
functions of the state, the logical policy prescription advocated by international donors and western
development experts is increased intervention of external agencies to foster development in the
countries in the ‘bottom billion’ (Collier 2007). This logic underlies increased donor intervention in
developing countries. The United States and other bilateral donors in the west – as part of their support
for democratic development around the world, especially since the collapse of communism in the late
1980s – have provided a significant amount of assistance for the promotion of democracy (Finkel et
al. 2007). However, despite massive donor assistance to African countries, the lot of the people has
not improved significantly. More than ever, there is growing concern among bilateral and multilateral
donors about the value of international democracy assistance in developing countries.

The above explanatory frameworks have dominated the discourse on the processes and outcomes of
democratic experiments in Africa. The policy prescriptions advanced in these frameworks are largely
expressions of blind support for neoliberalism. It is therefore necessary to place the main theses in
these frameworks alongside other arguments that throw more light on the benefits and limits of
neoliberal democracy in Africa. In this regard, the perspectives and propositions made by western
scholars and analysts on democracy in Africa fail to consider a number of critical issues, including the
nature and role of the state in the struggle for democracy, the relationship between the state and
democracy, the relationship between democracy and development, and the role of domestic and
international social forces in promoting or inhibiting democracy. There are also other considerations,
such as the level of social conflict in the country, the nature and orientation of the dominant class,
the direction of class struggles, and the alignment and realignment of social forces at the domestic,
regional and global levels. All these are key variables determining the direction of the processes and
outcomes of democratisation in Africa.

14 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Liberal democracy and its aftermath
In Africa, the ‘third wave’ of democratisation in the 1990s contributed to positive changes: the end
of apartheid and the inauguration of majority rule in South Africa in 1994; expansion of the political
space in a number of one-party states; the end of personal rule by the likes of the late Mobutu Sese
Seko in then Zaire, Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia, and the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda in Malawi; and
the end of oppressive rule in a number of authoritarian and dictatorial regimes. Today the continent
celebrates the era of multiparty elections. This new brand of democracy has, however, produced more
contradictions than it has solved.

In post-apartheid South Africa, the success of multiracial elections has not fully guaranteed the
incorporation of all social groups into the democratic system. In Nigeria, in spite of the success of
the celebrated ‘second transition’ following the 2003 elections, and most recently the 2007 elections,
agitation for the ‘democracy dividends’ is still very loud in almost every part of the country (Lewis
& Alemika 2005: vi). In Kenya, the disputed 2007 elections triggered violence that resulted in the
death of many. The incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, allegedly ‘stole’ an election believed to have
been won by the opposition led by Raila Odinga. In Zimbabwe, violence broke out in March 2008,
triggered by serious electoral flaws and human rights abuses by the government. This illustrated that
democracy requires more than merely holding multiparty elections. A power-sharing arrangement
was put in place between Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to
avert further bloodshed. This arrangement, like that in Kenya, tests the commitment of Africa’s new
democracies to constitutionalism and rule of law, both of which are key tenets of liberal democracy.
In Mauritania, the idea that military rule is no longer acceptable was belied when soldiers overthrew
an elected government in spite of threats and warnings from Nigeria and other members of the
Economic Community of West African States. The soldiers were quick to declare their preference for a
new power-sharing arrangement with civilians. The situation in Niger, where the incumbent president
ruthlessly pursued an agenda for tenure elongation, which subsequently provoked a successful military
coup détat, and the brutal and repressive activities of the military junta in Guinea are indicative of
authoritarian reversals in West Africa. Compared with other countries of the world, only a few African
countries – Mauritius, Botswana and, most recently, Ghana – can be said to be following the path of
genuine democratic political development.

On the whole, in spite of their experimentation with processes and procedures of liberal democracy,
democratic outcomes have eluded many countries in Africa. Ake (1966: 6) commented that ‘this type
of democracy is not in the least emancipatory especially in African conditions because it offers the
people rights they cannot exercise, voting that never amounts to choosing, freedom which is patently
spurious, and political equality which distinguishes highly unequal power relations’. In many instances,
electoral democracy has served as a breeding ground for kleptocratic regimes. Also, corruption remains
one of the biggest challenges in many African countries, including those that have been rated highly
in terms of the quality of their democracy, notably South Africa, Ghana and Senegal. Given the high
rate of corruption and its negative effects on governance, especially the delivery of public goods, the
description of ‘democratic regime’ does not hold for many African governments.

The version of liberal democracy introduced through the democratisation processes in Africa has been
indifferent to the nature and character of the state. Experimentation with the liberal model has been
primarily about how democratic elections will help determine who will be chosen by the people to
exercise the power of the state. The consequence has been the survival of a state that lacks autonomy
yet dominates and supervises the political process. This has serious implications for democratic
development, as substituting ‘democrats’ for dictators through multiparty elections has not brought
about democratic progress in several African countries.

Measuring democracy and ‘good governance’ in Africa: A critique of assumptions and methods | 15
Using public opinion data from a 2008 survey conducted in 19 African countries, the Afrobarometer
Network assessed the extent of Africa’s democratic development and evaluated whether the new
African ‘democratic’ regimes are consolidating or not, as well as if ‘various countries are approaching
a stable equilibrium between [the] demand and supply’ sides of the democratisation process. The
conclusion from the survey was that ‘public attitudes toward democracy are on the increase’ but that
only a ‘few of Africa’s diverse political regimes are consolidated’ (Afrobarometer Network 2009: 1). Apart
from the conclusion that Africa is characterised by ‘a diversity of political regimes’, it was discovered
that most political regimes in Africa are ‘unconsolidated hybrid systems’ (Afrobarometer Network
2009: 2). However, some regimes are consolidating, but not always as democracies despite exhibiting
some features of democracy. It is now generally acknowledged that a transition to democracy is not
necessarily a transition to a stable, consolidated democracy (Diamond 1996, 1999). There is a lingering
debate on what factors explain democratic consolidation. The notion of ‘democratic consolidation’
is often used in reference to a political transition process accompanied by major changes in socio-
economic structures; one in which the political system includes the economic and social correlates
of democracy. Gerald Alexander’s (2002) hypothesis, based on a general theory of regime preference
formation, was that democratic consolidation depends critically on whether the major right-wing
political actors perceive the political left as predictably moderate. Raymond Suttner opined that
‘whether democracy is consolidated depends also on the extension and deepening of democracy,
the involvement of people in politics during and between elections, the viability of participatory
democracy and the existence of autonomous organizations of civil society, organs of direct democracy’
(2004: 769). Wonbi Cho and Carolyn Logan (2009) associated democratic consolidation with power
alternations made possible through frequent multiparty elections. However, they later pointed out
that there are so many uncertainties about ‘many of Africa’s struggling electoral political systems’
(Cho & Logan 2009: 12) that reduce the prospect for democratic consolidation measured in terms of
the frequency of alternation of power.

Liberal democracy has produced a social context in Africa that has continued to work against
the emergence of a democratic developmental state in various countries in the region. This has
further immersed the state in social contradictions that render it unable to effectively intervene in
the development process, especially in terms of a regime’s responsiveness to its citizenry, justice,
accountability and the provision of public goods. For example, most governments in the new
democracies in Africa – especially those that had previously adopted the structural adjustment
programmes – embarked simultaneously on both political and economic liberalisation programmes,
with unimpressive results. The implementation of neoliberal economic reform programmes, notably
economic deregulation via the free market, provided the context for the consolidation of liberal
democracy alongside its limitations and defects.

The interaction between economic and political reform programmes in Africa’s democracies soon
became problematic for the state, which lacked the necessary capacity to successfully design and
implement economic reform programmes. As soon as the state realised its inability to successfully
impose the economic conditions required for liberal democracy to thrive, the stage was set for a
retreat into authoritarianism marked by a lack of responsiveness to the needs of the people, abuse
of power, repression, disrespect for the rule of law and procedures, exclusion of the people from
decision-making processes, etc. Lacking in legitimacy and political capacity, the state in many African
countries has become increasingly exclusionary. In many instances, the management styles of new
‘democratic’ governments have alienated the majority of citizens, whose living conditions have not
directly benefited from reform policies and programmes.

Citizens responded to the authoritarian reversals with a lack of trust and confidence in the institutions
of governance, which are riddled with corruption and lack of accountability and transparency. Citizens

16 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

also complained about the burden of economic reform programmes and, as access to goods and jobs
deteriorated, they became less supportive of the state and more involved in social and violent conflicts,
as well as other forms of criminal behaviour. The absence of democratic growth, non-performance in
the delivery of public goods, and the prevalence of abject poverty are major risk factors for violent
conflicts in many African countries.

In the absence of democracy, many potential conflicts, which were previously forcefully suppressed
under authoritarian and dictatorial regimes, have intensified with increased destabilising capacity.
Poverty and deteriorating living conditions have exacerbated identity conflicts along communal,
ethnic, religious and regional lines. Since the transition to civilian rule in 1999, Nigeria has witnessed
more than 500 separate incidents of communal conflict; some 11 000 lives have reportedly been lost
(Lewis 2007: 1). In Sudan, there is constant tension between black people and Arabs, just as there is
between Christians and Muslims. At the root of the disaffection and suspicion among the various groups
is the manipulation of identity-based issues by the elites. Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja observed that ‘a
transformation is not possible in situations of violent conflicts and/or those in which the institutions
and processes of governance are unresponsive, unaccountable, or simply ineffective’ (2002: 8).

Critique of liberal democracy

One of the major political developments of the twentieth century was the spread of liberal democracy.
However, the evolution and development of liberal democracy is associated with a particular culture
and environment, which belies its claim to universality. Given this major constraint, its transferability
to different cultural contexts has generated many problems, especially for non-western societies. The
purveyors of liberal democracy ignore the differences in the process of historical development and
change in different regions of the world. Also, the preference for a state-centric legal-bureaucratic basis
of authority that is tailored after the experiences of western societies does not hold actual or potential
benefits for non-western countries.

Liberal democracy exhibits cultural particularity. Ake drew attention to the fact that liberal democracy is
a ‘product of a socially atomized society where production and exchange are already commoditized, a
society which is essentially a market. It is the product of a society in which interests are so particularized
that the very notion of common interest becomes problematic hence the imperative of democracy’
(1993: 242–243). The adoption of liberal democracy, as the dominant ideology of political order, makes
room for liberalism to ‘determine the nature of the state (formal, abstract), its structures (separate from
the autonomous civil society, a clear separation between public and private), its rationale (protection
of the basic rights of its citizens) and its basic units (individuals rather than groups or communities)’
(Parekh 1993: 165).

This version of democracy ‘specifies who constitutes the legitimate government and wields the
authority inherent in the state (the elected representatives), how they acquire authority (free elections,
choice between parties) and how they exercise it (in broad harmony with public opinion)’ (Parekh
1993: 165). In this way, the concern and main focus of liberal democracy is on whether the regime is
authoritarian or representative. This explains why the democratisation project in Africa is essentially
dominated by an emphasis on the type of government in place, with little or no consideration for the
‘authentic participation of the people’ (Onoge 1997: 5).

Within the context of neoliberalism, democracy is no more than ‘a form of political regime in which
citizens choose, in competitive elections, the occupants of the political offices of the state’ (Bratton &
Van de Walle 1997: 13). Conceived in this way, a transition to democracy is deemed to have occurred

Measuring democracy and ‘good governance’ in Africa: A critique of assumptions and methods | 17
‘with the installation of a government chosen on the basis of one competitive election, as long as all the
contestants accept the validity of the election results’ (Bratton & Van de Walle 1997: 13). In this regard,
the main concern is whether elections are conducted ‘within a matrix of civil liberties’ (Bratton & Van
de Walle 1997: 12). It has been argued that democratic performances are associated with the electoral
cycle, and that elections add value to democratisation processes and outcomes. The idea that the mere
repetition of elections strengthens the quality of democracy in sub-Saharan Africa was celebrated by
Staffan Lindberg (2006), among others. However, many elections have failed to produce democracy in
Africa (Teshome-Bahiru 2008); instead, they produced fraudulent leadership while contributing to the
erosion of legitimacy. Also, an ECA report notes that ‘the quality of elections remains suspect in many
countries. Often they are less a peaceful means of transferring power than a trigger of conflict’ (ECA
2009: 3). The experiences in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Togo, and Zimbabwe have shown that holding
elections is not a sufficient condition for democratisation.

Although it is claimed that ‘the consolidation of democracy in the long run, involves the permanent
establishment of many other valued institutions such as civilian control of the military, independent
legislatures, and courts, viable opposition parties and voluntary associations, plus a free press’, liberal
democracy still restricts the ‘necessary condition of democracy’ to national elections, and some still
argue that it is ‘the first step without which democracy cannot otherwise be born’ (Bratton & Van de
Walle 1997: 13). This disembodied conception of democracy makes little or no attempt to focus on the
larger picture of democratisation, and also ignores the fact that development takes place only through
political empowerment that comes through democratisation. Ake’s remarks aptly draw attention to
this conceptual confusion:

The trivialization of democracy has in turn trivialized notions of what democratization

entails and what it takes for others to support democracy; it has led to the confusion of
democratic processes with democratic outcomes. Thus external support for democracy
has tended to be focused on multi-party elections, easy tolerance of non-competitive
electoral contests and the presumption that voting amounts to choosing. (2002: 30)

A paradox in the experimentation with liberal democracy in Africa is that stakeholders in the west are
quick to point out its failure, marked by the rise of ‘hybrid regimes’ on the continent. No doubt the
situation in many countries is indeed a far cry from democracy. However, despite common agreement
among advocates of liberal democracy that non-democratic politics dominates in Africa, I argue that
liberal democracy is restricted and tends to de-radicalise democracy. Instead, I advocate for genuine and
substantive democracy which, for instance, emphasises broad-based participation, popular sovereignty,
and meeting needs and aspirations on a self-sustaining basis. Once again, Ake’s advice is pertinent:
‘Africa requires somewhat more than the crude variety of liberal democracy that is being foisted on it,
and even more than the impoverished liberal democracy’ (1994: 129). The imposition of ‘impoverished
liberal democracy’ has not resulted, as can be expected, in the end of authoritarian regimes in Africa. Isa
Shivji (2003) puts the matter of social change and transformation beyond the neoliberal discourse on
democracy: the ‘struggle for democracy is ultimately rooted in the life-conditions of the people’.

Critique of assumptions and methods

Measuring democracy and governance is a field that has developed rapidly with the support of
multilateral donors and development agencies like the World Bank and the UNDP. The World Bank
governance indicators and the ECA’s African Governance Report (AGR) II are fast acquiring a reputation
in this respect. With substantial inputs from academic communities, donors and development
agencies, significant progress has been recorded in the development of governance assessment tools

18 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

and governance-related indices. However, there are still many challenges in effectively measuring and
analysing democracy and governance, including how best to meaningfully measure governance, the
inadequacy of indicators for measuring key governance processes, and ‘lack of agreement over who
is best placed to provide insights as to the quality of governance in a country and how it compares to
the situation in other countries’ (Court et al. 2002: 1).

A number of different intentions underlie the efforts and initiatives to measure democracy and
governance. Various political science indices have been developed for the purpose of examining
correlations between democracy and economic development, and international donors and
development agencies are increasingly showing an interest in using democracy and governance
assessments to identify how recipients of development assistance are likely to manage resources.
Also, democracy assessments provide citizens with critical information about processes, outcomes,
results and impacts of democratisation. Citizens’ perceptions need to be accurately reflected in
governance assessments. Governance is an area where the demand for greater country ownership
of the development agenda is a challenge to realise (ODI 2007), as most governance indices and
assessments are closely tied to donor agencies’ preferences, which presents problems of credibility
and legitimacy.

It is important to note that the assumptions, methods and other related processes in these donor-
sponsored assessments and evaluations of democracy and governance are inextricably linked to the
minimalist conception of democracy. In this context, the issues of human rights, civil liberty, rule of
law, free and fair elections, good governance, and public participation are parameters for measuring
democratic progress. The debate about what attributes to include in the minimalist definition of
democracy is quite rich. While some scholars are satisfied with ‘the smallest possible number of
attributes that are still seen as producing a viable standard of democracy’, others add ‘fully contested
elections with full suffrage and the absence of massive fraud, combined with effective guarantees of
civil liberties, including freedom of speech, assembly and association’, as well as conditions such as
‘the criteria that elected governments must have effective power to govern’ (Collier & Levitsky 1997:
431). Even so, these attempts at conceptualising democracy have not fully addressed the challenges
occasioned by the global wave of democratisation in the 1980s and 1990s, especially in Latin America,
Africa, Asia and in Eastern Europe where a great diversity of national political regimes arose.

Certain assumptions about democracy underlie donor support for the promotion of liberal democracy
in developing countries. For example, bilateral donors such as the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID) and multilateral donors such as the European Union have primarily given support
for the installation of the Euro-American version of liberal democracy, expressed overtly as support for
the rule of law, individual freedom and civil liberty, and free and fair elections. Also, rather than treating
the people as the agency of change, the programme design and implementation approach of many
donors has tended to relegate the people to mere helpless victims of bad governance. In collaboration
with the new ‘democratic’ regimes in Africa, donors have sought to ‘deliver the people’ through the
introduction and consolidation of neoliberal reform programmes.

The methods and procedures for measuring growth and economic development have found their
way into the field of measuring democracy and governance. However, unlike economic growth,
which enjoys relative universal consensus on indicators for measuring progress, democracy remains
an ‘essentially contested concept’ (Gallie 1956), and the business of measuring democracy, especially
the issues of methods and procedures, is nowhere close to enjoying universal consensus. For
instance, year after year, evaluators of good governance have struggled unsuccessfully to address
the inexactitude that bedevils the discourse on democracy and related concepts such as democratic
transition, democratic consolidation, and sustainable democracy. Thus, measuring democracy and

Measuring democracy and ‘good governance’ in Africa: A critique of assumptions and methods | 19
good governance has become associated with subjectivity. In some cases, it has degenerated in utter
confusion, for instance in the distinction between liberal and electoral democracy, representative
and participatory democracy, market and social democracy, as well as in the exact and functional
relationship of democratisation to human rights and the rule of law.

Beyond characterising democracy using political attributes and criteria, the minimalist conception of
democracy assumes the existence of a causal link between democracy and economic performance.
This perspective regards modernisation as a complex process involving the evolution of economic and
social as well as political systems, with economic development usually preceding political democracy.
Thus, western donors emphasise the relationship between economic development and democracy,
after the experience of western societies, in the design and implementation of democracy assistance
programmes in developing countries. However, given that many of the societies that experienced
democratisation in the 1980s and 1990s are in different stages of economic development, questions
must be raised about economic development as a prerequisite for democratisation. Also, the thesis
that projects the ‘west is best’ ideology as the only path to democracy for the modern world needs to
be questioned.

Sources of evaluation data

Sources of data for several of the evaluations and assessments of democracy and good governance in
Africa range from the desk study approach used by USAID, to several country impact assessments by
bilateral and multilateral donor agencies, such as the United Kingdom’s Department for International
Development, the Canadian International Development Agency, the Swedish International
Development Cooperation Agency, the European Commission and other development assistance
providers whose mandate includes promoting democracy and good governance in the non-
European world. For example, USAID launched a series of studies in 2000 to determine the impact
of its democratisation assistance on political change. The framework employed by USAID to guide
democracy and governance assessments and shape assistance strategies is focused on such questions
as whether political power is concentrated in the executive branch or not, whether the legislature is
able to perform oversight functions, and whether there is transparency in electoral processes. Also, the
framework pays attention to other issues such as the rule of law and judicial systems, and whether they
are susceptible to political influence (see USAID 2001).

Data from sources such as Human Right Watch, Amnesty International, and Transparency International
are regularly used as indicators for measuring democratic progress. For example, data from Freedom
House’s annual country ratings for political and civil rights are ‘often used as proxy for the level of
democracy’ (IDEA & SIDA 2007: 27). However, some analysts have pointed out limitations, citing, for
example, the entry for Freedom House’s Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties, presented
in the UNDP’s Governance Indicators (UNDP n.d.). The approach of the Bertelsmann Foundation is
similar to the methods and procedures used by Freedom House. The Bertelsmann Transformation
Index evaluates countries on the basis of 23 criteria that are, in turn, based on 62 indicators. The status
index criteria include political participation, rule of law, level of socio-economic development, market
regulation, regulation of competition, and social security. The criteria used to assess governance
performance are efficacy of policies, effective use of resources, and capacity for consensus-building
and international cooperation. These parameters for measuring political performance are silent on the
social and economic conditions in the countries concerned; neither are they targeted at determining
the nature of the state beyond the neoliberal assumptions.

20 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Methods of measuring democracy and good governance, by western donors and analysts, draw data
from interviews with stakeholders, case studies, evaluators’ own observations made during field visits
and opinion surveys. Networks of personal contacts and local newspapers have also been used by
researchers and evaluators to get information that may not be easily available; however, there are
challenges associated with these sources. For instance, personal contacts come with the demand for
confidentiality, and information from newspapers and magazines is susceptible to bias and prejudice.
It is not likely that foreign consultants and expatriates who are involved in the assessment business stay
long enough in Africa to be able to filter through journalistic sources and make objective assessments.
Apart from the concerns about possible prejudices and biases that may be associated with the use of
newspaper reports and other local sources, the external orientation of the approaches used in donor-
driven assessments, as well as the issue of ownership, have been of concern in some circles.

Since the late 1990s, reports of opinion surveys conducted among a sample of the population on African
political issues have been added to sources of data for the assessment of democratic governance. One
such is the barometer surveys used to measure the performance of new African democracies since the
1990s. Referred to as Afrobarometer surveys, the general objective is to determine the perceptions of
a sample of the population in the new democracies on the nature, scope, cause and consequences of
political and market reforms, with a focus on policy measures and institutions of governance. Typically,
issues surveyed include levels of knowledge about democratic values; levels of popular support
for democracy and citizens’ estimates of the performance of the government; levels of satisfaction
with democracy; levels of political participation and interest in politics; levels of knowledge about
leaders and political parties; levels of support for market reforms; and public perceptions about the
socio-economic situation in the country. The Afrobarometer Network’s surveys compare responses
across African countries, and also attempt to explain variations in responses. As part of its strategies
to promote good governance, the World Bank sponsored surveys in some developing countries to
measure political issues such as good governance, corruption, public goods delivery, etc. These surveys
investigate the role of corruption in governance, especially in the delivery of social services. Usually,
deliberate efforts are made to ensure that the survey data and findings can be used for comparable
analysis across countries.

Critical analysis of the several empirical surveys and studies on the performance of new African
democracies reveals many gaps. For example, the various indicators used for surveying political issues
in the new democracies are rarely suitable for Africa. Also, there is no clarity on what is being measured:
processes or outcomes? Beyond these issues of conceptual relevance are other technical problems in
the survey of political issues to determine the level of democratic consolidation in Africa. For example,
most of the assessments rely on a quantitative survey approach, which is still largely underdeveloped
in many African countries. Even where expatriates are recruited by international agencies and donors
to carry out such surveys, the population in many African countries needs more time to become
familiar with the survey methods.

There is a shortage of systematic information for measuring democracy and good governance in Africa.
Until very recently, the media remained the dominant source of information on African politics. As
noted, this has its limitations. While the media are important sources that report facts as well as form
public perceptions of democracy and governance, they are prone to bias. Firstly, the media tend to
give priority to more spectacular stories, paying less attention to less dramatic but more common
practices of democracy and governance. Secondly, and more importantly, the amount of information
reaching the public on democracy and governance is influenced significantly by the degree of press
freedom, journalistic professionalism and the structure of media ownership and available resources. In
many African countries where the media are only partially free and lacking in professional competence,
high levels of bias characterise media reporting, especially on political issues. The effect of bias on

Measuring democracy and ‘good governance’ in Africa: A critique of assumptions and methods | 21
approaches that rely on media sources for measuring democracy is likely to be serious. Data and
information used for measuring democracy and governance should be based on direct and first-
hand observation by unbiased observers. This kind of empirical data hardly exists in African countries;
however, there is an expectation that things will shift to engender improvements in the generation
and availability of such data in the future.

This chapter has argued that, beyond the experimentation with democracy in most of Africa – as ‘a
model set of rights and institutions’ supported by westernised principles of modernisation theory –
African citizens have not experienced genuine democracy, thus their lack of faith in liberal democracy
and declining trust in the new multiparty regimes that purveyors of neoliberalism are helping to
instal in Africa. Also noted were the conceptual and theoretical limitations and deficiencies in the
assumptions, methods and conclusions of the several donor-driven assessments of democracy and
good governance in Africa, as well as some technical and environmental constraints.

Africa is undoubtedly one of the regions where democracy has had a precarious existence. In spite of the
replacement of authoritarian regimes in Africa, there are still powerful constraints on the advancement
of democracy on the continent. However, beyond the hasty conclusions in several assessment reports
on democracy and governance in Africa by western donors and analysts, there are questions about
the suitability of liberal democracy for African countries. I submit that the political culture of African
people, with its communal orientation, cannot easily coexist with liberal democracy’s projections of
possessive individualism as characterised by western societies. Rather, African countries should strive
toward a democracy that provides for African values to be embedded in the developmental state.
I denounce the ongoing propaganda of democracy without prefixes and suffixes – that is, a model
of democracy that fits into all contexts and situations – and call for decisive acknowledgement of
African cultural peculiarities in the democratisation processes on the continent. In his book A Theory of
Universal Democracy, Khan (2003) argued that the secular liberal democracy that Fukuyama espoused
in his End of History cannot be the end of human history, because we are not at the end of human
intelligence. Every human society has the right to construct its own conception(s) of democracy in
response to its religious, economic and social needs.

Khan’s main thesis, to which I subscribe, is simply that liberal democracy cannot be universalised.
Forcing Africa to adjust to liberal democracy is like divorcing democratic governance in Africa from
its concrete communal origin. For reasons of comparison, it is useful to point out that the declining
civic culture in the west is partly attributable to adherence to ‘individualism’. Robert Putman’s thesis
on the ‘declining of American social capital’ and the general decline in the vibrancy of American civil
society somehow brings out the growing preference for ‘the isolated individual’ as against ‘the group’
(Putman 1995: 76). According to Putman, one of the main causes of the decline in civic engagement
among Americans is the weakening of family, among other things. Putman (1995) further argues
that the reign of individualism in American society has rendered the family and civic associations less
effective in political socialisation and the transmission of norms. Given that Africa’s political and social
order is rooted in democratic values and orientations such as communitarian orientation and the
principles of social inclusiveness, consensus and representation, it is inconceivable that the struggle
for genuine democracy will require Africans to abandon their age-old commitment to a sense of
community in favour of individualism. The communitarian orientation among the African peoples
of Nigeria and Tanzania caught the scholarly attention of Hyden and Williams (1994), who observed
that ‘a distinctively communitarian idiom of politics prevails’ in Nigeria that is similar to what obtains

22 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

in Tanzania where, with the adoption of the ideology of Ujamaa, Nyerere’s notion of a communitarian
idiom of politics was systematised.

Regarding the failure of Africa’s democratic experiments, I recommend that scholars revisit the issue
of what the patterns and forms of democratisation are for Africa. Discourses on democracy and
democratisation processes should pay due attention to Africa’s unique socio-cultural realities. In
addition, such renewed intellectual efforts should avoid blanket generalisations about the experiences
of African countries, which vary from one country to another, reflecting the lack of uniformity in the
way political change occurs in different countries, the specificity of their political histories, their unique
internal dynamics, and the differences in the intensity of their struggles for democracy. Unfortunately,
these considerations are missing in most of the existing models and frameworks used for assessing
Africa’s democracy and good governance. African intellectuals have responded in various ways,
ranging from critiques of liberal democracy to outright rejection of external intervention in all its forms
(Chole & Ibrahim 1995; Lumumba-Kasongo 2005). On measuring democracy and good governance
and deciding what methods to use for the measurement, it is imperative that ways be explored to
respond to the inadequacies of the prevailing approaches, with the recognition that people are the
focus of any and all democratisation processes and outcomes.

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Diamond L (1996) Is the third wave over? Journal of Democracy 7(3): 20–37
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Measuring democracy and ‘good governance’ in Africa: A critique of assumptions and methods | 25
chapter 3

Public expenditures, governance and

education system performances in
sub-Saharan Africa
Alban AE Ahoure

Education plays a crucial role in economic development. Basic education is widely considered to be a
human right, which explains why it is prominent in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The
second MDG, which anticipates universal access to primary education for all, predicts the completion
of a full course of primary schooling by all boys and girls everywhere in the world by 2015.

According to UNESCO (2008), no sub-Saharan African country had achieved the Education for All goals
by 2008. The exception is the Seychelles, which came close to doing so. At the opposite extreme, there
are 16 countries that are still quite far from achieving those goals. The implication of the inability of all
of sub-Sahara to come close to attaining the education goals can be better understood when viewed
in the context of the adult literacy rate, which is less than 50 per cent in most sub-Saharan African
countries. The corollary is that literacy and enrolment rates are still at low levels in most of those

This state of affairs contradicts the size of the financial effort devoted to education in sub-Saharan
Africa. The education sector consumes the largest percentage of public expenditure in most sub-
Saharan African countries. According to the World Development Indicators (World Bank 2008a), the
proportion of the GDP allocated to education is more than 5 per cent in South Africa, Burundi, Ethiopia,
Senegal, the Seychelles, Mozambique, Ghana, Kenya, Cape Verde, Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho.
In many of these countries, more than 20 per cent of the national Budget is allocated to education.
However, despite the efforts made to provide education for all and to improve its quality, outcomes of
implemented policies appear to be insufficient to allow education, as part of human capital, to boost
growth and development in sub-Saharan Africa.

In fact, there is a need for information on programme performance and impact to guide decision-
making on government projects and resource allocation to education. To achieve this goal, several
pieces of research have been done to document the relationship between public spending and
education outcomes. Al-Samarrai (2003) underlined, for instance, the weak effect of public spending
on primary school attendance in sub-Saharan Africa due to the trade-off between quantity and
quality during primary school extension. Based on budget constraints, governments must choose
between investments in educational infrastructure or in factors that improve quality, such as teachers’
incentives. It has also been shown that the less comforting results from public expenditure on public
education that have been observed in sub-Saharan Africa are related more to policies than to resources
(Colclough & Al-Samarrai 2000). By constructing variables for disparities stemming from differences in
inputs and for disparities in transformation of inputs into outcomes, Mingat (2003) has shown that the
variability in use of resources has a greater impact than the resources themselves.

26 |
Although the existing literature highlights conditions for better use of public spending on education,
there is not a direct focus on the environment or incentives for an efficient allocation of resources
to education (supply side), or on factors that motivate people to invest in their education (demand
side). For Heneveld (1994), determinants of school performance (institutional, cultural, political and
economic factors) have to be understood. This piece of research examined the long-term impact of
public expenditures on educational system performance measured by coverage outcomes (gross
enrolment rates [GERs]), internal efficiency (pupil–teacher ratio [PTR] and primary completion rates
[PCRs]), and overall reading and writing abilities (adult literacy rates [ALRs]). It focused especially on
the role of governance on the incidence of public expenditures and how that impacts on education
performance. The postulation is that improved governance (political stability, governmental
effectiveness and control of corruption) that engenders higher public efficiency and better resource
allocation will strengthen the effect of public expenditures on education. The literature on the subject
is enriched by the findings in this research. Following a review of some of the relevant literature on the
subject in the next section, the chapter then discusses the methodology and analysis of results. The
final section summarises the findings and makes specific policy recommendations.

Literature review
Education plays a crucial role in poverty reduction (Ravallion & Chen 1997), economic growth and
economic development (Barro 1991; Lim & Adams-Kane 2008; Romer 2001). Education has both intrinsic
and instrumental values (Sen 1999), demonstrating externalities that benefit the whole of society. It
is widely recognised that education has consequences for democracy, economic growth, the labour
market, poverty reduction, improvements in health and crime prevention (Soguel & Jaccard 2008).
Thus, as a public good, education and skills production require public expenditures (Duflo 2001). The
importance of education for development has driven policy-makers to give priority to education, which
is among the eight MDGs adopted in 2000. However, the causal relationship between educational
expenditures and schooling outcomes is not yet well understood (Anyanwu 1998). Researchers have
not reached consensus on the impact of public education spending on outcomes such as school
enrolment and completion.

Some scholars have pointed out some of the positive impacts of public expenditures on education.
For instance, based on data on 50 developing and transition countries, Gupta et al. (2002) show that
increased public expenditures on education and health are associated with improvements in both
access to and high attainment in schools. Focusing specifically on fifth grade survival, McMahon (1999)
found that expenditures per pupil impact positively on persistence in school by pupils in primary
schools. Schultz (1995) found that school enrolment is positively correlated to public spending on
education. Baldacci et al. (2004) also found that education outcomes are positively correlated to social
spending in developing countries.

Other scholars have emphasised a rather negative (or weak) relationship between public expenditures
and education outcomes. Al-Samarrai (2003) pointed out the weak explanatory power of primary
education expenditure per pupil and PTR on cross-country differences in education outcomes. He also
noted a weak relation between primary survival, completion rates, PTR and the share of education on
GNP. From results derived from an experimental study conducted in the United States, Hanushek (1997)
stressed the lack of a robust and significant relationship between resources and school completion.
Schultz (1995), quoted by Al-Samarrai (2003), found a negative impact of increases in resources per
pupil (i.e. rise in teachers’ compensation) on enrolment rates. Unlike McMahon (1999), who does not
control for income per capita in the regressions that he subjected his research data to, Colclough
and Lewin (1993) took income per capita into account and found a non-significant effect of public
expenditures on education outcomes.

| 27
For Al-Samarrai (2003), the observed weak link between public spending on education and outcomes
might be explained by differences in the effectiveness of the management systems of public
expenditure across countries. However, Wobmann (2003) stipulated that student-level international
differences in achievement in science and mathematics are much more related to institutional
differences. Rogers (2008) argued that corruption in schools impedes education sector productivity
and weakens incentives for human capital accumulation. Similarly, Mingat (2003) justified the weak
correlation between resources and education outcomes by the variability in the ways in which resources
are effectively used. With specific regard to governance and the socio-political environment, Anyanwu
and Erhijakpor (2007) stressed the importance of democracy in their explanation of the relationship
between primary and secondary education enrolments.

This review adds credence to the assertion that there are different impacts of public spending on
education across regions, as well as within countries that are at a similar stage of development. At the
same time, the review shows that the findings in the pieces of research reviewed are still inconclusive.
For instance, one can argue that governance, especially governmental effectiveness, the fight against
corruption and socio-political environments appear to be crucial variables that can foster better
allocation of resources towards education outcomes. The role of governance on the effectiveness of
public spending on education is specifically factored into the equation in this research.

Method of analysis
This section presents the data and the econometric methods used to extract the relevant statistical
results from them.

Education system performances are measured by different outcomes that include two variables of
interest. The first is the GER for primary education, which measures the ratio between the number
of pupils in primary schools and the school-age population for primary school. The GER ratio is an
indicator of the extent of coverage or access to education. The second variable is the PCR, which
reflects the internal efficiency of educational services. The PCR is the ratio between the total number
of students successfully completing (or graduating from) the last year of primary school in a given
year and the total number of children of official graduation age in the population. Primary completion
is considered by the World Bank as a better indicator of progress towards MDG number two, which
stipulates the achievement of universal primary education. Another indicator of efficiency is the PTR,
which depicts the total number of pupils in a given level divided by the total number of teachers in
the same level. A low number of pupils per teacher will enhance the teaching and learning process in
the classroom.

To take the impact of public expenditure on ability and capacity-building at a more general level
of society into account, it is necessary to look at the total literacy rates (TLRs). The TLRs are global
outcomes of education that relate directly to the educational system. They result from a spillover
of education onto the whole of society in that the effects of literacy may result from self-education
activities. The GER, PCR and PTR are derived from the World Development Indicators (World Bank
2008a) while TLRs are provided by the African Development Bank’s (2008) Selected Statistics on African
Countries. World Development Indicators also offer information on some explanatory variables such
as GDP per capita, household expenditure as a proportion of GDP, total population, population aged
0–14 as a percentage of the total, industry and agriculture value added as a proportion of GDP, and
the ratio expressed as a percentage of exports of goods and services on the GDP. Resources devoted

28 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

to education are measured by the GDP share of public spending on education. This type of data can
also be found in the World Development Indicators of 2008. Data on governance are published in the
World Bank’s (2008b) Worldwide Governance Indicators. Kaufmann et al. (2008) have shown how these
variables are constructed. Six indicators were suggested: political stability and absence of violence;
government effectiveness; control of corruption; regulatory quality, voice and accountability, and rule
of law. Of these, only the first three are retained in this study because they are assumed to have a
greater impact on educational outcomes than the others.

Political stability and absence of violence measures the perception of probability of destabilising a
government by unconstitutional means or violence. Socio-political stability is considered an important
condition for time allocation to training and learning activities. During a crisis, people allocate their time
much more to survival activities. Consequently, it is likely that public expenditures will be channelled
towards the resolution of the crisis through peace-building, for instance. Thus, education might receive
less attention from both people and governments when there is a national emergency situation.

Government effectiveness denotes the quality of public services, governmental performance and the
autonomy of public office, the quality of public policies and their implementation, and the credibility
of public authority engagement. Government effectiveness is assumed to favour a better and efficient
allocation of public expenditures, especially resources for education and the achievement of targeted
outcomes. Control of corruption assesses the use of public authority to check personal enrichment at
public expense, both large- and small-scale corruption. The absence of corruption means that resources
designed for education will be used effectively for that purpose, which in turn translates into good
use for public expenditure (Francken 2009). Governance indicators are assigned quantitative values
that range from –2.5 to +2.5, with a higher level indicating greater efforts towards good governance.
They are available for most sub-Saharan African countries for 1996, 1998, 2000 and annually from
2002 to 2007. In order to ensure that there is a chronological continuity in the relevant data, the time
series encapsulated in the period 2002–07 (T = 6) was adopted, even though the period lacks full
information on one of the key variables, which entails an unbalanced panel of 46 countries – including
Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger,
Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Principe, Senegal, the Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan,
Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Econometric model and method

As noted, the task here is to discern how governance affects the relation between public expenditures
and education outcomes (access, completion and society’s basic educational skills) using three
variables: GER at primary school (total, female and male), PCR (total, female and male), PTR and ALR
(total and female). All three variables are expressed in logarithmic form and observed over the period
2002–07 for most sub-Saharan African countries in question. The longitudinal feature of the data set
dictates use of the panel data econometric method of analysis.

Panel data econometric techniques have several advantages. In addition to their capacity to take
into account the units’ (sub-Saharan African countries) heterogeneity, they lead to less of a risk of
multicollinearity among the variables, greater variability and precision, and they deal with the influence
of unobservables (endogeneity). These attributes render panel data econometric techniques quite
efficient. The panel data method helps to analyse long-term relationships. The influence of governance
on the effect of public expenditures on education system performance will be better appraised if
successive waves of these variables are considered.

The estimation is based on the one-way random error component disturbances model:

Public expenditures, governance and education system performances in sub-Saharan Africa | 29

LnEDUCi,t = β1PbExpi,t + β2Gvncei,t + β3Gvncei,t∙PbExpi,t + αGDPcpi,t + β4Wi,t + ui,t (1)

where: ui,t = λ + ei,t , i = 1,…,46 (N = 46) and t = 2002,…,2007 (T = 6).

• LnEDUC is the logarithm of one of educational outcomes: GER at primary school, PCR, PTR
or TLR.
• PbExp refers to public spending on education as a percentage of GDP.
• Gvnce represents a dummy variable for political stability and the absence of violence,
government effectiveness, or control of corruption. It takes value 1 in year t if the real value
of the indicator is higher than the median in t and 0 otherwise. It also measures a general
environment of good governance. In this case, it equals 1 for a country i in the year t, if the
values of the three indicators are each higher than the median in t. It helps to test whether a
generalised environment of good governance has a more important effect on the long-term
relationship between public spending and the education system’s performance.
• Gvnce∙PbExp is an interaction variable between any governance variable and public spending
on education. It serves to apprehend differences in the impact of public expenditures on the
education outcomes according to a country’s performance in governance.
• GDPcp measures the GDP per capita in constant US$ of 2000.
• W is a matrix of all other considered explanatory variables such as the share of population
0–14 years in the total population, household final consumption on GDP, gross fixed capital
formation and the ratio of industry value added on GDP.
• λi , fixed effect or countries heterogeneity term, takes into account all the unobserved factors
constant in time which have an impact on education outcomes. ei,t represents the particular
error term for unobserved time variant factors that affect education outcomes.
• α, βj, j = 1, 2, 3, 4 … are parameters to be estimated.

In equation (1), the GDP per capita variable is considered to be endogenous since GDP growth is shown
to be positively and significantly correlated to education or human capital (Lucas 1988; Romer 1990).
GDP per capita should be correlated to the disturbance term in equation (1) due to the simultaneous
impact of GDP on education and vice versa or to the fact that countries that demonstrate better
conditions for higher GDP growth are also those more likely to invest in human capital enhancement.
Endogeneity gives rise to inconsistency of the usual Ordinary Least Square estimates. Dealing with this
problem requires instrumental variable methods such as two-stage least squares (2SLS) that result in
consistent estimation of the parameters (Baltagi 2008).

If y is called the logarithm of the education variable Z, the matrix of all explanatory variables at the
right-hand side of equation (1) and δ the vector of parameters to be estimated, equation (1) can be
rewritten as follows:

yi,t = Z​   ​∙ δ + ui,t where ui,t = λi + ei,t 

ʹi,t (2)

with , λi ~ iid N (0,σ​2 λ ​)  , ei,t ~ iid N (0,σ​2 e ​)   and Z​ʹ 

  ​ is a 1 × g vector of observations on explanatory variables
which include the endogenous variable: GDP per capita. Xi,t is denoted as the set of k exogenous
instruments. We consider as instrument the export of goods and services expressed as proportion
of GDP. The reason is that countries with high levels of GDP per capita are usually more dynamic
in international trade. Equation (2) is therefore identified because of the presence of at least one
instrument for the single endogenous variable. Following Baltagi and Liu (2009: 1–2), equation (2) can
be rewritten in vector form:

y = Z∙δ + u (3)

where y and u are n × 1 vectors, Z is an n × g vector and X is an n × k (for k = 1) vector with n = N∙T.

30 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

In the literature, two methods have been suggested to estimate δ in equation (3). Firstly, Baltagi (1981)
suggests the error component two-stage least square (EC2SLS):

​δ​̑ EC2SLS = (Z*΄PAZ*)–1∙Z*΄PAy* (4)

__ __
where PA = A(A΄A)–1A΄, and A = [​ X,​​
​  X​  ]​, with ˜
˜ X​
​  = QX and X​
​  = PX.

_1 _1 _1 Q _ _ J
y* = ​Ω– ​ 
​ 2 ​​y, Z* = ​Ω– ​  ​ 2 ​​= __
​ 2 ​​Z with ​Ω– ​  ​ σP1  ​+ __
​ σe  ​and P = IN ⊗ J​ ​ T  = __
​ T  where J​ ​ TT ​,  Q = INT – P and
σ​ 21​  = Tσ​ 2λ ​ + σ​ 2e ​,   IN is an identity matrix of dimension N, JT is a matrix of ones of dimension T
and ⊗ is the Kronecker product.

Balestra and Varadharajan-Krishnakumar (1987) advise the generalised two-stage least square (G2SLS)
defined as follows:

​δ​ ̑ G2SLS = (Z*΄​P​ *​ Z*)–1∙Z*΄​P​ *​y* (5)

​X​ ​ ​X​ ​
1 _
1 _
where P ​ ​ *​= X*(X*΄X*)–1X*΄, X* = ​Ω– ​  ​ 2 ​​X, Z* = ​Ω– ​ 
​ 2 ​​Z and y* = Ω ​ – ​ 
​ 2 ​​y
​X​ ​
_ 1 Q _ _ J
​ σP1  ​+ __
with ​Ω​– ​ 2 ​​= __ ​ σe  ​and P = IN ⊗ J​
​  T where J​ ​ TT ​,  Q = INT – P and σ​2 1​  = Tσ​2 λ ​ + σ​2e  ​,   IN is an identity
​  T = __
matrix of dimension N, JT is a matrix of ones of dimension T and ⊗ is the Kronecker product.

Baltagi and Liu (2009: 3) show that when n → ∞,  δ​̑ ​G2SLS and  δ​̑ ​EC2SLS have the same asymptotic variance
for n = NT and are both consistent. However, for finite samples, that is, when n is not large enough,
the EC2SLS may be more efficient than the G2SLS. Based on empirical analysis of crime rates in the
United States, Baltagi (2006) underlines the efficiency of EC2SLS estimates over those of G2SLS, even
though both are consistent. Since the study sample is finite with N = 46 and T = 6 or n =NT = 276, the
EC2SLS recommended by Baltagi (1981) was adopted to estimate δ in equation (3) more efficiently.
The results are laid out in the next section.

The descriptive statistics are presented and discussed before the econometric results that highlight
how governance affects the incidence of public spending on education outcomes in the target sub-
Saharan African countries.

Descriptive analysis of the variables

Table 3.1 offers statistics on the different variables for all 46 countries in the 2002–07 period. On average,
the total literacy rate is of 63.09 per cent for all the countries. Niger has the lowest literacy rate (17.1 per
cent in 2002) and Zimbabwe the highest (92.8 per cent in 2007). This rate is lower among females (56.12
per cent). Total gross enrolment at the primary school level is at an average of 94.74 per cent. The total
gross enrolment for males and females at the primary school level is 100.41 per cent and 90.92 per cent
respectively. The PCR is very low in sub-Saharan African countries. The average is 56.68 per cent during
the period of focus. The rate for that fluctuated from 118.33 per cent in the Seychelles in 2002 to 20.34
per cent in Niger in 2003. On average, there is one teacher per 43 pupils at the primary school level in
sub-Saharan African countries. The lowest ratio is 12 pupils per teacher observed in the Seychelles in
2007 while the highest (poorest performer) is about 83 pupils per teacher in the Republic of Congo
in 2005.

Public expenditures, governance and education system performances in sub-Saharan Africa | 31

TABLE 3.1 Descriptive statistics of the variables, sub-Saharan Africa, 2002–07
(Number of countries: 47; Years: 2002–07) Obs. Mean Std Dev. Min. Max.
Central government expenditures
as % of GDP cgvexppcgdp 264 29.33 12.93 10.98 87.18
Public expenditures on education
as % of GDP pbexedugdp 121 4.47 2.08 0.60 13.84
GDP per capita constant of 2000 gdpcap2000 268 1065.56 1724.26 81.47 8207.49
Export of goods and services as %
of GDP expofgdp 257 36.06 23.75 6.16 136.35
Population ages 0–14 as percentage
of total pop0_14 269 42.58 4.38 23.56 49.60
Total population in millions of
inhabitants PopMlln 276 16.21 24.34 0.08 147.98
Household expenditures per capita
in US$ HHExpCapCst 207 665.76 899.42 85.16 5913.22
Household final consumption as %
of GDP HHConsGDP 240 73.21 19.49 9.68 133.11
Gross fixed capital formation as %
of GDP gfxcpcgdp 243 20.81 8.79 4.74 59.72
Gross capital formation as % of GDP gcfpcgdp 249 21.37 9.13 4.74 60.16
Industry value added as % GDP IndVAGDP 256 29.29 17.09 8.05 94.32
Household health expenditures
current US$ HHHealthExp 184 61.78 104.58 3.00 557.00
Political stability and absence of
violence polstab 276 –0.50 0.90 –2.45 1.16
Government effectiveness gvneff 276 –0.72 0.60 –1.80 0.88
Control of corruption contcorr 276 –0.63 0.55 –1.61 1.10
Dummy for political stability/no
violence DmyPolSt 276 0.50 * 0.00 1.00
Dummy for government
effectiveness DmyGvnEff 276 0.50 * 0.00 1.00
Dummy for control of corruption DmyContCor 276 0.50 * 0.00 1.00
Dummy for global governance Govnce 276 0.35 * 0.00 1.00
Gross enrolment ratio primary, total gerprimtotal 187 94.74 24.00 39.90 152.30
Gross enrolment ratio primary,
female gerprimfem 185 90.92 26.56 32.70 151.80
Gross enrolment ratio primary, male grossenrpmal 224 100.41 23.93 46.70 207.12
Pupil–teacher ratio pupteacprim 200 42.68 12.79 12.47 82.80
Primary completion rate, total primcomptot 160 56.68 22.92 20.34 118.33
Primary completion rate, female compratprimfem 194 55.59 25.07 16.20 117.64
Primary completion rate, male compratprimmale 194 61.77 20.43 23.62 120.29
Adult literacy rate, total LiterRatTot 245 63.09 19.13 17.10 92.80
Adult literacy rate, female LiterRatFem 232 55.73 22.79 9.40 95.60
Source: Compiled by the author
Note: * Empty cells express the uselessness of standard deviation for dummy variables.

32 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Overall public expenditures represent on average 29.3 per cent of GDP over the period 2002–07.
Public spending on education accounts for 4.5 per cent of GDP on average, with the lowest value
for Equatorial Guinea (0.60 per cent of GDP) and the highest for Lesotho (13.84 per cent of GDP). The
three governance indicators are all negatives on the average, showing general bad governance in sub-
Saharan Africa. The mean values are –0.50, –0.72 and –0.63 respectively for political stability and the
absence of violence, government effectiveness and the control of corruption. Countries with the worst
levels for the first indicator are Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, while the
best performers are Mauritius, Botswana, Cape Verde and the Seychelles. The most efficient countries
in service delivery and policy implementation are Mauritius, Botswana and South Africa, while the least
efficient are the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Comoros. The countries that are efficient in
anti-corruption measures are South Africa, Cape Verde and Botswana. Countries with the lowest values
are Equatorial Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A prime relationship between public expenditures and educational performance is given in Table 3.2,
which displays the Pearson correlation coefficients between these two variables, according to the
state of governance in countries (countries below median versus those above). There is, at first glance,
evidence that education performance indicators are highly correlated to overall public expenditures
only for countries with a better socio-political stability record or effectiveness in government actions.
It emerges that the total and female PCR as well as the total and female literacy rates are positively
and significantly correlated to public spending on education when countries are considered above
the median in the achievement of socio-political stability, public action effectiveness and the control
of corruption.

There is also a positive and significant correlation between literacy rates (total and female) and public
expenditures in education only for the group of countries above the median in the realisation of
general good governance.

On the whole, Table 3.2 offers some evidence that good governance reinforces the positive effect
of public expenditures on the education system’s performance, especially for (total and female)
completion and literacy rates. However, the results are controversial for the PTR. The Pearson
correlation coefficient is negative (as expected) but significant only for countries below the median
(worst performers in governance). It seems that a more efficient socio-political environment will lead
to an exodus of teachers. Better job opportunities may favour the allocation of labour time to better
remunerated professional activities than teaching. The econometric approach will help to derive more
robust results in contradiction to observations from correlation coefficients.

Empirical results
The aim of this investigation is to verify whether in a situation of better governance, public spending
on education has a higher positive impact on the performance of the public education system. This
subsection examines the results from econometric estimations based on an estimation of equation (3)
by the EC2SLS method. Tables 3.3 to 3.7 show the results of different estimations based on selected
outcomes. Looking at the individual effects first, Table 3.3 displays the results without interaction terms.
Do the explanatory variables have individual power in explaining long-term fluctuations in educational
outcomes in sub-Saharan African countries? Public financial resources allocated to education affect
the total gross enrolment in primary schools as well as the female gross enrolment both positively and
significantly. A 10 per cent increase in public spending on education will lead to about a 1.1 per cent
increase in gross enrolment at the primary school level. The elasticity is also 1.1 per cent for female
gross enrolment. Furthermore, public spending on education impacts female PCRs both positively and
significantly. Increasing public spending by 10 per cent will result in an increase of about 1.8 per cent

Public expenditures, governance and education system performances in sub-Saharan Africa | 33

TABLE 3.2 Pearson correlation coefficients between public expenditures and educational outcomes according
to states of governance
DmyPolSt DmyPolSt DmyPolSt DmyPolSt DmyGvnEf DmyGvnEf DmyGvnEf DmyGvnEf
=0 =1 =0 =1 =0 =1 =0 =1
Public expenditures as Public exp. in education Public expenditures as Public exp. in education
% GDP as % GDP % GDP as % GDP
total –0.16 0.40* 0.19 0.22 0.05 0.32* –0.03 0.32
female –0.15 0.42* 0.23 0.23 0.07 0.35* –0.06 0.32
male –0.06 0.33* –0.09 0.15 0.09 0.27* –0.18 0.22
total –0.49* 0.44* –0.06 0.16 –0.14 0.43* –0.29 0.21
female –0.17 0.36* 0.20 0.10 –0.06 0.33* –0.03 0.10
male –0.34* 0.17 –0.05 –0.02 –0.26 0.18 –0.21 0.01
primary 0.02 –0.40* –0.55* –0.23 –0.06 –0.48* –0.47* –0.24
total –0.04 0.39* 0.19 0.39* 0.20 0.43* –0.30 0.38*
female –0.04 0.40* 0.28 0.41* 0.20 0.43* 0.14 0.40*
male –0.10 0.23 0.19 0.17 0.03 0.28* –0.09 0.24
ALR total 0.05 0.38* 0.26 0.39* 0.13 0.35* 0.05 0.47*
female 0.01 0.46* 0.33 0.49* 0.07 0.43* 0.14 0.55*

Source: Compiled by the author

Notes: * significant at 1% level
NER = Net enrolment ratio
CR = Completion rate
ALR = Adult (15 years old and more) literacy rate

34 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

DmyCntCor DmyCntCor DmyCntCor DmyCntCor Govnce Govnce Govnce Govnce
=0 =1 =0 =1 =0 =1 =0 =1
Public expenditures as Public exp. in education Public expenditures as Public exp. in education
% GDP as % GDP % GDP as % GDP
total 0.31* 0.10 0.16 0.29 0.12 0.29 0.13 0.32
female 0.34* 0.11 0.19 0.28 0.14 0.33* 0.15 0.32
male 0.35* 0.06 –0.09 0.22 0.13 0.22 –0.08 0.19
total 0.46* 0.01 –0.21 0.22 0.00 0.37* –0.10 0.22
female 0.45* –0.07 0.14 0.16 –0.01 0.26 0.13 0.10
male 0.25 –0.20 –0.20 0.10 –0.18 0.07 –0.09 –0.01
primary –0.12 –0.30* –0.43 –0.26 –0.12 –0.45* –0.50* –0.22
total 0.26 0.28* 0.33 0.39* 0.22 0.42* 0.18 0.33
female 0.31* 0.24 0.37 0.40* 0.19 0.42* 0.32 0.37
male 0.12 0.15 0.25 0.19 0.05 0.27 0.13 0.17
ALR total 0.10 0.30* 0.27 0.44* 0.11 0.44* 0.23 0.45*
female 0.07 0.32* 0.33 0.53* 0.06 0.55* 0.30 0.54*

Public expenditures, governance and education system performances in sub-Saharan Africa | 35

TABLE 3.3 Effect of public expenditures in education and governance on education outcomes (EC2SLS)
Dependant Variable Log GER primary total Log GER primary Log pupil–teacher
female ratio
Explanatory var. (I) (II) (III) (IV) (V) (VI)
Instrument: Exports % GDP Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ)
Log GDP/capita constant 2000 0.28** 0.27** 0.32** 0.28** –0.20* –0.19v
(0.08) (0.08) (0.09) (0.08) (0.08) (0.09)
Log HH consumption % GDP 0.33** 0.30** 0.40** 0.35** –0.01 –0.02
(0.10) (0.11) (0.10) (0.12) (0.10) (0.11)
Log gross fixed capital form 0.07 0.06 0.08 0.06
(0.04) (0.05) (0.04) (0.05)
Log industry value added % GDP 0.08** 0.08*
(0.03) (0.03)
Log HH health exp./cap. % GDP

Log labour force particip. rate

Log pop. ages 0–14 as % total 1.07v 1.03* 1.08 0.88 0.02v 0.02
(0.54) (0.51) (0.67) (0.58) (0.01) (0.01)
Log public exp. % of GDP –0.09 –0.07 –0.08 –0.05 0.01 0.01
(0.07) (0.07) (0.05) (0.08) (0.07) (0.07)
Log public exp. in edu. % of GDP 0.12* 0.11* 0.13* 0.11v –0.07 –0.07
(0.05) (0.05) (0.05) (0.06) (0.04) (0.05)
Dummy for political stability –0.02 –0.14 –0.01
(0.03) (0.03) (0.03)
Dummy for gov. effectiveness 0.00 0.02 0.02
(0.03) (0.03) (0.03)
Dummy for cont. of corruption 0.04 0.03 0.01
(0.05) (0.05) (0.05)
Constant –2.71 –2.40 –3.42 –2.30 2.77** 2.81*
(2.70) (2.60) (3.22) (2.92) (1.00) (1.09)
Number of observations 91 91 91 91 80 80
Number of groups (countries) 34 34 34 34 26 26
F-statistics 4.62 3.21 7.82 4.72 7.74 5.25
Prob > F 0.00 0.00 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Source: Compiled by the author
Notes: (σ) Standard error, ** Significant at 1%, * Significant at 5%, v Significant at 10%.
Time variables are included in all estimations.
In all models, use of Baltagi-Chang estimators of the variance components.
t-statistics and F-statistics are considered in place of z-statistics and Chi2 for robustness.
Bold indicates coefficients at the core of the study.

36 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Log completion rate prim. Log completion rate prim. Log adult literacy rate Log adult literacy rate
total fem. total female
(VII) (VIII) (IX) (X) (IX) (X) (XI) (XII)
Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ)
0.29v 0.28 0.43** 0.40** 0.23** 0.22** 0.31** 0.31**
(0.17) (0.17) (0.12) (0.12) (0.06) (0.05) (0.08) (0.07)
0.25 0.25 0.30 v 0.27 –0.07** –0.07* –0.10* –0.09*
(0.15) (0.16) (0.17) (0.16) (0.03) (0.03) (0.04) (0.04)
0.05 0.00 0.02 –0.00
(0.08) (0.08) (0.08) (0.08)

–0.02 –0.02 –0.04v –0.03

(0.01) (0.02) (0.02) (0.02)
–0.45 –0.47 –0.94 –0.95
(0.44) (0.41) (0.60) (0.55)
–0.70 –0.77 0.02 –0.08
(1.26) (1.34) (0.79) (0.81)
–0.16 –0.14 –0.16 –0.13 0.00 0.01 –0.00 0.01
(0.14) (0.16) (0.12) (0.12) (0.02) (0.02) (0.03) (0.03)
0.14 0.11 0.20* 0.18* 0.01 0.02 0.01 0.03
(0.10) (0.11) (0.08) (0.08) (0.01) (0.01) (0.02) (0.02)
0.02 –0.03 –0.014 v –0.021v
(0.06) (0.05) (0.007) (0.011)
0.05 0.12** 0.01 0.01
(0.06) (0.05) (0.01) (0.01)
–0.08 –0.01 –0.00 –0.00
(0.11) (0.06) (0.01) (0.02)
3.94 4.21 –0.02 0.66 5.08* 5.15** 6.62* 6.61*
(5.77) (6.11) (4.02) (4.00) (2.01) (1.88) (2.77) (2.56)
78 78 94 94 73 73 71 71
25 25 30 30 29 29 28 28
3.28 2.73 6.84 5.97 19.96 13.61 19.05 13.62
0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.000 0.00 0.000

Public expenditures, governance and education system performances in sub-Saharan Africa | 37

TABLE 3.4 Role of governance on the relationship between public expenditures in education and
primary school enrolment (EC2SLS)
Dependant variable Log gross enrolment ratio primary, total

Explanatory var. (I) (II) (III) (IV)

Instrument: Exports % GDP Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ)
Log GDP/capita constant 2000 0.314* 0.274** 0.271** 0.277**
(0.136) (0.078) (0.080) (0.079)
Log HH consumption % GDP 0.400** 0.330** 0.297** 0.337**
(0.094) (0.104) (0.098) (0.098)
Log gross fixed capital form 0.071v 0.036 0.030 0.039
(0.043) (0.039) (0.036) (0.036)
Log pop. ages 0–14 as % total 0.039 1.062* 1.090* 1.094 v
(0.031) (0.538) (0.554) (0.571)
Log public exp. edu. % of GDP 0.078 v 0.078 0.168 v 0.111*
(0.047) (0.064) (0.096) (0.051)
Dummy for political stability –0.085*
Log pub. exp. edu.* DmyPolSt 0.068*
Dummy for gov. effectiveness –0.019
Log pub. exp. edu.* DmyGvnEf 0.018
Dummy for cont. of corruption 0.165
Log pub. exp. edu.* DmyCtCor –0.105
Dummy for global governance 0.106
Log pub. exp. edu.* Govnce –0.071
Constant –1.111 –2.797 –2.841 –3.003
(2.366) (2.687) (2.740) (2.801)
Number of observations 91 91 91 91
Number of groups (countries) 34 34 34 34
Wald Chi2 73.12 44.82 50.16 49.65
Prob > Chi2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Source: Compiled by the author
Notes: (σ) Standard error, ** Significant at 1%, * Significant at 5%, v Significant at 10%.
Time variables are included in all estimations
In model (I) the real values of the share of population ages 0–14 are considered in place of the logarithms.

38 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Log gross enrolment ratio primary, female Log gross enrolment ratio primary, male
(V) (VI) (VII) (VIII) (IX) (X) (XI) (XII)
Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ)
0.428** 0.293** 0.277** 0.291** 0.314** 0.299** 0.294** 0.298**
(0.162) (0.086) (0.090) (0.087) (0.107) (0.071) (0.067) (0.070)
0.420** 0.382** 0.336** 0.381** 0.237** 0.241** 0.226** 0.251**
(0.083) (0.114) (0.109) (0.111) (0.064) (0.070) (0.071) (0.071)
0.091* 0.040 0.038 0.046 0.008 –0.012 –0.013 –0.010
(0.041) (0.043) (0.041) (0.041) (0.029) (0.028) (0.029) (0.028)
2.177 0.919 0.875 0.938 1.546 v 1.346** 1.313** 1.314*
(1.358) (0.589) (0.612) (0.604) (0.896) (0.524) (0.488) (0.529)
0.108* 0.065 0.155 0.115* 0.023 0.052 0.120* 0.072 v
(0.050) (0.074) (0.114) (0.059) (0.036) (0.043) (0.059) (0.037)
– 0.083 v –0.085*
(0.047) (0.039)
0.062 v 0.072*
(0.034) (0.029)
–0.040 0.014
(0.145) (0.069)
0.041 0.003
(0.096) (0.047)
0.125 0.129
(0.150) (0.087)
–0.080 –0.088
(0.126) (0.065)
0.115 0.079
(0.144) (0.068)
–0.073 –0.050
(0.095) (0.046)
–8.570 –2.669 –2.307 –2.788 –4.272 –3.417 –3.267 –3.351
(5.926) (2.971) (3.070) (3.020) (3.872) (2.420) (2.286) (2.430)
89 89 89 89 102 102 102 102
33 33 33 33 32 32 32 32
110.12 58.99 60.55 61.04 73.98 65.60 60.44 63.22
0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000

Public expenditures, governance and education system performances in sub-Saharan Africa | 39

for both the total PCR and the female PCR respectively. This finding tallies with findings by Baldacci et
al. (2004), Gupta et al. (2002) and McMahon (1999).

Among governance indicators, the effectiveness of government actions (and the quality of services)
appears to have a positive and significant impact on educational outcomes, especially on the female
PCR. The estimated coefficient for the dummy of government effectiveness and an absence of violence
is 0.12 and significant at the 1 per cent level (Table 3.3, column X). There is evidence of a need for
efficiency in public actions to enhance the completion of primary school education by girls. At a certain
level, this finding supports the findings by Mingat (2003), who focused on effective use of resources
in education.

Public spending did not have any significant impact on literacy rates. The acquisition of basic skills in
the general population does not depend on public expenditures on education. Instead, that capacity
is a function of per capita GDP (estimated coefficients are positive and significant at the 1 per cent level
in any specification). The statistical results from this investigation show that an increase in the share
of household final consumption on GDP impedes adult literacy rates. This finding indicates a trade-off
between consumption and investments in human capital acquisition at the household level. The rise
in the cost of living that translates to a rise in the financial resources allocated to consumption may
reduce investment in education or in the acquisition of reading and writing skills.

As noted, the following subsections present detailed explanations of the role of different governance
indicators on the relation between public expenditures and each of the educational outcomes involved.
In the process of this explanation, some explanatory variables are added or dropped on the basis of the
global significance of the models (higher Chi2- or F-statistics).

Governance and the impact of public spending on accessibility

Table 3.4 shows results for the GERs. It appears that socio-political stability reinforces the positive effect
of public spending on the gross primary enrolment ratio (column I). A 10 per cent increase in public
spending on education will increase the GER for countries below the median by 0.78 per cent, while the
GER is 1.48 per cent (0.078 + 0.068) for countries above the median. Socio-political stability does have a
positive influence on the GER for females at the primary school level. The coefficient of the interaction
variable and the public spending variable is positive and significant at the 5 per cent and 10 per cent
levels respectively (column V). It should be noted that the sign and significance of interaction terms
in columns I and V remain under different specifications and considerations of the Baltagi-Chang
estimators, which take into account the variance components or the unbalanced characteristics of the
panel. These estimations are not presented in this chapter. The other variables that positively affect
primary enrolments when the endogeneity of per capita GDP is controlled are the share of household
final consumption of GDP and per capita GDP. Their estimated coefficients are positive and highly
significant (at 1 per cent or 5 per cent). They are therefore crucial for policy implementation towards
enrolment at primary school.

There is evidence to show that political stability and the absence of violence impact positively on
public expenditures on enrolment at the primary school level, especially for girls. Socio-political
stability may be conceived as an incentive for parents to send their children to school since a safe
environment is favourable to such investment in human capital. This is in line with findings by
Stasavage (2005, 2007) and Anyanwu and Erhijakpor (2007) showing a positive and significant impact
of democracy on primary education. The postulation in this study is that democracy is correlated to
socio-political stability.

40 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

TABLE 3.5 Role of governance on the relationship between public expenditures in education and pupil–teacher
ratio (EC2SLS)
Dependent var. Log pupil–teacher ratio at primary school
(I) (II) (III) (IV)
Explanatory var. Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ)
Log GDP/capita constant 2000 –0.1781* –0.170 v –0.230* –0.183 v
(0.089) (0.096) (0.105) (0.101)
Log HH expenditures per capita constant 2000 –0.032 –0.041 –0.012 –0.056
(0.109) (0.101) (0.104) (0.105)
Log industry value added as % of GDP 0.075** 0.070* 0.076* 0.069*
(0.022) (0.032) (0.031) (0.035)
Pop. ages 0–14 as % total pop. 0.017 v 0.018 0.013 0.012
(0.009) (0.012) (0.013) (0.014)
Log public exp. in education as % of GDP –0.206** –0.044 –0.142 –0.076
(0.076) (0.066) (0.110) (0.054)
Dummy for political stability –0.251*
Log pub. exp. edu * DmyPolSt 0.191*
Dummy for gov. effectiveness 0.061
Log pub. exp. edu* DmyGvnEf –0.031
Dummy for cont. of corruption –0.095
Log pub. exp. edu* DmyCtCor 0.089
Dummy for global governance –0.041
Log pub. exp. edu * Govnce 0.025
Constant 3.115** 2.956** 3.330** 3.411**
(0.801) (1.075) (1.112) (1.161)
Number of observations 80 80 80 80
Number of groups (countries) 26 26 26 26
Wald Chi2 109.36 66.41 66.68 60.17
Prob > Chi2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Source: Compiled by the author
Notes: (σ) Standard error, ** Significant at 1%, * Significant at 5%, v Significant at 10%.
Time variables are included in all estimations.

Public expenditures, governance and education system performances in sub-Saharan Africa | 41

ole of governance on the relationship between public expenditures in education and primary
completion rate (EC2SLS)
Dependent variable Log completion rate primary, total
Explanatory var. (I) (II) (III) (IV)
Instrument: Exports % GDP Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ)
Log GDP/capita constant 2000 0.299 v 0.324 v 0.371** 0.320**
(0.155) (0.155) (0.111) (0.110)
Log HH consumption % GDP 0.273* 0.272 v 0.241v 0.254
(0.135) (0.147) (0.146) (0.156)
Log gross fixed capital form –0.008 –0.008 –0.023 –0.011
(0.057) (0.059) (0.058) (0.059)
Log pop. ages 0–14 as % total –0.309 –0.027 0.244 –0.020
(1.214) (0.646) (0.712) (0.692)
Log public exp. edu % of GDP –0.042 0.037 0.221v 0.071
(0.079) (0.083) (0.120) (0.072)
Dummy for political stability –0.119
Log pub. exp. edu * DmyPolSt 0.124*
Dummy for gov. effectiveness –0.163
Log pub. exp. edu* DmyGvnEf 0.152
Dummy for cont. of corruption 0.307
Log pub. exp. edu* DmyCtCor –0.202
Dummy for global governance –0.152
Log pub. exp. edu * Govnce 0.126
Constant 2.097 0.776 0.177 0.837
(5.425) (3.298) (3.615) (3.585)
Number of observations 89 89 89 89
Number of groups (countries) 30 30 30 30
Wald Chi2 46.70 66.63 59.22 59.97
Prob > Chi2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Source: Compiled by the author
Notes: (σ) Standard error, ** Significant at 1%, * Significant at 5%, v Significant at 10%.
Time variables are included in all estimations.

42 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Log completion rate primary, female Log completion rate primary, male
(V) (VI) (VII) (VIII) (IX) (X) (XI) (XII)
Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ)
0.372* 0.419** 0.461** 0.438** 0.280* 0.311** 0.343** 0.319**
(0.187) (0.116) (0.121) (0.122) (0.127) (0.101) (0.103) (0.103)
0.296* 0.303v 0.280v 0.338* 0.308* 0.300* 0.256v 0.316*
(0.149) (0.156) (0.163) (0.167) (0.140) (0.149) (0.146) (0.153)
–0.033 –0.044 –0.033 –0.030 –0.009 –0.010 –0.016 –0.005
(0.064) (0.062) (0.065) (0.065) (0.058) (0.060) (0.058) (0.059)
–0.379 0.132 0.286 0.154 –0.58 0.211 0.407 0.261
(1.483) (0.772) (0.789) (0.805) (0.943) (0.628) (0.646) (0.649)
0.002 0.100 0.329** 0.138 v –0.052 –0.002 0.183 v 0.020
(0.085) (0.088) (0.118) (0.081) (0.077) (0.080) (0.101) (0.072)
–0.193* –0.054
(0.088) (0.082)
0.153* 0.076
(0.066) (0.062)
0.032 –0.033
(0.152) (0.150)
0.069 0.062
(0.104) (0.100)
0.331 v 0.369 *
(0.194) (0.171)
–0.261 v –0.238*
(0.148) (0.130)
0.057 0.015
(0.163) (0.150)
–0.007 0.019
(0.113) (0.104)
1.739 –0.653 –1.600 –1.027 1.229 –0.002 –0.956 –0.335
(6.632) (3.845) (3.992) (4.046) (4.397) (3.267) (3.351) (3.375)
94 94 94 94 94 94 94 94
30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30
56.57 87.43 75.05 70.72 30.54 43.82 43.73 39.47
0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000

Public expenditures, governance and education system performances in sub-Saharan Africa | 43

Governance and the impact of public spending on internal efficiency
The internal efficiency of education systems refers to the optimal production of outputs (skills, abilities,
grade completion, etc.) by making use of available inputs (teachers, schools, materials, etc.). Two
indicators – PTR and PCR – are used to capture internal efficiency. According to the results displayed
in Table 3.5, a particular governance indicator that affects the impact of public spending on education
in terms of the PTR is political stability and the absence of violence. Higher public expenditures lead
to fewer pupils per teacher in countries below the median, that is, where there is low political stability.
For those countries, when the study controlled for per capita GDP, per capita household expenditures,
industry value added and a share of the 0–14 age group in the total population, a 10 per cent increase
in public spending on education produced a 2.06 per cent decrease in the average number of pupils
assigned to a teacher. Unexpectedly, the decrease in this ratio is lower for countries that show better
performance in socio-political stability. For this latter group, a 10 per cent increase in public expenditure
contributes only to a 0.15 per cent (–0.206 + 0.191) decrease in the PTR. The observed negative and
significant Pearson correlation between public spending on education and the PTR for less stable
countries (Table 3.2) is confirmed by the regression.

Notwithstanding the level of socio-political stability, public spending on education should be increased
to lower the number of pupils per teacher, which will enhance the acquisition of skills by pupils. The
apparently controversial results concerning the role of socio-political stability might reflect labour force
allocation to better remunerated activities that grow in environments with fewer risks. This assertion is
in line with the positive and highly significant (at 1 per cent level, in Table 3.5, column I) impact of the
value of industry added to the GDP. The industrialisation of a country can offer better opportunities
for jobs and salaries in other sectors and therefore lead to an exodus of current and potential teachers,
who look elsewhere in other sectors of the economy for greener pastures. For example, in Côte d’Ivoire,
new university graduates in several disciplines tend to accept temporary teaching posts, especially in
private schools, and later move on to better jobs as investments and job opportunities increase.

As far as PCRs are concerned, Table 3.6 shows that the estimated coefficient of interaction between
public spending and higher socio-political stability (countries over the median) is positive and
significant for the total completion rate as well as for the female completion rate at primary school
(columns I and V). Nevertheless, the coefficient for public spending alone is not significant at any
acceptable level. Public spending on education seems to affect (positively) PCRs, especially for girls,
only if political stability and the absence of violence are taken into consideration. Parents and pupils
might prioritise school attendance and knowledge development only in an environment that gives
hope for future high returns on education.

Other uneven results are those of the control of corruption on the effect of public spending on
completion rates at primary school for both females and males (columns VII and XI of Table 3.6). The
positive impact of public expenditures on education on the completion rate in primary school for
females is reduced as one moves from countries with weak performance in the control of corruption
to those with better control of corruption. This positive impact becomes negative (0.183 – 0.238)
for males. But, the results held only when the study controlled for gross fixed capital formation –
specification without this variable is not presented here. Estimations without this variable (not shown
here) give non-significant coefficients for public spending (alone) and for the interaction variable with
the control of corruption. High investments and a corruption-free environment would entail better
job opportunities even for low-skilled workers. The outcome would be lower school completion rates
in the population at large. Another specification shows that higher primary school completion rates
for males and females are correlated with lower levels of labour force participation rates. The increase
and efficient use of public education spending, where there is high control over corruption, may be
associated with lower resources being allocated to primary education, in comparison with secondary
education, as suggested by Al-Samarrai (2003) in a case study of Botswana.

44 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Table 3.7 Role of governance on the relationship between public expenditures in education and literacy rate
Dependent var. Log adult literacy rate, total Log adult literacy rates, female
Explanatory var. (I) (II) (III) (IV) (V) (VI) (VII) (VIII)
Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ) Coeff (σ)
Log GDP/capita 0.231** 0.226** 0.214** 0.229** 0.326** 0.312** 0.296** 0.321**
constant 2000 (0.048) (0.051) (0.049) (0.051) (0.066) (0.072) (0.068) (0.071)
Log HH expendit./ –0.073** –0.077** –0.066* –0.077** –0.097** –0.098* –0.084* –0.107*
capita cst 2000 (0.023) (0.027) (0.027) (0.028) (0.032) (0.040) (0.038) (0.042)
Log HH health exp./ –0.032* –0.024 –0.019 –0.024 v –0.053** –0.039 v –0.034v –0.040*
capita (0.014) (0.014) (0.013) (0.014) (0.020) (0.021) (0.019) (0.019)
Log labour force –0.534 –0.536 –0.501 –0.512 –1.004* –0.974 v –0.958v –0.962v
participat. rate (0.373) (0.383) (0.360) (0.376) (0.503) (0.520) (0.489) (0.507)
Log public exp. edu % 0.013 0.019 0.033 0.010 0.021 0.022 0.057 0.014
of GDP (0.014) (0.019) (0.048 (0.014) (0.020) (0.028) (0.069) (0.021)
Dummy for political –0.024* –0.038*
stability (0.012) (0.016)
Log pub. exp. edu * 0.010 0.015
DmyPolSt (0.009) (0.013)
Dummy for gov. 0.028 0.025
effectiveness (0.032) (0.047)
Log pub. exp. edu* –0.016 –0.013
DmyGvnEf (0.021) (0.031)
Dummy for cont. of 0.016 0.030
corruption (0.055) (0.078)
Log pub. exp. edu* –0.024 –0.043
DmyCtCor (0.047) (0.067)
Dummy for global –0.011 –0.037
governance (0.032) (0.047)
Log pub. exp. edu * 0.004 0.019
Govnce (0.020) (0.030)
Constant 5.445** 5.464** 5.301** 5.360** 6.874** 6.783** 6.693** 6.746**
(1.586) (1.669) (1.579) (1.657) (2.143) (2.289) (2.157) (2.262)
Number of 73 73 73 73 73 73 73 73
Number of groups 29 29 29 29 29 29 29 29
F-statistics 23.19 17.99 16.91 17.36 22.55 15.98 16.00 15.30
Prob > F 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Source: Compiled by the author
Notes: (σ) Standard error, ** Significant at 1%, * Significant at 5%, v Significant at 10%.
Time variables are included in all estimations.
In all models, use of Baltagi-Chang estimators of the variance components.
t-statistics and F-statistics are considered in place of z-statistics and Chi2 for robustness.

Public expenditures, governance and education system performances in sub-Saharan Africa | 45

Apart from public spending and governance, another variable that impacts positively on the internal
efficiency of education, through a negative effect on PTR and a positive effect on completion rates,
is per capita GDP. A wide range of research shows the positive effect of education, particularly of
primary education, on growth in developing countries. Since our model (EC2SLS) captures the
simultaneous relationship between education and gross product, it is worth noting that economic
growth (or efficiency) is essential for efficiency in the education system. There is no significant impact
of a generalised state of governance on either access to education (enrolments) or internal efficiency.
The opposite actions of a stable socio-political environment and control of corruption might be a
source of explanation.

Governance and the impact of public spending on reading and writing abilities
The adult literacy rate is used as a proxy for overall reading and writing abilities. Table 3.7 gives estimated
results for the total adult literacy rate and the adult literacy rate for females. There was no evidence
of a positive impact of public education spending on literacy rates when the study differentiated the
countries in terms of quality of governance. This result reinforces the findings in Table 3.3, which shows
a non-significant effect of public spending on adult literacy rates.

An important factor that could raise both the total and the female literacy rates is per capita GDP,
which is an indicator of revenues per capita and economic efficiency. The GDP is highly correlated to
governance (Ahouré 2009; Wei 1997). Alternatively, household per capita expenditure and household
per capita health expenditure affect literacy rates negatively. The cost of living and poverty may
reduce people’s incentive to invest in reading and writing. Additionally, an increase in labour force
participation rates reduces the female literacy rate. Rather than invest in education, females tend to
work to make a living.

Based on sub-Saharan African country data over the period 2002–07 and on the method of EC2SLS
of Baltagi (1981), this study highlights the role of governance on the long-term relationship between
public spending and education system performance. The method, which is efficient for a small sample,
has helped to control for the endogeneity of GDP per capita in education estimations, unlike previous
research that deals with income per capita.

Referring to three governance indicators (socio-political stability, government effectiveness, and

the control of corruption), the results show, firstly, that government effectiveness (alone) positively
affects the completion rate for girls in primary school grades. It appears that it is essential, therefore, for
governments in sub-Saharan Africa to scale up their efforts for efficiency in public services, to ensure
better allocation of resources, and to implement realistic policies to achieve gender equality at all
levels of education by 2015, as stated in the MDGs.

Secondly, it has been shown that greater political stability and an absence of violence have a positive
impact on public spending on enrolments at the primary school level and also on primary school
completion, especially for girls. Similarly, this governance indicator leads to a negative impact on
public spending on education on PTR though the effect is more important for countries with a low level
of socio-political stability. Even a significant allocation of resources to education in sub-Saharan Africa
will not bring about the achievement of the Education-for-All objective if there is social and political
instability. Consequently, socio-political stability appears to be a prerequisite for a better contribution
of public expenditure to facilitate access to and efficiency in education systems in this region.

46 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

A higher control over corruption results in a positive impact of public spending on PCRs for countries
below the median. However, this effect is lowered for countries above the median in the control of
corruption, and turns to a negative impact in the case of male’s PCR. This outcome seems to be related
to greater job opportunities for low-skilled workers in an improving business environment and also to
resource allocation strategies between primary and secondary or tertiary schools. Policies to attract and
retain teachers as well as balanced educational resource allocation when the economic environment
and job opportunities improve are, therefore, important.

Finally, the study noted a trade-off between resource allocation to consumption or the labour force
participation rate and investment in education, especially for females. It was found that per capita GDP
or economic efficiency is also crucial for achieving universal primary education and full completion
of primary education for boys and girls by 2015, as postulated by the MDGs. The findings here show
that sub-Saharan African countries should first invest in the quality and effectiveness of public actions
as well as in socio-political stability by building a highly democratic environment, before increasing
expenditure on education. Unless these variables are put in place, dedicating greater resources
to education may fail to produce the expected results. As governments improve on the business
environment in their respective countries as well as on their control over corruption, they should
also consider improving the treatment of teachers, because job opportunities in other sectors of the
economy may lure poorly motivated teachers away from the education sector. Public investment in
education should be associated with greater economic efficiency or revenues per capita to increase
household capacity to engage in education, that is, to improve the demand for education.

One of the limitations of this study is the lack of information for different sub-Saharan African countries
concerning education outcomes or public spending on education and the absence of longer series
on governance indicators, leading to a small sample size. Future research, based on better data, will
produce more robust results. Since per capita GDP and household expenses play a crucial role in the
performance of an education system, it will be a good idea for future research to focus on how income
distribution policies or inequalities affect the efficiency of public spending on education.

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48 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

chapter 4

Revisiting the Westphalian model:

The Chewa trans-border traditional
political entity
Happy Mickson Kayuni

In a speech on 26 April 2009 to celebrate his tenth year of reign, the Ghanaian king of Asante (Otumfuo
Osei Tutu II) argued that the African Union should ‘give traditional rulers a seat on the continental body’
(New African June 2009: 38). His view was that African nations have a long tradition of governance
based on traditional rulers but that modern African governments, including the African Union, operate
on western systems at the expense of the traditional systems. In order to facilitate his vision, the Asante
king added that he had

… initiated cooperation agreements with other traditional areas in Africa to enable

us to exchange ideas, programmes and visits. In the coming months, we will roll out
our economic development cooperation plan with the platinum-based Royal Bafokeng
Kingdom of South Africa which will include sporting and tourism activities. (New African
June 2009: 41)

The Asante king’s call highlights the need for a critical analysis of the contribution of the traditional to
modern structures of intra-state governance in contemporary African states. At a national level, there
has been some analysis of the role of traditional structures; evidence points to the fact that traditional
forms of governance will continue to play a significant role, whether positively or negatively, in the
modern formal structures of national governance (Englebert 2002; Logan 2008; Oomen 2000). At
an international level, the role of informal traditional structures has not been adequately featured
because the attention of most researchers has been on the formal, specialised modern institutions.
This could be due to the training that international scholars have undergone, which is mainly western
in orientation.

This chapter focuses on the case of the Chewa of Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique (in relation
to its leadership, this Chewa entity has been referred to as the Chewa Kingdom). The argument
is that, although the African states are being dictated to by the Westphalian model with all its
formalised structures in their dealings with counterparts, informal trans-border traditional political
entities such as the Chewa Kingdom are ultimately going to emerge as a major challenge to this
model. The challenge is not about providing an alternative to the formal state boundaries but
rather about the formal paying more attention to the needs and concerns of the informal. Some
of the factors leading to the strengthening of these traditional trans-border political entities are
African relevance and appeal, democracy, the entities’ non-confrontational approach, and the
incompleteness of state formation in Africa. Among others, this chapter takes a socio-historical
approach to explore and analyse these issues with reference to the Chewa Kingdom, as well as

| 49
their significance to the contemporary political frameworks (regional relations) of Malawi, Zambia
and Mozambique.

Origin and relevance of the Wesphalian model

The beginning of the development of modern nation-states in Europe can be traced to the growth
of kingdoms and the breakdown of central religious papal authority, mainly after the Renaissance of
the fifteenth century. These changes led to the political-religious struggles that are commonly called
Europe’s Thirty Years’ War. These wars, waged between 1618 and 1648, were finally over with the
Treaty of Westphalia, signed on 24 October 1648. It is so called because the negotiations, which began
in 1644, took place in the German cities of Münster and Osnabrück in Westphalia. Initially, signatories to
the Treaty were the then powerful states of Europe: France and Sweden and their opponents Spain and
the Holy Roman Empire. The terms of this Treaty have had a significant impact and it is widely believed
that they fundamentally influenced the subsequent history of Europe. Specifically, the Treaty marked
the birth of the modern national state and the world political system of international relations – hence
it is also referred to as the Westphalian model. For the first time in history, the Treaty recognised the
sovereignty and independence of each state. In particular, it contributed the following to contemporary
states and international relations practices (Boucher 1998; Brown 1992; Evans & Newnham 1990; Gross
1948; Morgenthau 1985; Zacher 1992): i) states were recognised as sovereign entities with fundamental
rights of self-determination (territorial inviolability, freedom to conduct foreign relations and negotiate
treaties with other states, as well as to establish their own form of government and rule their people);
ii) the principle of legal equality between states; and iii) the principle of non-intervention of one state
in the internal affairs of another.

In this regard, Buzan and Little point out that the Westphalian model ‘has been accorded iconic status
in International Relations’, and to this end ‘there is a near consensus in the field that the 1648 treaties
represent the benchmark for the transformation of the international system’ (1999: 89). With such
an overwhelming consensus, ‘almost nobody in the field disputes’ the model’s contribution to the
development of the modern state (Buzan & Little 1999: 89). One reason why the concept is popular
in international relations is its simplicity. As Krasner points out, ‘the Westphalian model, based on the
principles of autonomy and territory, offers a simple, arresting, and elegant image’ (1996: 115).

Why the Westphalian model is losing significance

The fading significance of the Westphalian model is depicted by Osiander, who observes that ‘the
350th anniversary of the Peace of Westphalia in 1998 was marked by a flurry of conferences and
publications by historians, but it was largely ignored in the discipline of international relations (IR)’
(2001: 251). Many questions are now being raised as to whether the Westphalian model accurately
explains the current international system; in some cases, these questions relate to the future of
international relations as a field of study. It is not surprising, therefore, that ‘at the centre of this
ongoing debate about the future of international relations lie competing evaluations of what has
come to be known as the Westphalian system’ (Buzan & Little 1999: 89). Specifically, the questions
being asked include the following: ‘With the ending of the Cold War…is the basic framework set by
Westphalia still the most accurate way to characterize the international system?’ (Buzan & Little 1999:
90) and ‘are the “pillars of the Westphalian temple decaying”? Are we moving “beyond Westphalia”?’
(Osiander 2001: 251). In this regard, Axtmann emphasises that ‘from the vantage point of the early
21st century, we are well placed to review this model’ (2004: 259).

50 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

In criticising the model, Krasner goes a step further and argues that the model has never offered
‘an accurate description of many of the entities that have been called states’ and ‘the assumption
that states are independent rational actors can be misleading’ (1996: 115). Even more damaging is
Osiander’s view that ‘accepted IR narrative about Westphalia is a myth’ (2001: 251). He argues that
the myth is the product of ‘nineteenth- and twentieth-century historians adopting a certain standard
account of 1648’ (Osiander 2001: 268). Another reason for this myth, according to Osiander, is the
indiscreet quoting of Leo Gross’s classic article of 1948, entitled The Peace of Westphalia, 1648–1948,
which Osiander feels was a misrepresentation of Westphalian events (Osiander 2001). Falk (2002: 312)
argues that the Westphalian model encounters conceptual problems when it tries to combine ‘the
territorial/juridical logic of equality with the geopolitical/hegemonic logic of inequality’. Osiander
doesn’t see the problem as emanating from conceptualisation and argues that ‘relations among
autonomous actors were perfectly possible without waiting for the concept’ (2001: 284). In this case,
‘the Westphalian model has never been more than a reference point or a convention’ (Krasner 1996:
115). Despite this severe criticism, some scholars have argued otherwise.

Although Falk (2002) admits that there are complexities associated with the model, his arguments
point to the fact that most scholars fail to fully conceptualise the model, hence their tendency to
misinterpret or even deny its significance. According to Falk, the term ‘ “Westphalia” is simultaneously
used to identify an event, an idea, a process, and a normative score sheet’ (2002: 312). Specifically, he
points out that

As event, Westphalia refers to the peace settlement negotiated at the end of the Thirty
Years War (1618–1648), which has also served as establishing the structural frame for
world order…As idea, Westphalia refers to the state-centric character of world order
premised on full participatory membership being accorded exclusively to territorially
based sovereign states. As process, Westphalia refers to the changing character of the
state and statecraft as it has evolved during more than 350 years…As normative score
sheet, Westphalia refers to the strengths and weaknesses, as conditioned by historical
circumstances. (Falk 2002: 312, emphasis added)

Burch specifically cautions that the question ‘Is the Westphalian system changing?’ cannot easily be
answered because ‘questions of social change are “the most difficult” for social science to address’
(2000: 182). According to Burch, the difficulty is enhanced by the fact that ‘answers depend upon
the analytical vocabulary, framework, and foundations one uses’ (2000: 182). His observation is that
scholars, especially in international relations and international political economy, ‘lack adequate
vocabulary and analytical frameworks sufficiently robust or comprehensive for addressing change’
(Burch 2000: 182).

Although Burch (2000), Falk (2002) and other scholars seem to defend the concept, they agree that the
model has lost its significance in explaining contemporary international systems. Falk even states that
‘what seems least likely is for the classical framing of international relations in Westphalian terms to
be regarded as satisfactory in either policymaking or academic circles’ (2002: 349). In this regard, Falk
suggests adopting what he calls the ‘Neo-Westphalian world order’, which is basically a refinement of
the current model. In relation to the nation-state as espoused in the Westphalian model, Hirsch states
that while it ‘is not disappearing, its significance is changing’ (1995: 267).

One of the core questions to emerge is: what are the specific factors/forces leading to the decline of the
model? Literature on the Westphalian state provides several answers, ranging from the end of the Cold
War to globalisation (Krasner 1996; Mann 1997; McGwire 2001; Robinson 1998; Shaw 1997; Strange
1999). According to Krasner (1996), since its inception the Westphalian model has been compromised

Revisiting the Westphalian model: The Chewa trans-border traditional political entity | 51
in four areas: through conventions, contracting, coercion, and imposition. These four areas can be
summarised as follows: i) conventions refer to ‘agreements in which rulers make commitments that
expose their own policies to some kind of external scrutiny’ (Krasner 1996: 124) – ultimately, these
external policies influence the state’s internal practices; ii) contract refers to ‘an agreement between
the legitimate authorities in two or more states or state authorities and another international actor,
such as an international financial institution’. Such an agreement ‘can violate the Westphalian model
if it alters domestic conceptions of legitimate behavior’ (Krasner 1996: 128); iii) coercion ‘occurs when
rulers in one state threaten to impose sanctions unless their counterparts in another compromise their
domestic autonomy’ (Krasner 1996: 136); iv) imposition takes place ‘when the rulers or would-be rulers
of a target state have no choice; they are so weak that they must accept domestic structures, policies,
or personnel preferred by more powerful actors or else be eliminated’ (Krasner 1996: 136).

A closer analysis clearly shows that the African state has been exposed to all four areas, which has
ultimately undermined the Westphalian model in Africa. However, there is some debate as to whether
the African Westphalian model state exists in the first place.

The Westphalian model in Africa: A reality or myth?

There is an abundance of literature which argues that the creation of a western-oriented Westphalian
model of the state in Africa has failed. Scholars point out that before the Scramble for Africa in the
late 1800s, there were several bona fide African states with strong local roots. The European powers,
however, destroyed this form of state and created what is sometimes popularly referred to as the
pseudo-state. In other words, the argument here is that the Westphalian state has never existed in
Africa; it is a myth. Ottaway points out that ‘what makes Africa unstable is not the artificiality of its
borders but the artificiality of its states’ (1999: 13). Related to this argument, critics of the model further
point out that ‘in a move of quite breathtaking Eurocentric audacity’, proponents of the Westphalian
model believe that it transcends all political entities (Buzan & Little 1999: 90).

It is my view that the Westphalian model, with all its shortfalls, has over the years been embraced in
Africa. A fair critique of the model in Africa should focus on what the model assumes and compare that
to what the contemporary African state is actually doing. This is because ‘the presence of (for example)
a president and a cabinet, a flag and a constitution, or embassies and borders, does not automatically
imply the existence of a state’ (Walker 2007: 582). Buzan and Little highlight two major assumptions of
the Westphalian model that need to be analysed: ‘First, the Westphalian state had hard and precisely
defined boundaries, and second, it consolidated into a single centre all the powers of self-government’
(1999: 90). From this view, ‘Westphalian states constructed a diplomacy based on mutual acceptance
of each other as legal equals’ (Buzan & Little 1999: 90). Based on these assumptions, it is clear that
formerly these were fulfilled in the African state (although the issue of borders is contentious). Another
observation is that ‘the Westphalian international order was very much driven by military and political
considerations’ (Buzan & Little 1999: 90). Similarly, the Berlin Conference 1 and its aftermath were
largely driven by military and political considerations. Some critics of the model have focused on the
African state’s ‘loss’ of sovereignty as evidence of the model’s non-existence in the region. However,
what they don’t take into consideration is that ‘a “sovereign” right to ultimate authority and control
does not imply an ability to exercise it’ (Axtmann 2004: 263).

1 The Berlin Conference of 1884/85 was organised by the European powers with the intention of defining their areas
of influence in Africa. The conference resulted in what is known as the ‘scramble for Africa’ which created the state
boundaries of present-day Africa.

52 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

It should be pointed out, however, that the arguments raised above do not necessarily imply that state
formation in Africa is complete; neither should they suggest that the African state is on a par with that
of the west. A major problem with the Westphalian state in Africa is that it has not managed to fully
integrate the informal traditional political entities that could have added value to its role in society.
Because, in practice, the informal traditional political entities are more relevant to citizens, a new
citizenship based on this informal system is emerging and will ultimately challenge the formal state.

The Chewa Kingdom of Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique

According to several historical sources (Langworthy 1969; Ntara 1973; Pachai 1972; Phiri 1975),
the Chewa people migrated to the Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique areas from the Congo Basin
between 1200 and 1500 AD. They were led by kings who were called Kalongas, the first being Kalonga

Figure 4.1 Boundaries of the Chewa kingdom

Revisiting the Westphalian model: The Chewa trans-border traditional political entity | 53
Chinkole. The first Kalonga to settle in modern-day Malawi was Kalonga Mazizi. The chairperson of the
Chewa Heritage Foundation (CHEFO) stated in an interview that after the death of Kalonga Mazizi, the
headquarters of the Chewa moved to Mankhamba in Malawi. The last Kalonga at Mankhamba was
Kalonga Mazula, the nephew of Chidzonzi. The CHEFO chairperson further said that the reign of Kalonga
Mazula was fraught with difficulties because of disagreements within the royal family. The eligible
heir at that time was Undi, the late Kalonga Chidzonzi’s brother, but the throne was instead given to
his nephew Mazula (Langworthy 1971; Ntara 1973). This was the source of the palace disagreements
and divisions. Consequently, in protest, Undi left Mankhamba and created his own empire, the Undi
Empire, which the first Portuguese explorers described between 1608 and 1667 (Langworthy 1969,
1971). By this time, Undi had established his headquarters at Maano near the Kapoche Hills in present-
day Mozambique.
After Mazula died, Undi claimed the throne. The headquarters of the Kalonga moved once more
from Maano to Mkaika at Katete, Zambia, during colonial Portuguese rule in Portuguese East Africa
(Ntara 1973). According to the CHEFO chairperson, the Kalonga could not accept his subjugation to
the Portuguese government. As a result, he moved to then north-east Rhodesia (Zambia), where he
thought the British would be more sympathetic. Therefore, the Chewa Kingdom extended from the
Luangwa River in present-day Zambia, east to Lake Malawi, south to the Zambezi River and north to
Kalonga (Langworthy 1969). The colonial period partitioned the Chewa Kingdom into three countries –
Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. All Chewas in these areas speak the same language, practise the
same initiation ceremonies and recognise the Kalonga as their king.

Revival of the Chewa Kingdom and

implications for the Westphalian model
At the pinnacle of the Chewa tradition is what is known as the Kulamba annual ceremony held at the
headquarters of the paramount chief, Gawa Undi, in Katete. Kulamba is a Chewa word meaning ‘to pay
respect or homage’. This ceremony brings together about 150 000 Chewa chiefs and sub-chiefs from
Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. The British colonial government banned the ceremony in 1934
when it was noted that the Chewas paid more allegiance to the paramount chief than to formal state
authorities (Langworthy 1971). Despite attaining independence in the mid-1960s, Zambia and Malawi
retained the ban (Mozambique was then still under Portuguese control). The second democratic
wind of change that swept through the southern African region opened up an opportunity for the
re-emergence of this once mighty kingdom. The self-consciousness of the Chewa from these countries
that they are one people with a common interest under the leadership of Gawa Undi constitutes what
this chapter refers to as the ‘Chewa revival’. The Kulamba ceremony epitomises this revival. Taking into
consideration that the ceremony was banned for many years, one would assume that allegiance to
the formal state would be so ingrained in the minds of the Chewa people that such an informal cross-
border ceremony would no longer be significant.

A perplexing question is to what extent the Chewa political entity can be described as a kingdom.
From a precise formalistic institutional analysis, the Chewa entity does not qualify as a kingdom: its
leader, Undi, has no real authority over his subjects and the formal state has had pervasive control
over its citizens. However, what should be taken into consideration are the socio-political factors that
form part of the African psyche. The kingdom has a form of legitimacy, as the Chewas in Malawi,
Mozambique and Zambia do recognise Undi as their leader. This is further demonstrated through the
annual Kulamba ceremony. The Chewas are found in a clear geographical area, despite the fact that it
overlaps with the three formal state boundaries of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. More importantly,
the governments of the latter three countries refer to Undi’s domain as a kingdom. Thus, the Chewa

54 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Kingdom set-up doesn’t completely defy conventional definitions of a kingdom but is an example of
how political institutions have been adapted and reformed to meet specific requirements.

Consequently, the revival of the Chewa Kingdom has had an inconspicuous but academically
significant impact on the concept of the state as described by the Westphalian model. As noted, the
basic assumption of the Westphalian state is ‘hard and precisely defined boundaries’ as well as the
consolidation ‘into a single centre [of] all the powers of self-government’ (Buzan & Little 1999: 90,
emphasis added). The informal trans-border Chewa Kingdom is subtly challenging these assumptions
in several ways.

Chewa king as the centre of power in the region

Besides their respective state authorities, the Chewa now openly rally around Undi as their centre of
power. In this regard, the revival of the Kulamba ceremony, which was banned in 1934, has created
an opportunity for the Chewa ethnic group to mobilise and share experiences that enhance their
relationship and commonality. Although it may be argued that the ceremony is simply symbolic,
its revival and gain of momentum is politically and socially significant. It is a clear indication of the
contemporary change in the African understanding of the concepts of citizenship and self-identity.
After more than 100 years of exposure to the Westphalian state model, and the almost total
annihilation of the Chewa trans-border kingdom (by their respective colonial and post-colonial states),
it is remarkable that there could be such a successful mobilisation of the Chewas in the three countries
under one recognised leadership. This significance should be understood from the historical context
of African political movements. Most African political movements started as ethnic groupings with
the intent of reviving their socio-cultural affairs. Political agitation came in as these socio-cultural
aspirations were hindered by the immediate political environment. The mobilisation of the Chewas
through their local chiefs, though mainly for socio-cultural reasons, has now gained some political
clout and has the potential for tremendous political power. This mobilisation symbolically defies the
essence of the Westphalian model’s central tenet. The Chewa king was not welcome in Malawi and
Mozambique before the current revival of the kingdom. According to the chairperson of CHEFO, the
former president of Malawi, Dr Hastings Banda, who was Chewa, never accepted the presence of the
Chewa king in the country as he feared that this would undermine his authority. As such, the resilience
of the quest for an informal traditional identity, despite formidable successive state oppression, is
politically significant. In relation to the influence of Undi, the CHEFO chairperson said that ‘all Chewas
revere him and seek his guidance’.

The revival of the Chewa Kingdom in 1994 was mainly due to the democratic transitions being
experienced in the said three countries, with freedom of association being a critical element of
democratic governance. The significance of this revival was most evident in 2007 when, for the first time,
the three heads of state of Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique all attended the Kulamba ceremony. The
importance of informal trans-border traditional authorities for these three countries was highlighted
at the ceremony by the president of Malawi, who said, ‘Presidents of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia
look up to you, chief, for the social and economic prosperity of their countries’ (Mana 2007). In other
words, he emphasised that when these countries improve their relations through the activities of
trans-border chieftaincy, currently under Undi, their respective countries will prosper socially and
economically. In the ceremony conducted in September 2008, the president of Zambia reinforced this
point by saying that ‘chiefs play an important role in fostering social and economic development in
Africa’ (Banda 2008).

Revisiting the Westphalian model: The Chewa trans-border traditional political entity | 55
Permeability of state boundaries
The artificiality of African borders is well documented in the literature of the African state. For example,
Kanyinga and Katumanga observe that ‘the nation-state boundaries are porous. Those living around
the nation-state boundaries rarely recognize them’ (2003: 158). The boundaries are most apparent in
cases where they follow geographical barriers such as rivers and lakes. In the Chewa-dominated areas
of Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique, the borders are in most cases merely a footpath or some other
indistinguishable feature. Many people in these areas marry across the borders and in some cases
their family disputes are settled by elders who are not necessarily in their own country. These porous
borders, added to the fact that there are no serious natural barriers, have facilitated an ethnic Chewa
mobilisation that would otherwise have been very difficult to achieve.

Factors enhancing the Chewa trans-border traditional entity

African relevance and appeal
One might ask why this trans-border authority is so appealing to its subjects, as manifested in their
commitment to the Chewa Kingdom’s activities. According to Eriksen, ‘people are loyal to ethnic,
national or other imagined communities not because they were born into them, but because such
foci of loyalty promise to offer something deemed meaningful, valuable or useful’ (1996: 11). Hyden
(2006) points out that one of the key features of African politics is its appeal to the informal. The
Kulamba ceremony’s traditional set-up bridges the gap between the formal and the informal. The
states send their representatives, in some cases the presidents themselves, while at the same time
the arrangement of the whole ceremony is highly traditional and informal. This unique arrangement
is appealing to citizens who attend these ceremonies and relevant to the African socio-political
system. It is a counter to highly formalised international conferences or the signing of agreements in
hotels or state houses, where the masses have no real connection to the formal agreements that their
governments enter into on their behalf. By spearheading a traditional African identity, the informal
ceremony is generally believed to strengthen the traditional and political partnerships between the
three countries in a unique and personal way.

Democracy and the non-confrontational approach

The liberal democratic transition that swept the southern African region from the 1990s greatly
enhanced freedom of association. In the past, rulers treated the promotion of ethnic-based associations
as a betrayal of the nation-state. The democratic dispensation has led to a loosening up of the state
system and ethnic groups are encouraged to form associations.

There are various views on the link between ethnic identity and the democratisation process. Some
scholars argue that strong ethnic identity is harmful to democratisation. Beissinger, however, points
out that ‘ethnic nationalism is not necessarily incompatible with democracy, but rather depends
on the types of objects against which ethnic groups mobilize’ (2007: 73). The unique path taken by
Chewa mobilisation is to desist from domestic party politics. In this regard, the mobilisation is non-
confrontational to the political ruling elites and to the state. Undi banned the wearing of political attire
at his headquarters in order to avoid his activities being politicised. His argument is that the Chewa
people belong to different political parties and he doesn’t want them to be divided along political lines.
In other words, the ethnic mobilisation of the Chewa is not political and hence doesn’t pose a threat to
the ruling elite in Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. At a national level, the Chewa political mobilisation
is attributed to factors that are not necessarily relevant at an international level. For example, Posner
(2004) found that the Chewas and the Tumbukas (an ethnic group found in Malawi and Zambia) are

56 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

allies in Zambia but adversaries in Malawi when it comes to the policies and political parties that they
support. Although this mobilisation is apolitical, it does impact on people’s perceptions of the role
of citizenship vis-à-vis the state. Unlike in the past, when the one-party dictatorial states of Zambia,
Malawi and Mozambique tried to enforce the formal Westphalian model of citizenship, the current
liberalism allowing such ethnic mobilisation at an international level facilitates an informal redefinition
of citizenship from a bona fide African perspective – and in the process, the Westphalian definition
is ultimately undermined. As Kanyinga and Katumanga point out, ‘citizenship thus has obvious
consequences for the nation-state’ (2003: 155). This does not imply that those who now pay homage
to the Chewa king cease to be citizens of their respective countries, or that they perceive themselves
as citizens of the ‘Kingdom’, but rather that the definition of citizenship is no longer singly defined
from a Westphalian perspective. The Westphalian perspective will ultimately become only one of the
definitions or understandings of citizenship arising from the ethnic trans-border perspectives. In other
words, the prominent frame of reference when the Chewas meet will no longer be the nation-state
where they are coming from, but the Chewa community.

Incompleteness of state formation in Africa

The Chewa trans-border ethnic mobilisation is taking advantage of the incompleteness of state
formation in Africa to fulfil the people’s desire for an identity that is not defined by state formalities.
Although there are cases of European ethnic groups which have been divided by political borders, as
opposed to their African counterparts they do not rally around a traditional political supremacy. The
post-colonial state was at the helm of promoting the Westphalian model (in their publicised nation-
state building) and this was mainly in the interests of the ruling elites. Democratisation revealed that
state formation in Africa has not necessarily been completed. It is likely that one of the reasons why
progress slowed was the assumption by the ruling elite that the process of nation-state formation was
over. The ruling elite’s slogans – such as ‘One Zambia, one nation’ and ‘Tiyende pamodzi’ (Let us walk
together), or Malawi’s ‘Tigwirizane’ (Let us unite) – were an appendage of the anti-colonial mottos.
Kanyinga and Katumanga point out that just as nation-state building is a process, ‘citizenship has
also become a process of continued construction and negotiation’ (2003: 158). The incompleteness
of the process in Africa is mainly in the failure to appropriately link the informal and formal aspects of
the state and citizenship. Given that redrawing the African borders is out of the question, success in
completing the process of state building in Africa would entail providing space for the informal trans-
border entities to freely mobilise and complement the formal entity (in other words, to fuse the two).
As Hyden observes, African politics is characterised by, first, ‘the tendency to rely on informal rather
than on formal institutions…The second aspect…is little respect for the formal rules associated with
a higher authority such as the state’ (2006: 56). The Chewa trans-border ethnic mobilisation is to some
extent embracing these aspects. Inviting these countries’ formal state leaders or their representatives
to patronise their activities (where the Chewas show their allegiance to Undi) is a clear indication of
how these two institutions acknowledge and respect each other at international and regional levels –
as long as each recognises its authoritative limits.

Affiliation to the formal state as opposed to an ethnic group (where traditional authorities play a critical
role) is often taken for granted, despite the numerous socio-political changes that have taken place
since the early 1990s. The democratic dispensation that moved across Africa in the early 1990s has led
to a situation whereby, arguably, affiliation to the formerly oppressive state has shifted towards ethnic
groups, although not completely eradicating the relevance of the state. This shift from state to ethnic
group identity is to some extent also reinforced by some of the democratic rights, such as the right

Revisiting the Westphalian model: The Chewa trans-border traditional political entity | 57
to self-determination and -representation. African states have been able to recognise this shift and
create some space for the traditional structures of governance. This is evident in the decentralisation
processes whereby traditional authorities are being provided with a level of power in the modern
governance structures. At international level, this recognition seems to be lost, highlighting the
strong grip of the Westphalian model on policy-makers’ minds. The Chewa trans-border mobilisation
is a clear example of an African attempt to redefine their citizenship amidst the Westphalian-oriented
formal state boundaries. Unlike other well-known factors that challenge the Westphalian model
in Africa, this transnational mobilisation is significant and has to a large extent fulfilled the long
quest of bringing informal practices to the fore of the state. More importantly, it confirms the long-
held assertion that ‘Western conceptualization of the nation-state as the only level of elaborating
citizenship is inadequate in terms of explaining problems around citizenship in contemporary Africa’
(Kanyinga & Katumanga 2003: 158).

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Revisiting the Westphalian model: The Chewa trans-border traditional political entity | 59
2 Knowledge and transformation
chapter 5

Yonah Ngalaba Seleti and Joseph Lesiba Teffo

Knowledge and transformation as a sub-theme of this volume raise more issues than they solve. In
this chapter we restrict the discussion to only some of the many issues raised by contributors to this
section. However, it is also important to stretch the discussion beyond issues of knowledge production
and dissemination to issues of knowledge governance and utilisation in the service of a transforming
society. The lack of dialogue on knowledge politics and the constricted space for debates on the
knowledge agenda in South Africa demonstrate the extent of the vulnerability of the African public in
the matter. Without adequate debate on the role of knowledge in a transforming society, the powerful
emerging sciences have the potential to negatively affect the defenceless members of society.

Helen Chiumbu (Chapter 6) interrogates the making of the information and communication
technologies (ICT) agenda in Africa. Through the prism of the African Information Society Initiative,
Chiumbu argues that donors have influenced not only the policy process, but also the ideas and
narratives that shape the ICT policies in Africa, and that Africa’s elites echo the dominant discourses
of those donors and other international actors who are involved. The processes for such reproduction
of dominant discourses are subtle and complex, as they involve hegemony and the construction of
consent through networks, partnerships, epistemic communities and capacity-building exercises.
Chiumbu rejects the reduction of ICT to commercial and utilitarian purposes on the basis that this is
an unacceptably narrow premiss. She argues for a rethink of the prevalent ICT agenda for Africa, which
calls for governments and elites to take charge of the continent’s communications policy agenda.
Chiumbu highlights the complex processes of knowledge production that culminated in western
knowledge dominance in the knowledge agenda of developing countries.

Pearl Sithole (Chapter 7) argues in her contribution that not only is formal knowledge production and
screening the prerogative of a few actors in South Africa, it is also still racialised. She focuses on the
role of peer reviewing and objectivity as mechanisms that maintain a racialised system of knowledge
and that exclude perspectives that are indigenous to Africa and that reflect African experience. Sithole
demonstrates that knowledge production is not retarded by the practical difficulty of transforming the
demographics in academia, but rather by practical issues associated with hegemonies in ideology.

Maurice Taonezvi Vambe (Chapter 8) argues that the interfacing of indigenous knowledge systems
with other knowledge systems can develop appropriate technological instruments within local African
communities and lead to the production of new archives of knowledge that can be transformed into
a more rigorous science rooted in the cultural values of its users. He further maintains that selective
borrowing of scientific tools developed in the west can make the development of an economic model

| 63
for food production more responsive to changes in climate, and guarantee that both local and imported
knowledge are effectively used in the service of communal farmers whose modes of livelihood will be
transformed to higher levels of technical competence. Such measures will also improve processes of
policy formulation and the participation of ordinary people in food production.

Knowledge production and transformation

The current historical conjuncture is characterised as the knowledge economy where leading nations
are driven by knowledge as the key factor of production. It has become axiomatic that to maintain
leadership in today’s world requires the effective creation and harnessing of knowledge. It is further
noted that a country’s ability to convert knowledge into wealth is a determining factor in its position
among other nations. Many scholars acknowledge that the shared pillars of the knowledge economy
comprise information infrastructure, education, innovation, and economic and institution governance
(Ungerer et al. 2006). It should thus not come as a surprise that policy-makers and development scholars
are preoccupied by issues such as knowledge production and consumption, ownership and location
of knowledge, transformation of institutions of higher education, and the role of the information
superhighway in society (Edvinsson 2002)1.

There is a widely shared expectation that knowledge, especially scientific knowledge, has the potential
to transform the lives of the majority of people in society and make them healthier, and give them
longer, safer and generally more pleasant lives. The extent to which advancement in knowledge
promises to improve the human condition reflects its potential for transformation. Although the social
role of knowledge in the transformation of society may be generally uncontested, the vision projected
by the life sciences and their ability to transform life has become contested around the globe. This is a
disparity that raises concern about the societal consequences of an unfettered expansion of scientific
knowledge to the top of the political agenda (Stehr 2005: viii). This is a new phenomenon that we
have discerned, combined with the emergence of anxiety in society about the impact of science and
technology on the lives of individuals and society.

The theme of knowledge and transformation in the context of Africa in general and South Africa
in particular is as intriguing as it is disturbing. It is intriguing in the sense that Africa as a continent
contributes less than 1 per cent to the world’s knowledge. At a macro level, Africa is to a large extent
a consumer of foreign knowledge. At the institutional level there are very few African universities that
make the top 500 universities of the world. To date, only the universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch,
Witwatersrand, KwaZulu-Natal and Pretoria make the list.2 Notwithstanding the poor world standing
of African universities, the universities cited above are far from being the most transformed institutions
in South Africa. Their persisting legacy as white institutions whose faculties and organisational cultures
have been resistant to transformational goals continues to hound them in many critiques of South
Africa’s post-apartheid transformation agenda.

Another disturbing feature regarding knowledge and its promises to transform society is its historical
record in the development of Africa. Since the 1960s when most of Africa gained political independence
from colonial rule, the continent has been a laboratory in which many a development theory has been
applied in the quest to uplift the majority from poverty. These have ranged from development theories

1 Drucker PF, ‘Planning for uncertainty’. Wall Street Journal, 22 June 1992.
2 Top 500 World Universities,

64 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

based on Rostow’s (1960) conceptions to African-initiated approaches such as Tanzania’s Ujamaa3 and
Kaunda’s 1968 economic reforms.4 Despite this, poverty and underdevelopment are still rife in Africa.
In a comparative review of six regions of the world on the basis of 14 selected indicators of social and
economic development, Obikeze (2003) found that the African region ranked the lowest in virtually all
indicators of human development and progress, while ranking the highest in socio-political insecurity,
ignorance and disease.

The lessons from Chiumbu’s chapter point to the fact that although African countries have gained their
political independence, in most cases they are still trapped in an asymmetrical economic, power and
knowledge relationship with their former colonial powers who continue to dominate the process of
knowledge production for the development agenda. A growing body of evidence demonstrates the
role of institutions of global governance such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the
World Trade Organization, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in the reproduction
of global networks of asymmetrical economic, power and knowledge relations that afflict Africa (Khor
& Shashikant 2009).

For far too long the debate on the development agenda has been constrained by conceptual traps
and the limitations of the definitions provided by the north. Among many scholars, Tandon (2008)
has urged that if the countries of the south are to own the development process, as present trends
in the development literature suggest, then the conceptual reframing of the issues must change its
location from the north to the south. In a similar vein, the late president of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa,
maintained that

… an exit strategy from aid dependence requires a radical shift both in the mindset
and in the development strategy of countries dependent on aid, and a deeper and
direct involvement of people in their own development. It also requires a radical and
fundamental restructuring of the institutional aid architecture at the global level. (In
Tandon 2008: viii)

These conclusions echo the call made by Chiumbu in Chapter 6.

Taonezvi Vambe (Chapter 8) dwells on the role of indigenous knowledge in the development efforts
of African countries and joins the ranks of submissions made by many scholars who see the shifting
of the conceptual framing of the development agenda to the south as part of the exit strategy from
poverty and dependence. Indigenous knowledge is increasingly being accepted as a critical factor for
sustainable development in Africa and as a vehicle for the empowerment of local communities in the
development process. In South Africa, indigenous knowledge has been recognised by the National
Research and Development Strategy (Government of South Africa 2002) and the Department of Science
and Technology’s 10 year Innovation Plan (DST 2007) as a strategic resource that can give South Africa
a competitive advantage in the knowledge economy. As early as 1999, the International Council for
Science (ICSU) urged that, ‘Governments should support cooperation between holders of traditional

3 Ujamaa was the concept that formed the basis of Julius Nyerere’s social and economic development policies in
Tanzania after Tanganyika gained independence from Britain in 1961 and its union with Zanzibar to form Tanzania in
1964 (from
4 A few years after independence in 1968 and 1969, President Kaunda, with the then ruling United Nation
Independence Party, initiated reforms. According to him, this was to lead state control of the whole economy to
enhance growth and the equal distribution of income. It was also aimed at empowering indigenous people to
control and decide the destiny of their country’s economy, and was characterised by developmentalist philosophy
(command economy) and recognition of political realities.

Section 2: Introduction | 65
knowledge and scientists to explore the relationships between different knowledge systems and to
foster inter-linkages of mutual benefit’.5

Vambe calls for interfacing indigenous African knowledge with other knowledge systems to create
a third space for knowledge production, which will serve as an arena for the experimentation and
appropriation of the best of both worlds.

Sithole (Chapter 7) introduces an important prism through which to interrogate the issue of knowledge
and transformation. She is concerned with the mechanisms and the people involved in the validation
of knowledge and hence who gets published in peer-reviewed journals. Sithole interrogates the
issue of who controls what knowledge gets to be marketed and placed in the public domain, and
its likely social, economic and cultural impact. Her enquiry moves beyond the process of knowledge
production, which looks at knowledge as a negotiated product of human enquiry, and brings the
role of the market into the discussion of knowledge and transformation. In as much as knowledge
production and dissemination remain to be determined by market forces, investors, consumers and
producers will likely continue to control what is produced and placed on the market and in the public
domain. As long as the publishing world is in the hands of a particular class and set of interests, the
nature and type of knowledge produced will also aim at particular segments of society. The economics
of knowledge production can thus influence or yield the type of transformation sought by the donors/
funders, with unintended consequences for the beneficiaries. The churning out of many publications
that do not address transformation is a crucial issue that needs to be interrogated.

If knowledge production is driven by market forces from the conception of research to the placement
of the final products on the market, is there a role for mitigation to allow for knowledge dissemination
to address transformation? Does the dominance of the market in the knowledge economy call for some
regulation of the market? Knowledge production and dissemination today pose challenges for public
policy. New technological developments such as in biotechnology and the life sciences are inducing
societal concern and hence the need for regulation. The proliferation of novel forms of knowledge
with the potential to transform society in unprecedented ways calls for an increased role for the state
in laying the foundation for regulation of use of such knowledge. This calls for knowledge governance
as part of the new political landscape in the knowledge economy. The conception of knowledge
governance would entail an emergent knowledge politics, a social space where the consequences of
the knowledge could be debated and passed into policy (Stehr 2005).

The challenges facing South Africa and the African continent in the field of knowledge production
and exploitation are immense and would be hard to solve. As noted, Africa’s record in publications
is dismal and the whole continent produces less than 1 per cent of the world’s knowledge. Only a
handful of Africa’s academic institutions are considered to be of world-class status. In the innovation
space, there is an innovation chasm. The number of patents filed with WIPO from Africa is almost
non-existent. The scholarly knowledge that the continent produces is barely cited by other authors in
journals and other publications. It has become evident that the majority of people teaching in African
universities do not possess PhD qualifications. Most of the countries in Africa cannot afford funding
research. It is becoming very difficult to see how the knowledge agenda can be determined by African
intellectuals whose research is generally not funded and, when it is, it is through donor funding. How
do we expect the research results from such funding to be routed into the African agenda for the
African Renaissance?

5 The Declaration and the Framework for Action, Twenty-sixth General Assembly of ICSU, 30 September 1999.

66 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

The contributions in this section of this premier volume of Africa in Focus call for a new approach to
setting the knowledge agenda for African development. It should be a concern of Africans to focus
on studying how a knowledge system such as South Africa’s can enter the global knowledge system
on its terms rather than on the terms that are put in place by scholars from the north. Another way of
looking at the challenges raised by the authors would be to pose the question of how South Africa
might stimulate the development of a knowledge system which is complementary to the global
system rather than supplementary to it. South Africans and Africans should challenge the setting of
our knowledge agenda simply in terms of our capacity to be integrated into the global knowledge
economy because such a system will be supplementary to the global system. In the quest for a
complementary knowledge system, local knowledge and especially indigenous knowledge systems
should be part of the knowledge agenda. African scholars should investigate and invest their efforts
and skills in ways to pave the way for the continent to assume responsibility for generating knowledge
and seeking a complementary knowledge system relevant to its needs.

DST (Department of Science and Technology) (2007) Ten Year Innovation Plan. Pretoria: Department of Science
and Technology
Edvinsson L (2002) Corporate Longitude. London: Prentice Hall
Government of South Africa (2002) South Africa’s National Research and Development Strategy. Pretoria:
Department of Science and Technology
Khor M & Shashikant S (2009) Negotiating a ‘Development Agenda’ for the World Intellectual Property Organization
(WIPO). Penang: Third World Network
Obikeze DS (2003) Indigenous Knowledge Systems and the Transformation of the Academy in Africa: The CULPIP
Model. Available at Accessed on
24 August 2010
Rostow WW (1960) The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Stehr N (2005) Knowledge Politics: Governing the Consequences of Science and Technology. London: Paradigm
Tandon Y (2008) Ending Aid Dependence. Oxford: Fahamu Books
Ungerer M, Herholdt J & Uys K (2006) Leveraging Knowledge-based Assets: The New Value Equation to Create
Competitive Advantage. Randburg: Knowres Publishing

Section 2: Introduction | 67
chapter 6

Elites and donors:

Interrogating the African ICT agenda
Sarah Helen Chiumbu

Since the early 1990s, multilateral agencies, donors, development workers and academics have
devoted time and resources to information and communication technologies (ICTs) and their role
in development. ICT policies aimed at responding to the new information age and focusing on
infrastructure and technology were put in place in the mid-1990s, first in the United States and then in
Europe. These developments in the west impelled a flurry of national and regional ICT policy-making in
Africa and other parts of the developing world. Multilateral and bilateral donors have been at the centre
of these ICT policies, providing both technical and financial assistance (Chiumbu 2008). While a lot of
academic and evaluative research has been done on ICT policy processes in Africa (Akpan 2000; Etta &
Elder 2005; Ngwainmbi 2000; Ojo 2005), the role of donors has not been problematised. In this chapter,
I argue that donors, through the provision of tech nical and financial assistance, have also influenced
ideas and narratives that shape ICT policies. The study of ‘ideas’ in ICT policies is another neglected area.
Yet, understanding ideas and their role in policy is very important because it is a process that provides
insight into the power dynamics that might not be apparent on the surface. Ideas are a reflection of
the material interests of those who control the policy agenda. In Africa, scholars are also beginning to
recognise the important role of ideas in policy-making (Kalu 2004). Charles Soludo et al. argue that ‘any
account of the policy process in Africa that ignores the power of mainstream ideas, as well as the role of
donor agencies in propagating or mainstreaming ideas, misses the central point…’ (2004: 23). The ideas
that have been advocated by donors centre on what Nulens et al. (2001) have termed the ‘dominant
discourse’, which views the role of ICTs in narrow economic terms. In broad terms, ICTs are seen as tools
to promote economic growth and global competitiveness.

African elites who I define as the policy-makers, consultants and technical experts operating in various
capacities in African countries have also been at the centre of ICT policy-making for the continent.
In a complex relationship with donors and other external actors, these elites have promoted and
consolidated the dominant ICT discourse that echoes that of donors and other international actors.
I also argue that the latter do indeed determine ideas that shape policy discourse, even though they
don’t simply impose their power. Rather, they exert their influence through a process in which dominant
ideas become ‘naturalised’ and are subsequently accepted by domestic elites in a complex process
involving hegemony and the construction of consent. Networks, partnerships, epistemic communities,
and capacity-building exercises are channels through which the said hegemony is realised.

The chapter looks critically at the role of donors in Africa’s ICT policies, the ideas contained in the
policies, the transfer mechanisms of those ideas and the relationship between African policy elites
and donors. The African Information Society Initiative (AISI) is used as an instrumental case study to

68 |
address these issues. I subscribe to Robert Stake’s (1995) assertion that an instrumental case study is
when a particular case is examined to provide insight into an issue or a problem. The AISI as case study,
therefore, is instrumental to accomplish something other than understanding this particular case.
Data for the analysis here, which is part of a larger study, were collected through a series of targeted
interviews conducted between April 2006 and June 2007 with appropriate key witnesses involved in
the formulation and implementation of the AISI. The interviews were combined with evidence from a
comprehensive analysis of documents and a literature review.

Contextualising and understanding the global ICT agenda

Since the growth in use of the internet in the early 1990s, the term ‘global information society’ emerged,
centred on the ‘third wave’ and ‘information revolution’ constructs. The ancillary debate argues that the
first wave of technological development was the agricultural revolution, the second was the industrial
revolution and the third is the ongoing information revolution (Toffler 1981). A discourse on the ‘global
information society’ began taking shape both in academia and in policy-making circles at high-level
meetings of the G7 (which became the G8 in 1998 after the admission of post-Soviet Russia into the
group), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and
later of the United Nations’ specialised agencies. Between 1995 and 2000, multilateral organisations
and bilateral donors urged developing countries to come up with national ICT plans in line with the
prevailing telecommunication reforms taking place across their continents (Chakravarty & Sarikakis 2006;
Cogburn 2003). The global actors mentioned above and others such as the World Economic Forum, the
United Nations, the International Communications Union, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned
Names and Numbers are operating within what has been called the ‘mergent global information society
regime’ (Braman 2004; Cogburn 2004). Stephen Krasner defines a regime as ‘principles, norms, rules
and decision-making procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a given area’ (1983: 1).
Regimes emerge as a result of shared ideas and discourses. The global information society regime has
been united by a set of core principles that can be traced, in part, to the first global information society
conference – the G8 Ministerial Conference on the Information Society, which came up with the Brussels
Principles. These principles – competition, private investment, deregulation, universal service, and
open access – make up the foundational basis of the global information society agenda (Chakravarty
& Sarikakis 2006; Cogburn 2003; Drake 2000; Wilson 2004). They have been reinforced in subsequent
global policy fora such as the G8 summit in Okinawa and Genoa, which came up with the Okinawa
Charter for the Global Information Society and the Genoa ICT Plan of Action respectively; the World
Summit on the Information Society Geneva Action Plan in 2003; and in global private sector meetings of
organisations such as the World Economic Forum, the Global Information Infrastructure Commission
(GIIC) and the Global Business Dialogue for Electronic Commerce.

These principles or ideas have become part of what Gosovik calls ‘global intellectual hegemony’
through which ideas are ‘monopolized by a relatively small number of influential actors with global
reach and power’ (2000: 447). I argue that these ideas have become hegemonic and have shaped the
analytical and cognitive frameworks of policy elites and decision-makers in Africa to the extent that
they have influenced national ICT policies on the continent (Chiumbu 2008).

Donors and ICT policies in Africa

In the telecommunication policy reforms that took place in many developing countries in the 1990s, the
literature shows that international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
and the World Bank played important roles (Bull 2002; Hills 1998; Petrazzini 1995). Petrazzini argues, in

| 69
reference to the privatisation and liberalisation of telecommunication in the developing countries, that
those international organisations, with the help of technical expertise and international consultants,
‘shaped the design of the reform and in more advanced stages of the process, international investors
influenced the sector’s final regulatory framework and determined the openness of local markets’
(1995: 36). While the international financial institutions have been at the centre of telecommunications
reforms, bilateral donors in partnerships with private sector firms such as the Markle Foundation,
Accenture, Microsoft and Alcatel have been central players in ICT policies and projects in Africa.

Adam (2006) pinpoints the years 1996–2000 as a period which saw an increase and intensification
of donors playing different roles in African ICT policies. After the adoption of the AISI in April 1996,
many donors played key roles in advancing the reforms in national information and communication
strategies throughout Africa (Etta & Elder 2005). All African countries were connected to the internet
during this phase – from internet availability in 16 countries in 1997, to all 54 by 2000 (Wilson & Wong
2003). Apart from a multitude of bilateral donors, other actors such as the Canadian International
Development Research Centre (IDRC), the World Bank, the International Telecommunication Union
(ITU), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Carnegie Corporation
of New York influenced, in one form or another, the formulation and implementation of ICT policies
and the establishment of telecentres in rural areas (Wild & Sibthorpe 1999). The IDRC in particular
played a key role in directing and influencing the formulation of ICT policies in many African countries
(Ofir 2003). The years after 2000 to the present have been defined by the so-called ‘multi-stakeholder
approach’, which has seen cooperation and partnerships between multilateral and bilateral donors
and corporate actors (Chiumbu 2008). The ‘digital divide’ and how to bridge it has become a major
concern for these actors during this period.

Theoretical perspectives
The analysis here focuses on the relationship between donors and African elites in ICT policy-making
processes. The questions that are raised are: what influence do donors have on African ICT policy-
making? What ideas do they propagate? How do these ideas get transferred and how do they become
‘common sense’ among African policy elites? To answer these questions, theories drawn from neo-
Gramscian and policy transfer approaches will be used.

Neo-Gramscian theories
The neo-Gramscian theory, drawing on critical international political economy, was first developed
by Canadian political scientist Robert Cox and refined by others (Gill 1993; Murphy 1998). It dwells on
issues of identity, ideology, ideas and culture and how these influence global power structures and
give considerable importance to the dominant ideas of an epoch. The neo-Gramscian perspective
focuses on actors and their interests as well as on the processes by which decisions are made. Although
the neo-Gramscian approach is rich and touches on so many theoretical issues, this analysis is mainly
concerned with two concepts that were advanced by Cox – historical structure and hegemony.
Historical structure is a framework in which action takes place and is a particular combination of
thought patterns, material conditions and human institutions which have a certain coherence among
their elements. This concept thus posits that the structures of the global political economy can be
conceptualised in terms of the dialectical interaction between three categories – ideas, material
capabilities, and institutions (Cox 1986). Ideas are viewed in two idealised forms – as intersubjective
meanings which cut across social divisions (a shared understanding of issues) and as rival collective
images of world order held by different kinds of people. Material capabilities are seen as accumulated
resources (and may include technology, financial resources, and industries) and institutions can refer
to states, markets and international organisations that are used to maintain a specific order.

70 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

The historical structure does not represent the whole world, but rather a particular sphere of human
activity reflecting a particular reality. Thus, these structures are historically specific, which Cox calls
‘limited totalities’. Collective human action forms historical structures with a particular temporary
duration. Sinclair (1996) gives an illustration of the Cold War as a historical structure specific to a
historical period. The Cold War had its own sets of institutions that included the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO), ideas (McCarthyism and its derivatives), and material capabilities (the military-
industrial complex). The global neoliberal order can be conceived to reflect the current historical
structure. In this study, the global information society regime is seen as a substructure of this neoliberal
global order. I use the historical structure as a framework when analysing the partnership of donors
with multilateral institutions and private sector firms in pushing the ICT agenda.

The basic premiss of the theory of hegemony as developed by Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), the Italian
political theorist and activist who died in Mussolini’s jail, is that people are not ruled by force alone, but
also by ideas. True control, therefore, is not achieved by coercion alone but also by gaining people’s
consent for this control. This is done through ideas created by intellectuals. Consent is ‘manifested in
the acceptance of ideas and supported by material resources and institutions’ (Bieler & Morton 2003:
1). The dominant class also needs to develop and sustain alliances with other social forces in order
to achieve and sustain the consent of the general populace on a lasting basis. ‘Organic intellectuals’
(defined as elites) play a crucial role in achieving hegemony. Cox argues that there is a relationship
between hegemony and institutionalisation. Institutions become the anchor for hegemonic projects
since they lend themselves both to the representation of diverse interests and to the universalisation
of policy (Cox 1996).

Policy transfer theories

Complementing the neo-Gramscian theories, which conceive a framework in which actors, power and
ideas interact in an international context, are policy transfer approaches. While the neo-Gramscian
approach considers how ideas become hegemonic, it does not address how ideas are diffused among
policy actors across time and space. The policy transfer approaches attempt in part to address the
diffusion of ideas.

David Dolowitz and David Marsh define policy transfer as a process in which ‘ “knowledge” about how
policies, administrative arrangements, institutions and ideas in one political setting (past or present) is used
in the development of policies, administrative arrangements, institutions and ideas in another political
setting’ (2000: 5). They focus on two main concerns – the process of transfer and the objects of transfer. The
processes of ‘policy transfer’ include ‘voluntary adoption’, where governments voluntarily search for policy
ideas and solutions, and ‘coercive transfer’, where a government or multilateral institutions encourage or
even force a government to adopt a policy (Dolowitz & Marsh 1996: 344–345).

Although there are many cases of voluntary adoption of policies in Africa, the continent’s unequal
position in the global political economy has led to many instances of coercive policy transfer. Many of the
development policies adopted by African states have been a result of coercion by international financial
institutions (Dobbin et al. 2007). An example is when the IMF, in the late 1980s and 1990s, coerced many
African countries to adopt structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) in exchange for loans.

However, as Diane Stone (2004) argues, forceful coercion is not the only approach used by these
international financial institutions to effect policy transfer. Transfer of hegemonic ideas can also be done
through ‘soft’ forms of coercion, such as conferences, research findings, media and public education
awareness programmes that create consensus on major issues. Dobbin et al. argue that, ‘Without
exerting physical power or materially altering costs or benefits, dominant actors can have their

Elites and donors: Interrogating the African ICT agenda | 71

influence felt through ideational channels. The thrust is that dominant ideas become rationalised,
often with elegant theoretical justifications, and influence how policy makers conceptualise their
problems and order potential solutions’ (2007: 456).

These arguments correspond to the neo-Gramscian concept of hegemony which, as noted, is not only
based on domination but also on consensual power or ‘soft power’.

Defining the AISI

The AISI Action Framework was drafted by the High Level Working Group (HLWG) on Information
Society in Africa, endorsed by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Conference of African Ministers
of Economic and Social Development and Planning in May 1996, and adopted by the Organisation of
African Unity Heads of State Summit in July 1996. After its endorsement, the AISI formally became the
basis for the implementation of the information society agenda in Africa. The most important feature of
the AISI is the formulation of national ICT policies across the continent, known in the AISI parlance as the
National Information and Communication Infrastructure or e-strategies programme. The implementation
of the AISI, under the auspices of the ECA, began in 1997 and the mandate runs to 2010.

Mapping the policy formulation and implementation of the AISI

The emergence of the AISI was an expression of interests tied directly to the United Nations and
indirectly to events associated with the emerging global information society agenda. The fact that
the ECA is a United Nations affiliate explains the central role of the latter in the AISI through its two
agencies, the ITU and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Donor networks have been at the centre of the formulation and implementation of the AISI. In
1995, the ITU, the IDRC and UNESCO formed a ‘partnership’, the African Networking Initiative,
which was established to ‘increase and strengthen development assistance to Africa’s information
and communication initiatives by coordinating donor investments for network infrastructure and
contributing to the policy agenda related to telematics and information and technology issues in
Africa’ (PADIS 1995).

The African Networking Initiative also collaborated with another network, the African Internet Forum,
which was set up by the United States government in 1995 to promote the adoption of ICT policies in
Africa. The Forum was made up of loose associations of United States agencies (USAID, the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration), the Carnegie Corporation, the World Bank and the United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The two networks joined forces to form the Partnership
for Information and Technology in Africa (PICTA) in 1997, which has played a central role in the
implementation of the AISI.

The African Networking Initiative, together with other external actors such as the World Bank, played
important roles in two policy phases of the AISI – the Telematics for Development Conference held in
1995 where the idea of the AISI was born, and the HLWG which drafted the AISI. The Network offered
financial support, policy advice and intellectual resources to both the conference and the HLWG
(UNESCO 1996; ECA 2006; personal communication1). Therefore, the ideas that frame the AISI can
be attributed in part to the information sources available and institutional support that the HLWG
received, as stated below:

1 Nancy Hafkin, ECA employee, April 2006.

72 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

International organisations, especially the ITU, IDRC, UNESCO, World Bank and the GIIC
provided information and background papers to the AISI formulation process…thus the
vision and principles embodied in the AISI framework were heavily influenced by these
international organizations. The AISI thus reflected the best international insights at the
time. (personal communication)2

The GIIC, founded in 1995 by CEOs of information and technology businesses, sent two members to sit
on the HLWG. The participation of the GIIC in the HLWG is significant, in light of its orientation towards
a market-driven ICT agenda. Ernest Wilson (2004), who represented the GIIC in the HLWG, states that
during the mid-1990s the GIIC was used as a learning platform for elites in developing countries and
to influence governments in these countries towards liberal reform.

The implementation of the AISI, which started under the facilitation and coordination of the ECA,
was supported by yet another donor network – the PICTA. Apart from the members of the African
Networking Initiative, it was composed of bilateral and multilateral donors, 17 institutions from the
United Nations agencies, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the GIIC, the Rockefeller Foundation
and the WK Kellogg Foundation (Chiumbu 2008). Since 1997, the PICTA members have financed most
aspects of the AISI implementation, notably training, capacity-building, internet connectivity, policy
analysis, content development, the development of national ICT policies and impact assessment.

Development of national ICT policies

The formulation of ICT policies has been an important activity on the African continent. By 2010,
37 African countries had developed their respective ICT policies. Among the members of the PICTA,
the IDRC and the UNDP have played central roles that have gone beyond financial assistance. They
have influenced policy formulation in a more direct way through the provision of consultants and
intellectual resources. In most cases, the staff of the IDRC and the UNDP were integrated on each
country’s expert taskforce teams (Ofir 2003). In developing these 37 ICT policies, the ECA relied
on the use of independent consultants, mainly from within Africa. What is significant is that most
of the consultants are members of the IDRC African Commission of Experts, established in 2001.
The Commission of Experts can be considered to be an international knowledge network which,
according to Stone:

Incorporate[s] professional bodies, academic research groups and scientific

communities that organize around a special subject matter…the primary motivation
of such networks is to create and advance knowledge as well as to share, spread,
and in some cases, use that knowledge to inform policy and apply it to practice.
(2003: 9)

Policy and capacity regulatory framework

In tandem with assisting in the formulation of ICT policies, the ECA also placed a lot of emphasis
on providing regulatory capacity to African policy-makers, both at the national and regional
levels. Capacity-building over the years in sectoral applications such as e-commerce, e-health and
e-government has been offered by many of the PICTA members, specifically the World Bank, USAID
and Industry Canada (Chiumbu 2008).

2 Ben Fouche, HLWG member, June 2006.

Elites and donors: Interrogating the African ICT agenda | 73

An important initiative that has driven regulatory capacity-building in Africa has been the e-Policy
Resource Networks for Africa, linked to the Global e-Policy Resource Network, which was formed in
2001 with the support of the G8, the UNDP, ITU, Accenture, and Markle Foundation (Chiumbu 2008). The
e-Policy Resource Network for Africa, driven by Canada, was set up specifically to address the capacity
needs of African policy-makers in the area of ICTs (ECA 2003). The e-Policy Resource Network works
on a model of policy transfer where expertise from western governments, international organisations,
private sector and northern-based civil society organisations is transferred to regional organisations
such as the ECA, national governments and policy elites in Africa. Canada, especially, has played a
leading role by providing direct policy advice and capacity-building in the following areas: regional
e-government, e-health and e-commerce strategies, policy training for African parliamentarians, and
exchange visits to Canada for African policy-makers (Chiumbu 2008).

Policy transfer, ideas and policy practice

An analysis of the AISI and selected national ICT policies indicates that the discourse and narratives
that frame these policies are quite similar and echo the dominant ideas found in global ICT policies
and research reports/position papers from major international development actors (Chakravarty &
Sarikakis 2006; Nulens et al. 2001; Wilson 2002). Essentially, the discourse centres on three themes: ICT
and economic growth, knowledge for development, and ICTs as tools for sustainable development.
The discourse of ‘leapfrogging’ threads these themes. The concepts of ‘leapfrogging’ and ‘catching
up’ have become quite pervasive and almost every ICT policy articulates these ideas. This discourse
states that ICTs will not only contribute to economic prosperity, but will also enable Africa to jump
several stages of development into the technological world of opportunities. In studies on ICT policies
in Ghana and South Africa, for instance, Alhassan (2004) and Moodley (2005) respectively found that a
cross-section of policy-makers, including the executive, espoused this discourse quite liberally.

The discourse on the relationship between ‘knowledge’ and ‘development’ is also becoming prevalent.
Through its Global Development Gateway project, the World Bank has entrenched the ‘development
through knowledge’ paradigm to such an extent that different development organisations and donors,
including policy elites in Africa, have all converged on the same idea (Schech 2002). The central aim
of the AISI and many African ICT policies on the continent is to turn African countries into rich and
knowledge-based societies. Thus, knowledge is equated with wealth creation and economic growth.
Knowledge is viewed as a neutral, manageable commodity that can be shared freely (Van der Velden
2002). Yet, as Ishemo (2004: 68) states, all societies have historically developed ‘ways of knowing
and doing’ based on indigenous knowledge, and African societies need to adapt new technologies
according to their socio-economic and political realities.

The assumptions that underlie the AISI and most African ICT policies are premissed on technological
determinism and betray a return to the flawed modernisation paradigm of the 1960s and 1970s. The
erstwhile modernisation paradigm was based on a notion which presumed that indigenous traditional
culture was the factor constraining development in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The prescription for
rescuing societies in the three regions from cultural ignorance and technological backwardness was
to usher them into modernity through technology and the media. The technology of choice at that
time was radio and consequently UNESCO measured levels of development in the so-called third world
based on the level of exposure to the mass media (Melkote 1991). There is a large corpus of literature
(Alhassan 2004; Alzouma 2005; Gurumurthy & Singh 2005; Nulens 2003) critical of the current dominant
‘ICT for development’ model. Such literature argues that these policies underplay the array of factors
that affect the access that developing countries have to technologies and simplify the dynamics of
poverty and development in Africa.

74 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

The argument I make here is that donors and other external actors, through the provision of financial
and technical assistance, transferred these dominant ideas and concepts that shaped the AISI and the
national ICT policies. The transfer of ideas was mainly through ideational channels such as conferences,
policy reports and exchange visits. Van Audenhove et al. corroborate this when they say:

International organisations such as the World Bank, ITU and the ECA play an important
role in the spread of the dominant scenario. These organisations are able to influence
policy formulation as well as actual implementation of ICTs in developing countries
through several mechanisms, e.g. programmes in policy assistance, institution-building
and private sector support; specific ICT related projects; international and regional
conferences and the spread of documents and scientific articles. (1999: 395)

Partnerships also acted as important channels of influence. Apart from the donor networks – African
Networking Initiative and the PICTA that were directly involved in the AISI policy formulation and
implementation – the ECA was also closely connected with global partnerships, especially the Global
Knowledge Partnerships, the Global Alliance for ICT and Development, and the Digital Opportunity
Initiative. ECA acted as the African node for the Global Knowledge Partnership, the Global Alliance
for ICT and Development and the e-Policy Resource Network. From the neo-Gramscian perspective,
these global partnerships should not be seen as neutral entities. They are hegemonic projects that
are organised around certain interests and ideas, specifically to bring together mainly western states,
private actors and international NGOs that set the agenda for policy deliberations.

Policy elites and institutionalisation of hegemonic ideas

As noted, the AISI and most of the national ICT policies were designed by African ICT policy experts.
In addition, a key component of the national ICT processes has involved consultation with different
national stakeholders. However, the participation of domestic actors does not seem to have had any
impact on the ideas contained in the documents. As the discussion above indicates, the policies all echo
the dominant discourses, most of which are out of tune with Africa’s realities. The consultants did not
provide any alternative or independent policy ideas to the policy process, but generally regurgitated
the dominant discourses. The ideas contained in the policies also indicate a convergence of thinking
by the different African policy elites. Sum (2003) noted the same convergence of ideas among policy
elites in East Asia. She writes that terms like ‘competition’, ‘private sector investment’ and ‘flexible
policy regulatory framework’ became buzzwords and clichés that were repeated over and over again
across the region (Sum 2003: 389).

So what explains this consensus and convergence of ideas? Many scholars have highlighted the issue
of material resources, pointing out that because African countries depend on external donors for their
survival, they find it difficult to resist the dominant discourses that are tied to aid (Kalu 2004; Moyo
2006; Soludo et al. 2004). Even though this is often the case, another explanation based on the neo-
Gramscian conceptualisation of hegemony and the creation of consent is also useful to consider. The
construction of consent around the global information society agenda has meant that certain ideas
and discourses have become ‘normalised’ to the extent that their ideological underpinnings have
frequently not been questioned.

Another issue to consider is that most policy elites in Africa, consultants involved in drafting ICT policies
for instance, interact with other global policy elites in transnational epistemic communities and there
is the possibility that those interactions shape their world view. The concept of epistemic community
is defined by Peter Haas as a community of experts who are defined as a ‘network of professionals

Elites and donors: Interrogating the African ICT agenda | 75

with recognised expertise and competence in a particular domain and an authoritative claim to policy-
relevant knowledge within that domain or issue area’ (1992: 3). Epistemic communities have a shared
set of normative principles and causal beliefs. The consultants in the HLWG and African Commission
of Experts regularly participated in international conferences and meetings, in which the agenda for
global ICT policy issues was set. There is, therefore, the argument that through these exchanges, the
participating consultants and experts from Africa become part of the transnational historical bloc in the
sense that they inadvertently move their viewpoints to match the views and class interests of dominant
actors who are often centred in the west. The ECA, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development
and other such institutions that are at the centre of promoting the African ICT agenda, become sub-
hegemonic forces and translating centres that help shape responses to efforts to consolidate the
hegemony of the global information society agenda on the continent (Chiumbu 2008)

Problematising the role of donors in African ICT policies

Donors and networks
An important feature of the AISI policy process has been the existence of ‘networks’ formed by donors,
most notably the African Networking Initiative, PICTA and the e-Policy Resource Network. Changes in
the international aid architecture have meant that donors prefer to work together to share resources
and ideas to avoid fragmentation of development assistance and to enhance financial cooperation
(Degnbol-Martinus & Engberg-Pedersen 2003). Contrary to most literature which views the role of
donors merely as providing financial and technical assistance, I argue that through these networks,
donors play roles that go beyond financial assistance and occupy an important position in the policy
process through their participation in different policy networks. Although the donor partnerships often
go under the heading of ‘basket funding’, which means joint funding by a multiplicity of donors, the
argument here is that there is more to these donor partnerships than mere funding. Through the
funding networks, donors can sometimes control policy agendas and project ideas.

Donors and global capitalism

The implementation of the AISI and the formulation of national and regional ICT policies should
also be analysed in the context of the relationship between donors and global capitalism. Most
literature on donors and their role in ICT policies in Africa has been descriptive and often uncritical.
An important development that is often overlooked in the literature is that many bilateral donors are
now connected to structures of global capitalism through their participation in global ICT partnerships,
which essentially promote the market and business model. As noted, in the present discourse donors
have entered into partnerships with corporate actors to push a hegemonic ICT agenda, leading to
the creation of private–public coalitions and policy cooperation that defines global ICT policies. For
instance, the two major players in the AISI formed partnerships with private sector players. The IDRC
formed partnerships with the Canadian telecommunication company Nortel Networks, and the UNDP
established partnerships with Microsoft, Accenture and Markel Foundation.

The neo-Gramscian approach is concerned with the role of public–private organisations and
multilateral institutions in producing hegemony and promoting transnational capitalism. Therefore,
organisations such as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO are often the focus of analysis. For neo-
Gramscian scholars, these organisations are part of the expanding transnational capitalist class.
However, as Hattori observes, this conceptualisation omits other international organisations such as
donors and charitable organisations:

76 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

A group of international organisations that overlaps with, but does not quite fit this
neo-Gramscian project, are those which provide development grants to the former
colonial parts of the world. These include multilateral aid organisations such as the
United Nations Children’s Fund, and the United Nations Development Programme and
non-governmental organisations like CARE, Church World Service and the Rockefeller
Foundation. (Hattori 2003: 154)

Hattori argues that the work these organisations are involved in is often charitable and funded from
taxpayers and individual donations. The puzzle for neo-Gramscian theory, therefore, is to define the
process that connects these donors to the transnationalisation of capitalism (Hattori 2003). Hattori
argues that although the neo-Gramscian theories do not provide conceptual tools to analyse the
role of donors and foundations, the work these organisations do is entirely consistent with the neo-
Gramscian understanding of international organisations as a locus of transnational hegemony:

Their projects and programmes help to develop the material capabilities, institutional
norms and rules and ideals of capitalist development. They also frequently overlap with
and facilitate the work of other international organisations. The UNDP, for example, is
formally linked to the World Bank through the United Nations system and provides
both ‘preinvestment’ studies for the Bank and follow-up ‘post-investment’ technical
assistance, such as training and consultancy. (Hattori 2003: 154)

To connect international donor organisations to transnational capitalism, Hattori uses the concept of
‘gift exchange’ as an analytical lens. He argues that donors act using a specific kind of social practice –
soliciting and giving gifts. Therefore, the ‘significance of giving for neo-Gramscian inquiry is that it
creates a very powerful mechanism for consent…compelling acquiescence of recipients to a material
order of things and a means of forging common identity and ideals among donors’ (Hattori 2003: 155).
Hattori further states that ‘…the gifts of international aid organisations create powerful mechanisms of
consent that can help to explain the widespread conforming of the poorest parts of the world to the
harsh neo-liberal order’ (2003: 162).

The issue of the SAPs is a case in point. Although the SAPS were designed by the IMF and the World
Bank, the requirements that accompanied them – such as the pursuit of democracy, good governance
and market reforms – were embraced by bilateral donors who insisted on these accompanying aspects
as a precondition for giving aid and grants. Almost all the countries in Africa consequently adopted
the neoliberal orthodoxy, including the privatisation of the public sector and the emasculation of state
apparatuses, in a bid to qualify for the SAP-linked loans.

In relation to this argument, David Mosse (2005: 1) describes the relations between donors, multilateral
financial institutions and transnational private sector organisations as the ‘new architecture of aid’,
and states that these relationships have become close. Donors now increasingly support projects that
promote economic liberalism, privatisation and market reforms.

The discussion above calls into question the changing role of donors and international development,
which needs to be considered when studying donors’ roles in African ICT policies.

Rethinking the African ICT agenda

Although the issues discussed in this chapter pertain mainly to the AISI, the arguments can be extended
to other ICT policy processes. In addition, as the AISI is a continental ICT strategy, the findings do have

Elites and donors: Interrogating the African ICT agenda | 77

implications for the African ICT agenda. So what do the findings in this chapter mean for the future
trajectory of ICT policies in Africa? One argument is that although multilateral development agencies
and bilateral donors will continue to play important roles in African ICT policies, there is need to rethink
the African ICT agenda. Rather than continue with the current policy of relinquishment, there is need
for governments and elites to take charge of the African communications policy agenda.

What is evident from this research and from other studies on media policy in Africa (Moyo 2006) is that
the African communications agenda is to a large extent driven by donors. A number of scholars have
argued that donors’ interests in funding ICT projects in Africa are based on the need of the countries
they represent to maintain privileged access to markets in African countries (Chakravarty & Sarikakis
2006; Cline-Cole & Powell 2004; Gurumurthy & Singh 2005). These scholars further argue that many of
the international initiatives taken to bridge the digital divide have failed because they do not primarily
aim at bridging the gap, but rather provide access to markets for the transnational corporations.

It has been observed here that the dominant ICT discourse is not wholly germane to Africa’s realities.
As stated earlier, the ICT discourse in Africa is driven by a narrow market-determined economic
logic. The suggestion is therefore that there is need for an alternative policy narrative that takes into
consideration Africa’s socio-economic realities. The creation of that narrative depends partly on active
participation in ICT debates from African think tanks such as the Council for the Development of Social
Science Research and the Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa,
which to date have not played major roles in articulating ICT policy issues. If they take information
and communication issues on board, these think tanks could be seen as counter-hegemonic networks
of experts to which African policy-makers can turn for policy advice. Also, any country (or continent/
region) aiming for autonomy in the design of its policies and programmes must allocate not only
financial resources, but also cognitive and intellectual resources (Chiumbu 2008).

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chapter 7

Wrestling with intellectual hegemony:

The dwarfed status of knowledge
production in South Africa
Mpilo Pearl Sithole

The paradox inherent in transforming inequalities is the timidity that exists around reversing them
before encouraging equality. This has been demonstrated in South Africa and elsewhere in the way
in which redress policies (including affirmative action) that are viewed as vices in a political discourse
of non-racialism, non-sexism and equality have been implemented. While this situation enjoys some
space in political and social debates, a more difficult state of affairs exists when it comes to knowledge
production: the difficulties are not only muted, they are also self-perpetuating. Absolom Vilakazi made
this point some time ago when he argued against the ‘racialised’ nature of knowledge production,
stating that

…methods and practices of scholarship and research followed in Africa by both African
and Western scholars blithely assume that the problems which face a Western scholar
are the same as those which face an African researcher and scholar. We suggest that
this is not so; and that an African field worker, for example enters a hostile and an
insecure intellectual environment when he [sic] decides to become an academic in his
own right and not an assistant to a White researcher. It is a world full of unexpected
dangers and disappointments. It is made insecure because, somehow, the African is
assumed to need the tutelage of even the most junior of Western scholars, and his facts
must be checked at every point by referring everything to White teachers or even to
White government officials. (1978: 241)

This chapter does not pretend to adopt an empirically based objectivity in its analysis. It argues, instead,
that matters of ideological battles are subtle and camouflaged in positivist and empirical research.
Despite the ‘objective nature’ of social science (at least in the way that it is propounded), coupled with
the theoretical openness of academe and the knowledge production field, there are still hierarchies
in knowledge, based on source or origin, and among knowledge producers. Africa still features less
in internationally rated knowledge vehicles, and black people and women occupy the bottom of the
statistical hierarchy. This is discussed in detail in the chapter.

The arguments in this chapter are informed by analyses made in Unequal Peers: The Politics of Discourse
Management in the Social Sciences (MP Sithole 2009), where the problem of inequalities in knowledge
production is identified as practical, epistemological and conceptual. Unequal Peers, which deals with
struggles in knowledge production at a conceptual level while noting the other related dimensions of
knowledge inequalities, argues, inter alia, that

| 81
… the practical dimension is about the apparent imbalances in the demographics of
institutionalized knowledge production. The epistemological dimension manifests itself
in terms of how excellence is defined in knowledge production and how it is linked with
ideologies of specific socio-geographic origin. The conceptual dimension is about how
objectivity is essentialised in a way that excludes positionality, i.e. the conceptual location
of the writer in relation to the issues of analysis. (MP Sithole 2009: 98)

Dealing with the struggle of knowledge at a conceptual level is not similar to dealing with the other
dimensions of knowledge inequality – the subject matter requires careful qualitative critical analysis.
Here it is argued that hegemony in knowledge production has occurred as a result of a conflation of
three trends.

The first is what can be labelled as an instrumentalist conceptualisation of knowledge to produce an

intellectual of a particular kind. This is a situation where it is entirely the material and political conditions
that produce intellectuals with interests diversified according to their position in the broader society.
This is a case where intellectual sophistication is not a matter of any form of ‘intellectual choreography’
designed from the producer’s ontological, objective and epistemological interpretation and
assumptions. The second trend observable in the struggle to conceptualise knowledge is the subtle
maintenance of a hierarchy that arises out of professionalisation of knowledge production. Whilst it
must be expected that competition in knowledge production would yield innovation and positive
progress, the maintenance of group (and specifically geographic) interests in knowledge production
is puzzling in an era which is replete with vociferous proponents of democracy and equality. What is
even more worrying is the observation that the hierarchy is becoming hegemonic. The third trend in
this struggle is the tendency to essentialise paradigms of thought in a way that serves to completely
silence certain ideologies.

Restraining ‘intellectual choreography’ through instrumentalisation

The best way to enunciate the problem of instrumentalisation in the intellectual project is to revisit
the question of an African intellectual, reflecting on why it is such an ‘artefact’ worth debating. This
begs a number of questions: is an African intellectual African in his/her experience, exposure, location
in the continent or in perception of reality? Are an African intellectual and what is popularly known
in Europe as an ‘Africanist’ the same thing or unified by the same agenda? The notion of an ‘agenda’
could perhaps bring us closer to the nub of the puzzle: is there something more than an agenda in the
work of intellectuals? What accounts for the linear nature of our analytical abilities, so that agendas
cannot be mingled with other elements and abilities in intellectual scrutiny? Whereas ‘choreography’
is often associated with the aesthetics of dance, an art form, ‘intellectual choreography’1 refers to the
freedom of the intellect to use the various conceptual tools at the disposal of a knowledge producer
to interpret social phenomena and social reality whilst striving to be objective. Even this description
contains elements that can serve to subjugate the ‘freedom’ propounded here – for example, the very
definition of ‘objectivity’ can be as rigid as to curtail freedom of use of other tools of interpretation.
Thus, while some analysts prevent intellectual choreography by preventing an interweaving of theory,
policy and empirical data in an academic analysis, others prevent intellectual choreography by pitting
the social actors’ explanations of social reality against the scientists’ objectivism in a way that privileges
the latter. But why should a whole generation of scholars and their location be defined necessarily and
exclusively only in terms of their material conditions – as is done with African intellectuals?

1 A concept that arose from a discussion that I held with Vikani Funda, a colleague at the Leadership Centre at the
University of KwaZulu-Natal on 20 December 2009.

82 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Recently, the Council on the Development of Social Research in Africa applied its mind to the mission
of making sense of the African intellectual with specific regard to pan-Africanism and nationalism.
It appears that there is both an endorsement of and a scepticism about the idea that the African
intellectual might be made by her/his material and political circumstances. Ochwada makes his
observations in the context of discussing historiography by Africans:

Buoyed by the nationalist spirit, however, and employing the same concepts that
characterized pan-Africanism, they problematised African identities in their own
terms. In effect they helped to reclaim the African past that some Western scholars
had banished to the dustbin of history…Yet by the same token (in using the same
methodologies as their mentors) African historians remained trapped in the problems
of the colonial or bourgeois history they so vehemently criticized. In fact they did not
engage in serious theoretical analyses that placed them ‘at the service of masses in the
effort to understand their past against the forces of exploitation’… (2005: 200)

However, most of the contributors to African Intellectuals: Rethinking Politics, Language, Gender
and Development (Mkandawire 2005), which includes Ochwada’s work, are not so timid about the
association of African intellectualism with the instrumentalist and reformist intentions of nationalism
and pan-Africanism. The collection is an embodiment of the nebulous tension between pinpointing
pan-Africanism and nationalism as necessary projects and phenomena, on the one hand, and these
being (mistakenly) preconceived as determinants of African intellectualism on the other. In the same
book, Ali Mazrui concurs with his co-contributors and is quite instrumentalist in defining African
intellectualism as follows:

But as a system of ideas, does Pan-Africanism really need as much intellectual

sophistication as modern socialism? Karl Kautsky (1854–1938) believed that ‘modern
socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge’.
With Lenin’s concurrence, Kautsky argued that proletarian class struggle was not the
mother of socialist consciousness: ‘the vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the
bourgeois intelligentsia [Kautsky emphasis]: it was in the minds of individual members
of this stratum that modern socialism originated; it was they who communicated it to
the more intellectually developed proletarians who, in their turn, introduced it into the
class struggle when conditions allowed it to be done’… (In Mkandawire 2005: 57)

Mazrui then continues:

In depth pan-Africanism as a system of ideas did not aspire to be as ‘scientific’ as

Marxism and modern socialism. But in breadth Pan-Africanism covered a wider agenda –
concerned not only with the political economy, but also with African culture, aesthetics,
poetry and philosophy. (In Mkandawire 2005: 57, emphasis in original)

The latter observation could be read to suggest that African intellectualism is less objective (i.e. less
positivist) in orientation and entertains more humanist approaches. However, the rest of Mazrui’s
chapter demonstrates his strong association of political mechanisms for human emancipation with the
rise and fall of African intellectualism. The interchange between the two terms (African intellectualism
and pan-Africanism) is implied in the citations above. The instrumentalist approach to African
intellectualism is also observed in Amina Mama’s characterisation of African universities in the same
book. According to Mama

Wrestling with intellectual hegemony: The dwarfed status of knowledge production in South Africa | 83
… it is…worth noting that, contrary to the rhetoric of their detractors, African
universities differ from Western ‘ivory tower’ ideals in being profoundly modern
and modernizing institutions. Despite the more recent obeisance to globalization of
some institutions, most university mission statements are not so much ‘universal’ as
regional and nationalist in their vision and goals, and the social responsibility of African
intellectuals to their societies is assumed. (2005: 98)

Indeed, perhaps what seems like relevant instrumentalism is what traps African intellectualism in
structural inequality to intellectual conceptions emanating from other regions of the world, thus
producing dwarfed knowledge production in Africa. With South Africa being the newest democracy,
there are still vivid racialised squabbles in the intellectual terrain. In the discipline of history, Martin
Legassick (2008) and Jabulani Sithole (2009) have drawn intellectual swords over who controls what
can be said with professional authority in interpreting the influence of labour history on politics. Similar
kinds of debates have ensued over reliance on oral sources and archival sources in historiography
(see Magwaza et al. 2006; Thompson 2004). African intellectuals of all racial groups tend to dirty their
hands with theoretical orientations related to their human condition (such as the preoccupation with
Marxism or ubuntu) within the context of diversified intellectual interests. It is important to motivate
them to do more than that (i.e. do more than existentialist theorising), as doing something completely
different would be unrealistic and undesirable.

From hierarchy to hegemony

Historically, scientific innovation has been popularly regarded as emanating from the west
and extending to the rest of the world. In fact, the scientism of the west has been maintained by
branding science as western even as it continues to be reproduced in various parts of the world. The
contribution made by the west to science is not in question; what is contested is the western world’s
monopolisation of the ideas of objectivity and science, with the resultant intellectual hegemony of
the west. In his analysis of imbalances within knowledge production, Pestre notes that ‘we cannot
study and understand changes in the way science is produced independently from changes taking
place in society at large’ (2003: 247). However, we are in an era when consciousness and competition
over knowledge production defies prevailing notions of political correctness around equality. Pestre
asserts that ‘it is essential to identify where knowledge has been produced and with which particular
interests in mind’ (2003: 247).

South Africa in particular is in danger because there are signs that the country accepts this hegemony.
This can be seen in the manner in which intellectual redress is being ignored and even vilified in
certain circles, and where those seeking redress are thought to be guilty of lowering standards. The
latter is a notion that makes the intellectual redress project detrimental to knowledge production in
South Africa.2 Intellectual redress should be a specific project in academic transformation in South
Africa, which currently seems to be focusing merely on access of staff and students to higher education

I would like to challenge the idea that redress lowers standards. First, it assumes that the standards of
intellectual output were historically high in a country like South Africa before the project of redress.
This is an assumption that needs to be re-examined within a contextual paradigm in which the
criteria for measuring standards are made as transparent as possible. Second, I think that intellectual

2 Ngobeni S, Getting out of our academic quagmire, Sunday Times, 21 September 2008.

84 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

subjugation is not being examined holistically before the judgement that ‘redress is detrimental to
standards’ is levied. It seems that a concern for the highest qualifications (masters and doctorates)
is the focus of this judgement. The scope of liberated knowledge production needs to be seen as
extending beyond the possession of these two degrees. The following questions should drive the
issues raised about standards: what are the patterns of tutelage both in Africa and in terms of general
advancement globally? Who are the peer reviewers in knowledge production? What are the patterns
of citations, that is, who is cited more in publications, by whom? What is the background of producers
of theories and the consumers or instructors in theory/knowledge production? Who is teaching whom
in classes generally over time – gender, race and social background patterns? It is only after careful
examination of these factors that we can judge whether ‘redress’ can be accused of lowering standards
in knowledge production.

Recent studies on knowledge production in South Africa since the new dispensation show that South
Africa has been doing well in the international arena in terms of publishing. In a publication by the
Academy of Sciences of South Africa, Mouton et al. argue:

If one looks at the situation in 1990 – the heyday of apartheid academic isolation –
where only 36% of all articles were published in foreign journals with the situation in
2002 where nearly half (47%) were published in foreign journals, great strides have
been made in breaking out of the isolation mould. (2006: 34)

The question, though, is: who is publishing? A report titled Human Resources for Knowledge Production
in South Africa, analysing the issues of transformation in knowledge production, reflects worrying

Research on the aging of publishing scientists in 2001 pointed to the alarming trend
that an increasing number of scientific articles published by South African scholars
are being published by authors over the age of 50 years…Whereas 18% of all articles
produced by SA scientists in 1990 were published by authors over the age of 50, this
percentage increased to 48% in 2002…Further analysis shows that these trends are
not identical across scientific fields, but that the situation is worse for the medical and
health sciences…and the humanities and social science…the contribution of female
authors to scientific production has increased slightly over the 13-year period from 16%
in 1990 to 22% in 2002…The total contribution of black authors (African, Coloured and
Indian) increased from only 4% in 1990 to 11% in 2002. (HSRC et al. 2005: 17–18)

The argument put forward here is that dwarfed knowledge production (specifically in terms of rate
of publications) in Africa is partly a result of ideological suppression, and this is linked partly to who
controls the mainstream vehicles of scientific knowledge production. This seems to be the case at least
for the social sciences. If the natural sciences portray similar trends, one would have to question how
consciously political the repression of African knowledge production is. Chandravanshi argues that

… all three types of science publications [books, newsletters and journals] available in
African universities and research institutions are mostly from Northern countries and
by Northern writers. Only a very small percentage of all science books, newsletters and
journals published in the world are published in African countries and/or by African
writers…Moreover, African books and journals are less frequently read and cited.
(2007: 39)

Wrestling with intellectual hegemony: The dwarfed status of knowledge production in South Africa | 85
Focusing on the issue of intellectual hegemony has the potential for confrontation, as it is a process
that will include the identification of individuals, institutions and agencies that benefit from the
maintenance of the status quo. In the case of South Africa, and tied to the general criticism of affirmative
action and redress, there is timidity in defining the problem of power in knowledge production as
racialised and gendered. The argument advanced here is that intellectual hegemony is racialised and
gendered and, to a large degree, also a matter of ideological subscription – how else do we explain the
continued group imbalances in knowledge production, even in the face of blind peer reviews? Some
colleagues will hasten to cite examples of a few intellectuals of ‘superior status’ in Africa and argue
that we do have intellectual capacity on this continent. However, the relationship of our capacity to
the historically dominant social spaces globally is characterised not only by inferior levels of resources
but also by inferior status in power relations. We generally occupy positions of consumer, learner,
research subject and research assistant in the relationship of knowledge production with the west.
More worryingly, some of our intellectuals may be merely extending western theories to the African
context in the name of innovation.

My contention is that the power dynamics in knowledge production are indeed racialised and gendered
in Africa at this historical moment, and this is both ideological and conscious, albeit subtle, as well as
political. Even the lack of reflection on attributes of whiteness and blackness in knowledge production
indicates the politicised nature of the hegemony. Ever since Frantz Fanon came forth with the concept,
‘decolonisation of the mind’ has been a frank self-diagnosis in the black fraternity. However, ‘diffusing
the colonial ego’ has not been identified as a necessary complement to ‘decolonising the mind’.
Diffusion of the ego would mean vigilance over the degree to which ways of analysis of the previously
dominating verge on paternalism over other possibilities. In fact, to shy away from this reflection
means that there is no conscious effort to critically reflect on the dominance of the culture (intellectual
tools, in particular) of those historically associated with colonial domination. This confirms the political
nature of the repression of African knowledge, a state of affairs that is observable even in professional
disciplines other than social science. Tucker and Makgoba (2008) have examined the patterns of
health-related scientific research and knowledge production through health-related public–private
partnership organisations (PPPOs). They argue that

… although all health-related PPPOs focus on neglected African diseases, they are
distinctly first-world entities with differing levels of outreach to developing countries.
Every major PPPO is headquartered in the United States or Europe, and most are based
in the United States…As a result, almost all monies raised by PPPOs are channelled
through first-world head offices, and any decisions made regarding how these are
spent in developing countries are made by the CEOs, together with their senior staff
and boards (statutory and advisory). A great majority of CEOs are male, all are Caucasian,
and all are residents of either the United States or Europe. Not one ‘global’ PPPO is led
by a person who is a developing-country national, and not one resides within one of
the developing counties severely affected by neglected infectious diseases. (Tucker &
Makgoba 2008: 1017)

Perhaps an obvious point must be made in order to highlight the absurdity of the knowledge
production hierarchy: the perceived permanence of the power positions between ‘the scientific West’
and the ‘indigenous rest of the world’ is not genetic. This means that ideological hegemony is not
simply racialised and gendered, but is also a matter of subscription. There are, therefore, many black
people who subscribe to the historically dominant ideologies and white people who subscribe to
historically less dominant ideologies. However, the overwhelming trend is that the historical social
ideologies associated with the colonial divide are still prevalent. Over and above this, those who fight
to maintain the status quo do so either to protect the interests of their advantageous groupings or

86 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

because they truly believe in their analytical categories of subscription. The point to all of this is that in
South Africa the power relations in knowledge production are such that previously white ideologies
dominate; there is elevation of the west in the continuation of scientific innovation, even in local non-
western settings; and, even though there is no intrinsic status between ideologies and identity, people
and ideologies of western origins dominate those associated with indigenous ancestry in knowledge
production. What could have been a mere hierarchy has therefore now crystallised into hegemony.

Essentialising the paradigms

Dwarfed knowledge production does not only refer to the practical problems of imbalances in the
demographics of knowledge production. This exclusion of certain ‘scientific ideologies’ has the effect
of alienating sections of society. This is not simply a historical materialism argument, which suggests
that the ideologies of the elites dominate society. Historical materialism may explain how it came
about that certain schools of thought dominate scholarship while others are excluded from influencing
it. But there is a need to go beyond that to explain what schools of thought are in existence, those that
could influence scholarship, and those that are not allowed to do so.

I deal with this issue by discussing some of the social paradigms that have been alienated from
influencing social science, thereby indirectly highlighting what dominates social science. There are
three issues to discuss in this regard, although it is problematic to cite them as ‘schools of thought’
that have exclusive coherence – precisely because the first issue is the fallacy of essentialising schools
of thought. The other two issues are the notion of cosmology, that is, the politics of objectivity and
subjectivity; and indigenous knowledge and the need to liberate it from associations with only certain
social groups.

The notion of cosmology refers to the world view of an individual or group in terms of their perception
of reality. Generally, it could be taken to refer to whether individuals see the world empirically or also in
broader ways. The empirical tends to become the benchmark for reliability. This has resulted in some
being accused of being so immersed in their extra-empirical beliefs that they are not objective. In other
words, there is a tendency to define subjectivity not as being extra-empirical but as below-objective.
While this problem is partly embedded in the fact that colonial societies defined themselves with
more objectivity than they did their colonial subjects, their success in power struggles also ensured
their success in self-association with objectivity. Colonial societies’ cosmology also included the extra-
empirical world. Perhaps because in their epistemology ‘belief’ was more abstractly associated with the
mind than in other systems, colonial societies submerged it rather than relegate it to the potency of the
non-empirical world, which is what tends to be the case in Africa and which could best be described as
extra-empirical. Thus, in the west subjectivity is relegated to below-objective status.

There are two problems with this. The first is that for all humans the objective allows for consensus
and therefore it is more compelling than anything else, whether it is viewed as below-objective or
extra-empirical. The difficulty is that those who acknowledge the subjective manifestations in their
cosmology are taken to be necessarily submerged in that reality. The second problem is that objectivity
has been colonised as an ability associated more with certain societies than with others. This has
effectively made it a norm for social scientists to present explanations of social reality while offering
no objective grounds for their explanations. For example, what some people see as spirit possession
would be seen as stress outbursts by certain scientists. These parallel explanations are problematic
and they have created unease amongst scholars whose cosmological background is broader than
mere empiricism.

Wrestling with intellectual hegemony: The dwarfed status of knowledge production in South Africa | 87
The second challenge of knowledge production is generated from the first: it is that while some
social groups have been relegated from objectivity, they have concurrently been associated with
indigenous knowledge. Indigenous knowledge seems to be seen as something conceptually distinct
from scientific knowledge. There is no linkage. This is also problematic because there is evidence that
all societies have indigenous knowledge and that most scientific knowledge emanates from critical
analysis of indigenous knowledge. Besides, to create a fake ontology for indigenous knowledge,
depriving it a link with objectivity, gives the impression that flexibility between objectivity and
subjectivity is not possible. The ‘scientific group’ thus sees indigenous knowledge as inscribed with
beliefs and artisan skills at best. It is not seen as a space from which science could emanate. There
is a twin necessity to liberate science from the west and indigenous knowledge from exclusive
association with certain societies.

The issue of dwarfed knowledge production is thus not simply an issue of political manoeuvring
between social groups over power and resources. The power wrestling is deep; it is also ideological.
Some sections of intellectual society have a historical agenda to prove lasting dominance of their
intellectual ideologies. In other words, race and gender differentiation are not ends in themselves;
in fact, it is possible for the power struggle to transcend them if actors are willing to cross the
ideological boundaries.

The ideological battles are fought in terms of maxims which inform the basis of resistance to
unfashionable ideologies. Such maxims are relativism, Zionism and ‘culture’. They become tools
according to which complex arguments are recast and translated into ideas that are embarrassing to
entertain. These will not be discussed in-depth here; suffice to say they have underpinned grievous
ideological gate-keeping in the name of peer reviewing. This takes place in an environment fraught
with intangible power, circumstances of convenience and the perpetuation of ideological hegemony.
Public fora actually camouflage the power issues. While statistics indicate a lack of transformation in
knowledge outputs (i.e. in terms of publications), forums of intellectual engagement are in fact hugely
transformed. Conferences and seminars continue to be mixed. These undocumented contributions
from all sectors (racialised and gendered as they are) continue to influence the further production
of ideas, which happens in the name of only the few who get published. While this does not fit the
common definition of plagiarism, one is tempted to describe the status quo as communal plagiarism,
an abuse of forums to trigger ideas in the minds of those who have access and power in the knowledge
production regime.

One of the ways of blocking engagement with alternative ideas is to ignore the disjuncture evident
in the liberal intellectual arguments propounded and the persistence of certain behaviours in society.
Thus, when loyalty to the visiting British Manchester United draws a different crowd of supporters
(different from the usual crowd) to a South African soccer stadium in 2008, no questions are asked
about nationalism. However, when xenophobia takes place one is supposed to preach nationalism
to the ‘less enlightened’. The failure of intellectuals to confront the theory–practice disjuncture on
such political issues makes it possible for certain sections of society to appear saner than others. These
inferences of intellectual imbalance do not stop at the popular level but permeate society all the way
to the intellectual level.

Ideological power struggles are at the root of dwarfed knowledge production. Lack of politicisation
around notions of the ‘west’ and the ‘north’ is also problematic because unhelpful socio-geographic
paradigms persist. Ideological subjugation is not a mere consequence of gate-keeping, but gate-

88 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

keeping is an activity that actively produces political results, that is, clear indications of how Africa
lags behind in knowledge production. Academe has reached a point in Africa where, for instance,
‘democracy’ is defined in only one way, protest against neoliberalism is defined as Zionism, and
reference to any African discourse is taken to be backward and ethnic. Yet Marxism, critical theory
and feminism are all defined in a way that emphasises their western origins. Indigenous knowledge
from Africa is seen as embarrassing to articulate in certain publications and forums, yet most western
knowledge that ended up being scientific had its origins in indigenous theories.

This chapter has made several arguments in relation to imbalances in knowledge production. The
first is that these imbalances do not have practical and empirical dimensions only; they are deeply
rooted in ideological struggles camouflaged in the assumed objectivity of social science. Secondly, the
empowerment of scholarship needs to be explored so that intellectual choreography, which brings
dignity to knowledge production, is released. Thirdly, political questions must be raised about the
bifurcation of the intellectual world, together with social groups, along the objectivity–subjectivity,
science–indigenous knowledge divide. This will ensure that knowledge competition and innovation
produces healthy hierarchies, not subjugation and hegemony. It will also ensure a healthy and open
debate on the objectivity of social analysis.

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the African continent. In A Mlambo (ed.) African Scholarly Publishing Essays. Oxford: African Books Collective
HSRC, NRF & DST (2005) Human resources for knowledge production in South Africa. Conference report.
Legassick M (2008) Debating the revival of the workers’ movement in the 1970s: The South African Democracy
Education Trust and post-apartheid history. Kronos: Southern African Histories 34, November: 240–266
Magwaza T, Seleti Y & Sithole MP (2006) Freedom Sown in Blood: Memories of the Impi. Yamakhanda: Ditlou
Mama A (2005) Gender studies for Africa’s transformation. In T Mkandawire African Intellectuals: Rethinking Politics,
Language, Gender and Development. London: Zed Books
Mazrui A (2005) Pan-Africanism and the intellectuals: Rise, decline and revival. In T Mkandawire (ed.) African
Intellectuals: Rethinking Politics, Language, Gender and Development. London: Zed Books
Mkandawire T (ed.) (2005) African Intellectuals: Rethinking Politics, Language, Gender and Development. London:
Zed Books
Mouton J, Boshoff N &Tijssen R (2006) A comprehensive analysis of South African research journals. Report on a
Strategic Approach to Research Publishing in South Africa. Pretoria: ASSaf
Ochwada H (2005) ‘Historians, Nationalism and Pan-Africanism: Myths and Realities. In T Mkandawire (ed.) African
Intellectuals: Rethinking Politics, Language, Gender and Development. London: Zed Books
Pestre D (2003) Regimes of knowledge production in society: Towards a more political and social reading.
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Sithole J (2009) Contestations over knowledge production or ideological bullying? A response to Legassick on the
worker’s movement. Kronos: Southern African Histories 34, November: 240–266
Sithole MP (2009) Unequal Peers: The Politics of Discourse Management in the Social Sciences. Pretoria:
Africa Institute
Thompson P (2004) Bhambatha at Mpanza: The Making of a Rebel. Pietermaritzburg: PS Thompson
Tucker TJ & Makgoba MW (2008) Public–private partnerships and scientific imperialism. Science 320: 1016–1017
Vilakazi A (1978) Problems in African research and scholarship. In J Argyle & E Preston-Whyte (eds) Social System
and Tradition in Southern Africa: Essays in Honour of Eileen Krige. Cape Town: Oxford University Press

Wrestling with intellectual hegemony: The dwarfed status of knowledge production in South Africa | 89
chapter 8

Indigenous knowledges:
Transforming and sustaining communal
food production in Zimbabwe
Maurice Taonezvi Vambe

Communal food production in Zimbabwe is a contested terrain (Moyo et al. 2008). From being the
‘bread basket’ of southern Africa, Zimbabwe’s slide into the status of an economic pariah state waving an
empty basket can be explained in numerous ways. Intermittent droughts since the 1980s have crippled
Zimbabwe’s capacity to produce food that citizens can live on. Natural causes aside, government
economic policies, particularly the haphazard land reform carried out between 2000 and 2008 through
confiscating formerly white-owned farms, have wreaked havoc on the country’s capacity to feed itself
(Manzungu 2004). To worsen the situation, the new black settlers have not been able to produce food
crops and are therefore ‘desperately short of food’ (Sachikonye 2004: 71). Lack of control over and
accountability for the inputs provided by the government, such as fertiliser and petrol/diesel, partly
explains why land reclamation has not resulted in economic activities that guarantee food production
on both communal and commercial farms. The endemic corruption in the reallocation of confiscated
land resulted in many influential people acquiring a number of farms for speculative purposes, while
most ordinary people who need land to produce food crops are marginalised in land distribution. In
addition, as Manzungu argues:

The Jambanja character of the allocation process adopted under the FTLRP [Fast Track
Land Reform Programme] has resulted in fragile land being brought under cultivation
without the necessary conservation measures being put in place, a situation worsened
by poor land husbandry practices, and the breakdown of environment protection
enforcement structures. For example, in Mutoko district, some old resettlement areas
established in the early to mid-1980s were converted to A2 models at the insistence of
local war veterans. This resulted in land, previously zoned as non-arable, being brought
into cultivation – such fragile lands and the indiscriminate and widespread cutting
down of trees – a common characteristic of the FTLRP – results in environmental
degradation story. (2004: 61)

In other words, while the demand for productive land remains a serious challenge in Zimbabwe’s
communal areas, the use to which available land is put also determines whether or not Zimbabwe’s food
production sector will gain its previous status as a viable economic sector. Thus, it is not and should not
only be the acquisition of land that remains ‘unfinished business’ in Zimbabwe (Hammer et al. 2003), but
also making those with one or more farms learn how to produce. In the process of agricultural reform, a
balance should also be struck between food and cash crop production. An awareness of the significance
of food production in Zimbabwe should proceed through democratising the political structures of
decision-making so that ordinary people farming in the rural areas are included in strategising for

90 |
national food production (Moyo 1995). Maphosa (1998) suggests that effective human development
and corporate social responsibility in Zimbabwe’s agricultural businesses involves conscious efforts
calculated to educate and train communal farmers in programmes that allow them to use what Harder
describes as ‘effective management of capital and modern technology’ (1998: 183). The context of
neoliberal economic policies also requires ordinary farmers to revive some of the economic models
from the past to address modern challenges of food shortages in Zimbabwe. One such effort in seeking
solutions to food insecurity has been to embrace and valorise endogenous approaches in Zimbabwe.
This chapter argues that a case can be made for the revival of the communitarian concepts of the
zunde, zunde raMambo and its related notions of the dura systems.

Zunde and the dura systems in communal Zimbabwe

Zunde is as old as settled agricultural communities in Zimbabwe. According to Gundani,1 zunde was
originally based on the family plots or household economy. Under polygamous African marriage
contexts, a man could have four or five wives. Each of those wives was allocated a plot of land where she
farmed with her children for the sustenance of the family. Over and above working on their individual
plots, the wives also provided the much-needed labour to work with their families on the husband’s
land, which was called the zunde, on days decided by the whole family. The wives enjoyed growing
and harvesting food crops from their own pieces of land. However, in times of economic stress, the
wives and their families all benefited from the proceeds obtained from the husband’s zunde. In other
words, zunde as an economic system was propped up by family labour, on productive land owned by
the husband. The husband kept the proceeds from his fields in the dura – a traditional storage system
which was divided into several compartments to keep different food crops. Mararike explains:

Where a man had two or more wives, Zunde rababa (father’s Zunde) was practised.
Each wife had a piece of land where she grew her crops. The yields were used for the
up-keep of family members. The wives and their children were expected to work in the
husband’s fields during designated days of the week. Yields from the husband’s fields
were stored in his granary and were used to meet important family needs or during
periods when the wives’ food provisions were exhausted. (2001: 55)

At the core of zunde rababa was the production of food crops rather than cash crops, using family
labour for the benefit of the family. The food crop functioned as an insurance policy against disasters
such as drought and general bad harvest. Gwati (2001) has done a thorough study of the types of
food crops that constituted the economic mainstay of the zunde rababa. The crops he found in the
dura in the town of Mutoko Nyarukokora included sorghum, groundnuts, wheat, rapoko and maize.
These crops are not easily ruined, especially when they are stored in a dura or hozi (food pantry). Zunde
rababa focused on food crops in order to guarantee food security in times of drought. Apart from
the role it played in securing families against hunger, zunde rababa also functioned to forestall the
growing challenges of malnutrition in rural areas and provided an overall family nutrition programme
(FAO 2009).

From zunde rababa to zunde raMambo tributary communal economies

With the specialisation in agriculture in pre-colonial Zimbabwe and differentiations in social status,
there emerged a social hierarchy in which zunde rababa was transformed but not replaced by zunde

1 Interview, 21 July 2009.

| 91
raMambo. In the Shona cultures of Zimbabwe, Mambos are communal leaders who have acquired
their status through war or recognition of blood lineage. In modern colonial and post-colonial times,
Mambos have also been chosen by the authorities and become salaried civil servants who administer
government programmes on food security in the districts of the country. However, before the Mambo
became a colonial nominee, those of influence who had become chiefs or Mambos also consolidated
their control over their people by instituting the zunde raMambo. The principles of zunde raMambo
more or less followed those of zunde rababa. However, in the case of zunde raMambo, labour was
exacted willingly from those communities who fell under particular chiefs.

The families worked in the fields of Mambo for designated days as well as in their own small plots. The
zunde raMambo also specialised in food crops and functioned as a security programme in an agrarian
community. De Barros suggests that the zunde raMambo was in fact a tribute economy, ‘which is that
all the officers and servants of his court, and the captains of the soldiers, each with his men, must serve
him in the cultivation of his fields or other work seven days in every thirty’ (in Mudenge 1988: 164).
Further noting the centrality of the zunde raMambo to the political economy of pre-colonial Zimbabwe,
Mudenge reports:

Fr Conceicao states categorically that the Mutapa fields which stretched beyond ‘where
the eyes cannot see’, usually produced enough for him and his wives to live ‘in plenty
and also in luxury’. And Fr Gomes claims that the subjects of Mutapa had ‘plenty of food
and cattle’ and never saw the bottom of the matura or granaries. (1988: 165)

Since zunde raMambo were far larger fields, equally their stores houses or matura (dura: singular) were
also big and, as argued by Mudenge, the zunde raMambo were able to ‘store against a rainy day the
surplus from their fields and tribute from the subjects. It was from such reserves that the ruler [Mambo]
was expected to help his subjects during periods of severe famines…’ (1988: 166).

The significance of zunde rababa and zunde raMambo to endogenous knowledge production is that it
helps to alter dramatically the effects of the ‘discourses of concealment’ (Hoppers 2000: 283) on modern
economic development, in the process making it possible to focus on locally produced knowledge and
agricultural systems that manifest sets of ‘capabilities and socio-cultural resources used by people in
the construction of meaning about their world and economic activities’ (Hoppers 2000: 285). In the
traditional economic contexts within which the zunde rababa and the zunde raMambo developed,
they helped the communal societies that used them to provide adequate food for the people. Both
the zunde rababa and the zunde raMambo contain inbuilt mechanisms to deal with threats induced
by food insecurities due to natural or human-induced disasters. It is significant to underline the fact
that both zunde rababa and zunde raMambo emphasise the production of food crops because these
help conquer poverty and promote the production of nutritious food. In the family as well as in wider
communal contexts, both zunde rababa and zunde raMambo were instrumental in fostering a sense of
communal collective responsibility and identity.

Beyond the immediate needs the zunde system satisfies in the ‘traditional’ contexts within which it is
practised, the concept contains elements of an economic model with the potential to ensure economic
independence for those who participate in it. This aspect of a built-in safety valve implies that zunde
is an independent economic institution which Zimbabwe can revive in a modern context in order to
address the challenges of current and recurrent food shortages. As an example of an endogenous
knowledge economy developed, tried and tested in the past, zunde emphasises the development of
food varieties resistant to drought and that can be stored for future use for a longer time without being
damaged by pests (Gwati 2001). Zunde is possible in a context where the human factor (Chivaura &
Mararike 1998) has been developed to a stage where the community has more or less similar goals,

92 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

and has also acquired more or less ‘even consciousness’ of the necessity to promote the development
of a food bank to safeguard against potential future food shortages (FAO 2009). As Odora Hoppers
observes, locally based economic initiatives such as the zunde, with its dura subsystems, manifest at
the ‘margins’ of global economic development – which is the language through which Africa has been
described. These systems, however, have the capacity to author their own economic developmental
models that can be adapted to the capitalist modernity introduced in Africa. It is this fear of zunde
and its potential to spur economic development which made colonists in Zimbabwe devise ways to
undermine its viability.

Subversions of the zunde system under colonialism in Zimbabwe

Rhodesia was initially developed as an extension of white mineral-based capital from South Africa
and Britain. In the early years of the colony, the emphasis on prospecting for minerals left open some
agricultural space that Africans in communal areas took advantage of. Versions of subsistence farming
based on the sale of surplus food crops enabled Africans to make use of the cultural capital invested
in their endogenous concepts of zunde. As Schimdt observes:

Between 1890 and 1912, the bulk of the fresh produce and grain requirements of
Southern Rhodesian mines, as well as beef and beer, were supplied by local African
peasantries. Meeting the demand for a healthier and more varied diet, African
households also sold green vegetables, potatoes, and groundnuts, customarily
produced by women, to individual mine workers and urban dwellers to supplement
their meagre rations. Given their virtual monopoly on the market African peasants were
able to obtain relatively high prices for their produce. (1992: 55)

A spin-off from the zunde concept was manifest in Africans’ desire to grow food crops at the expense
of cash crops. Ranger (1985) adds that the peasantry of Makoni district in Rhodesia adopted what he
described as the ‘peasant option’, in which Africans grew crops for the new produce market made
available by colonialism. However, the flourishing of African peasants who monopolised the colonial
food and produce market using the expertise of the communal zunde rababa and zunde raMambo took
a knock from the 1920s. When it became apparent that there were not abundant mineral deposits in
Zimbabwe, as the colonial settlers had initially thought, they resorted to appropriating African land.
The Land acquisition Act of 1931, which became effective in 1932, legislated on African land and
divided the country into two non-competing zones. Africans were thrown into rural reserves where
rainfall was erratic and the soil so fragile that it could not sustain repeated use in the production
of food. Thus, the zunde economy was effectively destroyed and the men who had sustained food
production were driven into working on European mines and farms. Cases of malnutrition, which
were previously minimal in African communities, rose to unprecedented levels. Some peasants who
had been driven off of land suitable for food production in parts of the district of Fort Victoria were
settled in Gokwe, where many were encouraged to grow cash crops such as cotton (Chinodya 2001;
Nyambara 2000). White middlemen bought the cotton produced by Africans at half the price, so that
the African producers were left with little disposable income to balance between buying nutritious
food and putting financial resources aside in preparation for the next season. The emphasis on food
production, which had been the mainstay of the zunde economic concept, was thus subverted and
poverty became endemic in African communities, even when they sold their cash crops at high prices.
In many parts of Mashonaland, the effects of the Maize Control Act of 1934 effectively undermined
competition between African farmers and white settlers. By the time the Land Husbandry Act of 1953
was passed to curb the flourishing of Africans’ herds of cattle, the consequence of colonialism’s impact
on the zunde’s focus on food production was assured, and many Africans lost further land as well as

Indigenous knowledges: Transforming and sustaining communal food production in Zimbabwe | 93

their grazing rights. It is against this historical background of the assault on the zunde’s emphasis on
food production and cattle rearing that, after independence in 1980, some officials began to think of
reviving the zunde in order to meet the ever-growing challenge of food provision for a restive rural
and urban population.

Reviving the economic model of zunde in post-colonial Zimbabwe

Early efforts at reviving the zunde system in the period after 1980 were registered through the
resettlement of nearly 123 000 families on land acquired on a willing-buyer, willing-seller system, and
largely financed by foreign capital. Thereafter, the new African government introduced the economic
concept of Minda mirefu (huge) for African farmers. While the resettlement programme was partially
successful because of the level of inputs committed to it, the Minda mirefu concept faltered because
government did not provide infrastructure such as roads, schools and clinics for African farmers willing
to move from congested rural areas onto the new large farms. According to Mararike (2001), the real
attempts to revive the zunde economic organisation were championed by some of Zimbabwe’s chiefs
in the 1990s. Chief Makoni initiated the project in the Manicaland province of Zimbabwe, and his team
worked closely with the Ministry of Health. In Chief Makoni’s concept of zunde, food production was
the main focus and committed members found it viable to use some of the forms and instruments that
the post-colonial capitalist system in Zimbabwe had made available. Mararike writes of the farmers
who aligned themselves with Chief Makoni’s idea of zunde:

Metal ploughs, hoes, wheelbarrows, and cultivators are some of the important
implements found at most homesteads. Maize is the most popular crop in all the Zunde
project sites. It is ground into flour, which is then used to prepare sadza (thick porridge),
the staple food for most people in Zimbabwe. Other crops grown are rapoko, finger
millet, a wide variety of vegetables and groundnuts. (2001: 58)

Other sites that experimented with the zunde were in Mhondoro in Mashonaland West Province under
chiefs Chivero and Nyamweda, and in the Kwekwe District of Midlands Province in Zhombe under
Chief Samambwa. In the case of the zunde under Chief Samambwa, Mararike (2001) reports that people
were mobilised and began to claim ownership of the project. More important is that modest success
was registered and this was manifest in the

… produce from the Zunde fields [which] was used to feed children under the age of
five years, the disabled, and the old members of the villages and to support those who
would have been bereaved. Occasionally, members of the villages who had run out of
food provisions borrowed grain from the Zunde granary (or dura), to be replaced after
the next harvest. (Mararike 2001: 59)

Despite this isolated success, the zunde encountered several problems. It was not conceived as
part of a wider national goal to grow food crops for subsistence, and for export when the national
maturas (granaries, silos) were full. Zunde was carried out on pieces of rural land made available by
chiefs. Since control of the land was vested in the government, there was not sufficient productive
land independently allocated to chiefs by the government. Neither the chiefs nor the people had a
clear understanding of the economic principles of zunde in a historical context of neoliberal economic
policies. Sometimes chiefs encouraged people to grow food crops unsuited to the area. The result
was poor yields and demoralised people. In other situations, people were encouraged to grow maize,
understood to be the staple of Zimbabwe. This resulted in high maize yields but did not always
guarantee a balanced diet.

94 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Probably more insidious to the efforts of reviving the zunde system of economic food production was
the government’s attitude, which was at most half-hearted and at worst negative. Mararike argues that
the government lacked commitment, understanding and belief in the ideals of the zunde initiated by
the chiefs, who worked closely with their communities:

With regards to the revival of Zunde raMambo, it cannot be said that government
officials and most of the villagers understood and accepted the reasons for reviving
Zunde raMambo. Components of their human factor competence such as awareness,
readiness and willingness to see the project through could, therefore, have been
motivated under such circumstances. Participants in the Zunde revival project held
different viewpoints on the nature of the project and its objectives and thus could not
agree on how to revive zunde. (Mararike 2001: 64)

After 2000, when the government implemented a haphazard land redistribution programme, the
discourse of zunde was effectively undermined by politicians who occupied more than one farm
each and grew nothing, or who in some cases grew flowers for export on a farm in a region
where maize would have been a better crop in which to invest. The individualisation of land and
its investure in African hands was not followed up by the use of modern equipment to farm the
land. In addition, some new farmers used the land as family holiday retreats, while others hunted
the game and cut down the trees for sale as firewood. Those few who grew food crops sold it to
neighbouring Mozambique and Zambia at a time when Zimbabwe’s national maturas were empty
and needed to be filled again. White commercial farmers retreated into game farming and away
from growing food crops, which could easily be confiscated by the government. For example,
in 2002, ‘compulsory acquisition of grain by the Grain Marketing Board [GMB] worked against
retention of stocks on farms for farm workers’ (Sachikonye 2004: 71).

In a move that further undermined the independence of ordinary people, in 2005 the government
launched its own version of zunde dubbed ‘Operation Maguta’ (Nkomo 2007). Through ‘Operation
Maguta’, the Zimbabwean national army was given the mandate not only to grow its own food
crops, but to direct the kinds of crops that ordinary, private farmers had to grow. This coercive and
commandist approach interfered with agricultural food production to the extent that

… where there were existing tenants on the land, especially the irrigation schemes,
these tenants were told to grow the prescribed crops of maize and wheat (irrespective
of their own cropping plans). Tillage services and inputs were provided on condition
that the crop was to be sold to the Grain Marketing Board. (Nkomo 2007: 1)

The GMB underpaid farmers and, instead of storing grain for future use by the nation, senior
politicians connived with managers at the GMB to steal and sell the maize, leaving Zimbabwe
reeling under extreme poverty and hunger, even during years (such as 1994) when ordinary
peasants registered a bumper harvest that accounted for 52 per cent of national grain output.

Towards a viable model of the zunde system

in an era of neoliberal economic policies
Mararike has proposed an economic model of zunde grounded in the human factor approach which,
according to him, recognises that no ‘organization or, indeed, any human activity, can sustain itself
without people who are reliable, committed, disciplined and have appropriate skills and qualifications’
(2001: 62). The economic coordinates of the zunde system that he has in mind are reducible to

Indigenous knowledges: Transforming and sustaining communal food production in Zimbabwe | 95

• personality characteristics such as commitment, reliability, dedication and discipline;
• organisational skills and capacity to deal with tasks, all of which require from the person ‘readiness,
awareness, ability, willingness, and capacity to identify problems and then attempt to seek solu-
tions to the problems’ (Mararike 2001: 62);
• human factor engineering, which refers to the motivation required to successfully perform a task.

Important as these factors are, the human factor approach appears to be divorced from the concrete
reality in Zimbabwe. The bigger picture that any potentially dynamic model of zunde needs
to recognise if it is to help revive food production in Zimbabwe includes a consideration of the
following points: stability of national politics; good governance; integration of the zunde model
into the macroeconomic policies within a capitalist economic system; observation and upholding
of the rule of law; and understanding of the differences between land redistribution, land reform
and agrarian reform. Further factors that should be taken into consideration are the ecological
diversity of Zimbabwe’s five economic regions, which allow for certain crops but not others to
flourish; training of peasant, small-scale and commercial farmers; timely provision of inputs such
as fertiliser and seeds; provision of adequate productive land; knowledge of labour requirement
patterns; and the creation of local, domestic and international markets for the food crops produced.
In this economic matrix, developing locally based appropriate technologies and importing technical
know-how cannot be overemphasised.

Requirements of a modern zunde

Political stability and good governance
Political stability in Zimbabwe and the promotion of good governance is required in order to stabilise
the macroeconomic environment and to foster a strong sense of predictability in the business
environment. Presently, this situation does not exist and, consequently, land that could have been
used for zunde in Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces has been monopolised by a coterie of African politicians
whose knowledge of farming to produce food is still tied to pre-modern subsistence farming. A
dynamic zunde economic system would not seek to overturn the capitalist relations of production,
from which it could obtain capital and technology to revive and then sustain itself. A viable zunde
system would be an independent business of farming, and would augment food production practices
in the communal areas and on commercial farms. Inputs would be pooled by a committed central
authority that respected the rule of law. Without political stability, transparency and good governance,
the zunde system will remain a romantic yearning for an unsullied pre-colonial economic system.

Labour requirements
While in the past zunde existed because labour was either voluntary or coerced from unwilling subjects,
in the era of neoliberal economic policies labour is fairly and justly rewarded. Thus, zunde’s labour
force would be provided not only by the people who reside in a particular province, but also by paid
labour brigades drawn from the unemployed. Technical expertise and the use of intensive technology
would be handled by experts. In order to foster national ownership of the zunde system, labour could
be drawn from any part of the country so that no one part developed as the metropole while other
provinces were marginalised in the overall economic growth and development of the country. The
labour market should therefore be the arbiter of how labour is sourced and paid for in a sustainable
system of zunde.

96 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Land requirements
A dynamic zunde system based in Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces requires a well-thought-out and coordinated
effort to identify productive land that can be put to use in accordance with an understanding of the
ecological imperatives of the country’s farming regions. It would be a disaster to grow maize in the
sugar cane fields of Chiredzi, for example, as commercial farmers were forced to do by the then vice
president, Muzenda, during the Third Chimurenga (2000–08). Recognition that certain regions can
only sustain cattle will enable planners of zunde in Matabeleland to make appropriate decisions as
regards cattle ranching under the zunde system. The zunde should make maximum use of land for the
crop that experts in agriculture have identified and recommended for a particular region. It makes
little economic sense to force the peasants of Domboshawa to grow paprika in their fragile soils that
can only sustain the growing of maize and tomatoes. Expert advice and considered land use can only
benefit the zunde if farmers have title deeds to their property, a fact that will motivate them to make
improvements on their farms.

A modern zunde will prosper through the use of human and intensive mechanised labour. Where in
the past participants in zunde used small implements such as hoes, there is a need to invest in tractors,
combine harvesters and appropriate western agricultural technology, which should be operated by
trained workers.

Food storage facilities

In our proposed model, zunde is conceived as a huge employer that should be self-sustaining; there
is therefore a need for building maturas in every province. These maturas are the insurance policy for
the nation and should only dispose of food produce for export when they are full and can guarantee a
food supply to the nation. Expertise should be engaged to build different kinds of storage facilities for
different crops. Strategic food storehouses can be replicated on a smaller scale at a communal level
in the form of the traditional hozi. If there is transparency and the rule of law is upheld, these maturas
should be regulated by chiefs or the collective of people who have come together to form a zunde. It
should therefore be an offence punishable by law for individuals to sell food reserved for use in future
when the harvest is not adequate for the community.

Markets for food products

A dynamic model of the zunde that is driven by the people must first and foremost have the ordinary
people in the country as its imagined market. Since the communal areas are subsistent in food
production and thus expected to be self-sufficient, it is conceivable to suggest that people have their
own micro-storing facilities for grain, such as the hozi, and that they only buy from the zunde dura
when they are in dire need. Any food that is produced in excess of what the communities can consume
should be exported and the funds generated ploughed back into the zunde for future production.
Political stability and good governance will ensure that there is good infrastructure in the form of
roads to enable the proceeds from the communal areas to find their way to the provincial and then
the national matura. In short, the zunde cannot stand outside of the shifting economics of the country
in the era of neoliberal macroeconomics that Zimbabwe is adopting as part of the economic structural
adjustment programmes. A model of a modern zunde that takes the above factors into consideration
is likely to have a lasting impact on the production of food crops for communal societies and the
country as a whole. If this model is put into effect with the commitment that it deserves, it would be a
significant step towards alleviating food shortages in Zimbabwe’s communal and urban areas.

Indigenous knowledges: Transforming and sustaining communal food production in Zimbabwe | 97

This chapter explored the possibility of using endogenous knowledge systems to increase the production
of food crops for both communal people and for the country of Zimbabwe. It has been shown that the
zunde rababa and the zunde raMambo systems have been used in the past as economic models for food
production, as well as acting as insurance policies against drought. The chapter argued that it is possible
to adapt and modify the traditional zunde so that it can address the modern challenges of food crop
shortages using modern methods of production, new technology and an enlightened human factor. It
was also revealed that efforts at reviving the economic model of zunde raMambo in Zimbabwe registered
minimal success for a number of reasons, the main ones being the shortage of productive land, a lack of
commitment from people, and the negative attitude of government officials and in some cases chiefs. The
chapter then proposed an economic model of zunde that takes into cognisance the importance of political
stability and good governance in providing an enabling economic environment in which to practise zunde,
the need to justly reward labour, the provision of adequate productive land, and developing markets for
produced food – these are all preconditions for implementing a viable zunde in Zimbabwe. In short, there
is a need for
• understanding the meanings encoded in the terms ‘indigenous knowledge’, ‘endogenous knowledge’
and ‘rational’ western scientific orders of knowledge;
• creating local technology and integrating it with borrowed western modern technological instruments
to achieve optimum mechanisation of labour processes in communal contexts;
• ensuring effective grassroots participation of local communities in formulating national policies on
food production so that communal models of production are transformed by the knowledge in the
‘mainstream’ economy;
• making available arable land in decongested areas through a sustainable agrarian policy framework
that provides small-scale communal farmers with land to till.

Moreover, it was suggested that rural areas can still supplement the efforts of the zunde although it is
important to decongest those rural areas by allocating land for the zunde in the heart of some areas that
used to be monopolised by white settlers. Ultimately, the success of the zunde is significantly dependent
upon, but not necessarily determined by, the emergence of an enlightened political leadership that should
shun turning itself into absent landlords. Unused land that has been appropriated by the nationalist
leadership should be put to the best use in food production. That includes the land that many of the new
African speculative farmers are not only underutilising but actually misusing under the guise of the Third
Chimurenga. In short, a transparent land audit is central to determining where the different locations of
zundes will be in Zimbabwe.

Chinodya S (2001) Dew in the Morning. London: Heinemann
Chivaura VG & Mararike CG (eds) (1998) The Human Factor Approach to Development in Africa. Harare: University of
Zimbabwe Publications
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Annex 2 ©. Available at Accessed on 21 July 2009
Gwati G (2001) Mbeu Dzedu muZimbabwe: Chako ndechako, unodya uchisiya muto. Harare: SARED
Hammar A, Raftopoulos B & Jensen S (eds) (2003) Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business: Rethinking Land, State and
Nation in the Context of Crisis. Harare: Weaver Press
Harder H (1998) The human factor and effective management of capital and technology. In VG Chivaura &
CG Mararike (eds) The Human Factor Approach to Development in Africa. Harare: University of Zimbabwe

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Hoppers CAO (2000) The centre-periphery in knowledge production in the twenty-first century. Compare 30(3):
Manzungu E (2004) Environmental impacts of the fast-track land reform programme: A livelihoods perspective. In
D Harrold-Barry (ed.) Zimbabwe: The Past is the Future. Harare: Weaver Press
Maphosa F (1998) The human factor and corporate social responsibility in Zimbabwean business organizations.
In VG Chivaura & CG Mararike (eds) The Human Factor Approach to Development in Africa. Harare: University of
Zimbabwe Publications
Mararike CG (2001) Revival of indigenous food security strategies at the village level: The human factor
implications. Zambezia XXV111(i): 53–65
Moyo S (1995) The Land Question in Zimbabwe. Harare: SAPES Trust
Moyo S, Helliker K & Murisa T (2008) Contested Terrain: Land Reform and Civil Society in Contemporary Zimbabwe.
Pietermaritzburg: S&S Publishers in association with The African Institute for Agrarian Studies
Mudenge AIG (1988) A Political History of Munhumutapa c 1400–1902. Harare: Zimbabwe Publishing House
Nkomo D (2007) Operation Maguta: Well intended but retrogressive all the same. Voice of Habakkuk: Focus on
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of African Historical Studies 33(1): 107–115
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Baobab Books

P Gundani, Professor, Department of Church History, University of South Africa, Pretoria, 21 July 2009

Indigenous knowledges: Transforming and sustaining communal food production in Zimbabwe | 99

3 Environment and natural resources
chapter 9

Muchaparara Musemwa

Environment and natural resources in historical perspective

Environmental change has been a dominant leitmotif of human survival. The pursuit of survival has
witnessed the rapid and profound transformation – some would say degradation – of local, national
and transnational ecologies. There is a plethora of books and articles exploring the changing nature
of environmental landscapes and the depletion of their natural resources. More critically, numerous
books ranging from Donald Worster’s (2004) classic polemic to William Marsden’s (2008) national
bestseller have all powerfully chronicled some of the worst anthropogenic environmental disasters
in the west. Furthermore, scholars such as McNeill (2009) have put their finger on how humankind
has failed to live lightly on the land. McNeill sums up these actions: ‘in modern and contemporary
times we have done so on a scale unprecedented in human history and with few analogues in earth
history. Humankind undertook a gigantic, uncontrolled experiment on the earth, altering land cover,
atmospheric chemistry, bio-diversity, biogeochemical flows, and much else’ (2009: 43). It is this concern
about the environment and the degradation of its natural resources that led to the rise of distinct
academic disciplines, many of which exposed the perpetrators of this damage.

The emergence of African environmental history as an academic discipline, for example, has since
produced nuanced analyses of ‘the destructive capacities of modern western society’, boldly equated
‘change and loss’, and examined the ‘facets of that destructiveness unleashed on a global scale by
European expansion since the late fifteenth century’ (Beinart & Coates 1995: 2). Thus, as Beinart and
Coates insist, ‘degradation’ has been the primary focus of much of the burgeoning environmental
history studies. But they add a cautionary note about equating all manner of transformation with
environmental despoliation, as this simply ‘begs the very question of the legitimacy of human survival,
under whatever economic or ideological system’ (Beinart & Coates 1995: 2). Therefore, delineating
degradation from the notion of change is not an easy exercise, as McCann (1999) has demonstrated
in his seminal book on the environmental history of Africa. Like McNeill, McCann premised his book
on the thesis that Africa’s landscapes are the result of anthropogenic actions over centuries. Echoing
Beinart and Coates before him, McCann reinforced the view that degradation and not just change has
been a central topic in environmental history. The markers of this process have been deforestation,
erosion, loss of soil fertility, intensifying drought and the loss of biodiversity. But McCann also
takes, head-on, the alarmist narratives that have apportioned blame on Africans for degrading their
environment. These degradation narratives, otherwise known as ‘declensionist’ narratives, have been
popularised by sections of the international media and have dominated popular perceptions of Africa.
In questioning the accuracy of these assumptions, McCann turned to history to examine historical
evidence which underscores the exact and changing nature of the degradation of Africa’s natural

| 103
resources, for example, desertification and the role of human action in climate change in West Africa.
Furthermore, these declensionist narratives were routinely propagated by colonial governments and,
later, international donors. Colonial agents characteristically blamed African farmers and pastoralists
for environmental decline as a justification for colonial rule, central planning, and the urban control of
and access to rural resources (McCann 1999).

In the same vein, Davis’s (2007) monograph presents a fascinating counter-narrative to the spurious
account weaved by French colonial rulers to justify the colonisation of North Africa. She charges that
French colonialists fabricated an environmental story about North Africa’s extensive environmental
decline, for which they blamed Arab ‘natives’ or nomads. Thus, before the conquest of Algeria in
1830, North Africa had been romantically presented as a ‘fertile land that had lapsed into decadence
under the “primitive” techniques of the “lazy natives” ’ (Davis 2007: 2). The declensionist narrative
permeated every facet of colonial property and land tenure relations as well as colonial science, as
both McCann and Davis point out. Sadly, they both argue, albeit in their separate accounts, that efforts
led and financed by international institutions and NGOs to arrest soil erosion and desertification in the
post-colonial period continued to be informed by the ubiquitous and internationalised degradation
narrative (Davis 2007: 164; McCann 1999: 57). Thus, as McCann posited, ‘based on early colonial
assertions, embryonic scientific hypotheses, and popular assumptions of the 1970s, the idea of human
agency in African climate change diffused subtly into international policy and media representations
of the late 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s’ (1999: 57). Despite the role that academic environmental history
is playing in reclaiming African agency and possession, Jane Carruthers has bemoaned the irony that
‘so much of the current popular literature about Africa’s environmental policy, national parks and
other protected areas continues to reflect an ideology of African inaction, inertia and helplessness’
(2006: 811). Yet, the genius of African environmental history has been the recognition that Africans
have historically observed ‘environments as resources to be exploited, conserved, defended against
outsiders, and shared with allies and neighbors’, noted Maddox (2005: 721) in his review of Mandala’s
(1990) book, Work and Control in a Peasant Economy, Maddox commended Mandala for his ability to
combine ‘attention to both anthropogenic’ and ‘natural causes of environmental change’ (2005: 721)
in the lower Tchiri Valley, Malawi. Mandala’s monograph amply demonstrated what, for Maddox, was
the quintessence of Africanist environmental history, namely its ability to reveal the nexus between
the social institutions of the Mang’anja and how

…they survived in their environment, the manner in which these institutions evolved
under the impact of external invasion, in-migration by other African communities,
colonial policies, development of markets for agricultural produce, and labour migration
to mines, urban areas, and settler farms elsewhere in the colony and throughout the
southern African region. (Maddox 2005: 722)

Thus, Mandala’s long-lasting contribution to environmental history was, according to Maddox, to

impel us to ‘understand environments as historically changing’ and to emphasise the ‘African people’s
complex and changing relationships with their environments’ (2005: 723).

Hence, a work such as Mandala’s provides abundant evidence that the discipline has proceeded way past
the ‘original orthodoxy of the degradation narrative’ (Maddox 1999: 162). Mandala’s monograph, and
other subsequent environmental history works, have fostered and enriched our diverse understandings
of the veritable ways in ‘which human societies and the natural world mutually construct each other’
(Maddox 1999: 163). Finally, as Maddox observed, Mandala’s approach circumvents the now jaded
arguments over the perceived utilitarian value of degradation narratives. Similarly, as Carruthers noted,
works by McCann (1997, 1999), Fairhead and Leach (1995) and Showers (2005) have to a considerable
extent modified ‘both historical and current thinking about African responses to the environment,

104 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

particularly on the use and history of forests and landscape cover’ (Carruthers 2006: 6). This observation
is critical because this apparent shift has moved almost in lockstep with the appearance of the twin
spectres of climate change and global warming.

Climate change: A new challenge and fresh perspectives

Climate change seems to have rescued the ordinary people from being essentialised as the culprits in
degradation narratives. This is because, increasingly, the focus on who the real culprits are has radically
shifted to the forces of capitalism, industrial production and the ‘treadmill of production’.1 Whereas
Diamond (2005) has argued that climate change in the past arose from completely natural causes,
McNeill asserts that ‘climate change today is chiefly a result of human endeavors’ (2005: 180). It is
these human pursuits that are now held firmly responsible for emitting carbon dioxide and other gases
which accumulate in the atmosphere. This has resulted in the greenhouse effect, which has made the
earth’s temperature warmer and parts of the world drier (Harper 1996).

This, however, has not freed the ordinary people at all because farmers in the developing world have
found themselves in the vanguard of the world’s most daunting problems, chief among them being
climate change, which has severely threatened agriculture, food and water security. The vagaries of
globalisation have also been brought to bear on the poor (Scoones & Thompson 2009). Thus, climate
change has introduced new shocks and stresses, among other issues, that have had telling implications
for farming livelihoods. For example, the Africa: Up in Smoke? report produced in 2005 by the Working
Group on Climate Change and Development noted that ‘small-scale farming [which] provides most of
the food produced in Africa, as well as employment for 70 per cent of working people’ is now extremely
vulnerable to the depredations of climate change. This is because farming is predominantly dependent
on direct rainfall, meaning that ‘Africa is exceptionally vulnerable to the uncertainties and weather
extremes of global warming’ (Working Group on Climate Change and Development 2005: 2).

Clearly, climate change is no longer a mere buzzword; it is now part of a new language and discourse that
has arisen as its effects become increasingly visible and pose a severe threat to human survival globally. As
Cutajar reminds us, ‘Climate change is an unequivocal fact. Human activity has been destabilizing the global
climate. The resulting changes, mostly negative in their impacts on society and ecology, are taking place
faster than expected’ (2009: 11). As a result of the seriousness of the ecological changes, the urgent need
for resource and ecological sustainability has fundamentally transformed the agendas of governments
and civil society. There has also been a widespread shift in public discourse on the issue of global climate
change. What partly explains this shift are the authoritative scientific evaluations that were organised by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Indeed, the 2008 IPCC evaluation report emphatically
suggested that ‘(i) global temperatures are rising, (ii) this temperature increase and attendant impacts
are attributable to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and (iii) previously accumulated and future
emissions will contribute to further global climate change’ (Skinner 2008: 4628). Notwithstanding those
who remain doggedly unconvinced by the findings of the IPCC, there has been a huge swing in public
discourse and mood towards the rising scientific consensus contained in the report.

1 The ‘treadmill of production’ is a phrase coined by Alan Schnaiberg (1980). He discusses the nature and genesis of
the contradictory relations between economic expansion and environmental disruption. This was achieved through
the treadmill of production, that is, ‘the inherent need of an economic system to continually yield a profit by creating
consumer demand for new products, even where this means expanding the ecosystem to the point where it exceeds
its physical limits to growth or its “carrying capacity” ’ (cited in Hannigan 1995: 19–21).

Section 3: Introduction | 105

As the political will to deal with the challenges and problems posed by climate change continues to
increase, for example through the creation of ministries of climate change in Australia in 2007 and the
United Kingdom in 2008 (see Flavin & Engelman 2009), so too have research institutions increasingly
begun to commit themselves to playing a part in creating a strong scientific knowledge base and
broadening public consciousness and involvement in climate change issues and its risks. While the
onus and pressure is now on the industrialised countries to lead the crusade of significantly cutting
down greenhouse emissions, and on the G8 (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the
United States, Canada, Russia) to contribute funds to help poor countries adapt to the impacts that are
already being felt, the focus is also increasingly on the poor, especially women. Peasants and women
in indigenous communities have often devised a repertoire of ‘coping strategies traditionally used
to manage climate variability and change’ (Aguilar 2009: 59). It is in recognition of the hard work and
ingenuity that poor local communities rely on to cope that the Human Sciences Research Council, South
Africa’s premier social sciences think tank and research institution, realised the ‘need for a platform for
critical and innovative debates around social themes, particularly from an African perspective’.2 This
niche will find expression in the Africa in Focus series.

The chapters which constitute Section 3 of this volume critically reflect the positions and voices of the
African practitioners on matters relating to what policies need to be adopted to contain the effects of
environmental problems, most of which are now the consequence of climate change.

The southern African region has experienced numerous drought seasons in the past and also
devastating seasonal floods more recently. Thus, climate has clearly been the prime mover of food
insecurity and, because it ‘acts both as an underlying, ongoing issue and as a short-lived shock’, leading
to people’s limited capacity to deal with shocks and to minimise long-term stresses, it means that
‘coping strategies that might be available in other regions are unavailable or inappropriate’ (Gregory et
al. 2005: 2139). Yet, there is scant information regarding the cost of impacts and adaptation to climate
change in Africa. To this end, although writing specifically about water resources, Bates et al. (2008)
observed that the costs of failing to adapt to climate change can be more profound than those likely to
emerge if open and proficient processes are built into management alternatives – an observation which
can be usefully extended to cover agricultural systems as well. It is with these growing concerns in mind
that Molua (Chapter 10) responds to arguments that African agricultural systems are susceptible to the
vicissitudes of weather patterns. Molua also argues that climate change has had a profound global
impact. Climate and environmental conditions in Africa have changed significantly, with deleterious
effects on agriculture. Given the effects of climate change on agricultural systems in Africa, Molua calls
for a renewed appreciation of the diverse responses that were directed at climate issues, including
severe occurrences such as droughts and floods, in the past. He argues that doing so will enhance risk
management practices, as practitioners can tap into society’s ways of knowing, coping mechanisms
and its adaptive capacities. He asserts that fresh and accepted management methods will act as the
drivers of sustainable agricultural systems that cater for intensified production, while simultaneously
minimising the production risks likely to occur as a result of global climate change. Finally, Molua
is optimistic that the renewed emphasis on the process of adaptation to climate change presents
new development avenues that could profit from the knowledge base arising from lived experiences,
practices and human resource potential to be found in susceptible parts of the world such as Africa.

Similarly concerned about the far-reaching effects of recurrent droughts, in addition to increasing
macroeconomic and political challenges and how these have resulted in massive levels of poverty, is
Gandure (Chapter 13). He bemoans the fact that reactions to the impacts of droughts on livelihoods in

2 HSRC call for papers 2009.

106 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Zimbabwe have been characteristically transient in nature – that is, interest in drought management
quickly fades as people get used to the effects of a disaster. In other words, there are no durable
methods for people to live with drought within drought-stricken communities. The research he carried
out in early 2007 in four villages in the Mwenezi district in Zimbabwe highlighted the respondents’
desire for boreholes and dams to help them stave off the impact of future droughts. Gandure blames
the local authority’s failure to plan for future ecological emergencies on the disconnect between the
‘science’ of climate risk reduction and the ‘institutional capacity’, both of which, if merged, could very
well begin to reverse or reduce the severity of the impact of droughts on livelihoods. He perceives
existing risk minimisation measures as falling far short of enhancing the livelihoods of the poor, who
continue to suffer from the effects of droughts. Gandure proposes an alternative institutional plan
which he considers to be consistent with what he calls the ‘living with drought’ paradigm, using the
Mwenezi district as the geographical unit of analysis. This idea underscores a holistic approach: an
improved comprehension of how and why droughts occur; what the consequences are for both the
environment and human beings; an enhanced appreciation of the bigger picture, namely the micro
and macro environments; and the socio-economic realities. Employing the International Human
Dimensions Programme’s Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change framework,
which focuses on institutional fit, interplay and scales – that is, whether contemporary institutional
mechanisms conform to the properties of the biophysical systems to which they relate – Gandure
insists that any attempt to formulate drought risk-reduction measures must necessarily insert climate
at the centre of all public, private sector and civil society programmes. In so doing, there will be a
shift from the commonplace practice of reacting to drought only when it happens, to pre-empting its
gravity when it eventually takes place.

Linked to these propositions, Mike Muller’s contribution (Chapter 12) considers the political and
practical challenges of designing and implementing an African water resource management agenda.
The chapter was evoked by the African Union’s call for action in December 2008, for member
countries to i) ensure the equitable and sustainable use as well as promote integrated management
and development of national and shared water resources in Africa; and ii) put in place adaptation
measures to improve the resilience of African countries to the increasing threat of climate change and
variability in water resources, and their capacity to meet the water and sanitation targets. Processes
and policies regarding water resource management are hardly politically neutral arenas. They are often
laden with politics – issues of power, who controls the agenda and for whom. To this end, Swatuk
reminds us that ‘water management is never “neutral”, technical or an end in itself. Neither do neutral
water institutions exist…All policy-making discourse is particular in that it is made by coalitions which
reflect those who can best construct and deliver the most persuasive arguments…’ (2005: 872).
Muller extends this argument by noting that devising and implementing an African water resource
management project is as much a political and contested project as it is about finding solutions to
better-managed water resources in ways that ensure their equitable distribution in a sustainable way.
Muller explores these issues specifically within the context of a contested environment between the
developmental objectives of African governments, on the one hand, and the environmental objectives
of the donors on whom they rely, on the other. His chapter examines the points of tension between
two opposed understandings of the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) framework which
have surfaced since 1992 – the year the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de
Janeiro adopted the concept. The first strand was the so-called pragmatic approach, embraced in Rio,
which endorsed the administrative integration of water resources and their users and the application
of a combination of management and infrastructural involvement. The second found expression
in European financially sponsored research programmes, which sanction an array of stipulated
management and economic instruments as well as considerable stakeholder involvement and minimal
attention to investment in physical infrastructure. Muller concludes that a one-size-fits-all approach
to water resource management in Africa is unworkable. Instead, he suggests that the time has come

Section 3: Introduction | 107

to take cognisance of the reality that some interpretations of the IWRM are unsuitable because they
have not succeeded in assisting the better management of water. Rather, they have contributed to
poor performance, leaving the poor exposed to disasters, with impaired livelihoods and constrained
access to basic water services. He yearns for a return to the less complicated integration imagined by
Agenda 213 as an instrument that would serve African countries better.

What would also seem to serve African countries better than externally prescribed solutions is to
come down to the levels of communities in order to understand their perceptions of what it means
to be environmentally conscious. Chapter 11 by Anderson, Wentzel, Romani and Phillips does this. It
assesses the levels of environmental awareness among South Africans, especially with regards to four
domains of environmental concern: water pollution, land degradation, air pollution and littering. The
chapter examines the extent to which each one of these four categories of environmental interest is
construed as a community problem and the specific circumstances leading to its characterisation as
a community-wide issue; the differences between Africans and non-Africans regarding the presence
of each one of these elements; and the similarities/differences in how the two groups perceive these
problems as they relate to place of residence, specific living conditions, educational level of the head
of household, etc. Lastly, the chapter focuses on household actions as they pertain to the mitigation
of water pollution and littering, as well as specific strategies devised to respond to aspects of these
two environmental problems. The main purpose of the chapter is to examine the ways in which South
African attitudes on a number of environmental concerns are either consistent or inconsistent with
those identified in reports in the general literature in the field. Anderson et al. proceed on the premise
that when one takes cognisance of the emphasis that has been placed on environmental concerns
since 1994, one would expect significant levels of environmental consciousness among South Africans.
The chapter concludes that on the basis of available evidence, it would appear that environmental
matters are not a significant arena of concern among the South African public in general. Hence, South
Africans’ views seem to be consonant with those reported in a number of studies.

The chapters in this section represent an important indication that, contrary to the erroneous
observations about Africa’s lack of interest in providing solutions to global warming and climate
change challenges, there are competent voices out there which, if given the requisite space, can
articulate and reflect on how Africans have, from time immemorial, been concerned about and fended
off the effects of climate change.

Aguilar L (2009) Women and climate change: Vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities. In R Engelman, M Renner &
J Sawin (eds) State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World: A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Toward a
Sustainable Society. New York: WW Norton and Company
Bates BC, Kundzewicz ZW, Wu S & Palutikof JP (eds) (2008) Climate Change and Water. Technical Paper of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group 2. Geneva: IPCC Secretariat
Beinart W & Coates P (1995) Environment and History: The Taming of Nature in the USA and South Africa. London:
Carruthers J (2006) Tracking in game trails: Looking afresh at the politics of environmental history in the Republic
of South Africa. Environmental History 11(4): 804–829
Cutajar MZ (2009) Climate change and security: A destabilizing fact of life. In HG Brauch, UO Spring & J Grin et
al. (eds) Facing Global Environmental Change: Environmental, Human, Energy, Food, Health and Water Security
Concepts. Dordrecht: Springer Verlag

3 Agenda 21 is a framework for sustainable development into the twenty-first century agreed upon and signed for by
179 heads of state and governments at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

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Davis DK (2007) Resurrecting the Granary of Rome: Environmental History and French Colonial Expansion in North
Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press
Diamond JM (2005) Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking Press
Fairhead J & Leach M (1995) Reading forest history backwards: The interaction of policy and local land use of
Guinea’s forest–savanna mosaic. Environment and History 1: 55–92
Flavin C & Engelman R (2009) The perfect storm. In R Engelman, M Renner & J Sawin (eds) State of the World 2009:
Into a Warming World: A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress toward a Sustainable Society. New York: WW
Norton and Company
Gregory PJ, Ingram JS & Brklacich M (2005) Climate change and food security. Philosophical Transactions of the
Royal Society B 360: 2139–2148
Hannigan JA (1995) Environmental Sociology: A Social Constructionist Perspective. London: Routledge
Harper CL (1996) Environment and Society: Human Perspectives on Environmental Issues. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Prentice Hall
Maddox GH (1999) Africa and environmental history. Environmental History 4(2): 163–167
Maddox GH (2005) Living along an African river. Environmental History 10(3): 721–723
Mandala E (1990) Work and Control in a Peasant Economy: A History of the Lower Tchiri Valley in Malawi, 1860 and
1960. Madison: University of Wisconsin
Marsden W (2008) Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada [And
Doesn’t Seem to Care]. Canada: Vintage Books
McCann J (1997) The plow and the forest: Narratives of deforestation in Ethiopia, 1840–1992. Environmental
History 2: 138–159
McCann JC (1999) Green Land, Brown Land, Black Land: An Environmental History of Africa, 1800–1990. Portsmouth,
NH: Heinemann
McNeill JR (2005) Diamond in the rough: Is there a genuine environmental threat to security? A review essay.
International Security 30(1): 178–195
McNeill JR (2009) The international system, great powers, and environmental change since 1900. In HG Brauch,
UO Spring & J Grin et al. (eds) Facing Global Environmental Change: Environmental, Human, Energy, Food, Health
and Water Security Concepts. Dordrecht: Springer Verlag
Schnaiberg A (1980) The Environment: From Surplus to Scarcity. New York: Oxford University Press
Scoones I & Thompson J (eds) (2009) Farmer Revisited: Innovation for Agricultural Research and Development.
Institute of Development Studies. Oxford: Practical Action Publishing
Showers KB (2005) Imperial Gullies: Soil Erosion and Conservation in Lesotho. Athens: Ohio University Press
Skinner L (2008) Facing future climate change: Is the past relevant? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society
A(366): 4627–4644
Swatuk L (2005) Political challenges to implementing IWRM in southern Africa. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth
30: 872–880
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Group on Climate Change and Development
Worster D (2004) Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s. New York: Oxford University Press

Section 3: Introduction | 109

chapter 10

Climate change and African agriculture:

Review of impact and adaptation choices
Ernest L Molua

African agricultural systems are managed ecosystems prone to the vagaries of weather (Dinar et al.
2008; Seo et al. 2009). Information put together on quantitative records prior to 1900 has produced a
reliable picture of historical climate variability since the nineteenth century in Africa (Hastenrath 2001;
Nicholson 2001; Nicholson & Yin 2001). The evidence reveals that climate and environmental conditions
that prevailed over Africa long ago were quite unlike those of today, with the magnitude of rainfall
anomalies being about half a standard deviation below long-term means for most ecological zones
on the continent. This evidence is substantiated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s
(IPCC’s) fourth assessment report, which states that the earth’s climate is changing, with projected
global mean temperatures set to increase over the century. This may lead not only to changes in
precipitation and other climate factors, but also includes prospects for more extreme events such as
floods and droughts (IPCC 2007).

The climate change challenge is already affecting vulnerable poor communities, especially in less
developed countries. This is exacerbated by the communities’ inability to recover from the adverse
biophysical and socio-economic effects, especially on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture,
livestock, fisheries and forestry on which their livelihoods depend, thus threatening poverty reduction
measures (Mendelsohn & Dinar 2003; Seo & Mendelsohn 2008). The IPCC (2007) suggests that some
African countries may see yields from rain-fed agriculture fall by as much as 50 per cent by 2020, if
production practices remain unchanged. Whilst Kurukulasuriya and Mendelsohn (2008a) confirm that
current climates affect the net revenues of farms across Africa, applying their results to possible future
climates reveals that even as early as 2020, climate change could have strong negative impacts on
currently dry and hot locations. By 2100, dry-land crop net revenues could rise by 51 per cent if future
warming is mild and wet, but fall by 43 per cent if future climates are hot and dry. Global warming and
attendant climate change therefore has the inherent potential to mar or remake developmental efforts
in both rich and poor countries.

The World Bank Development Report for 2009 identifies the market forces of agglomeration, migration,
and specialisation and trade as important drivers of economic transformation across continents (World
Bank 2009). However, these forces could be influenced by climate, an exogenous uncontrollable factor.
In developing African states in which agriculture accounts for a significant proportion of national
income and employment, the effects of current climate variation and climate change are an Achilles
heel for development plans and economic progress. This is particularly true for countries in east and
southern Africa that have in recent times seen the direct impact of hydrological drought on cereal
outputs. Dwindling maize yields in Kenya and Zambia have raised questions around managing food

110 |
insecurity and population movements in response to resource shortages. Climate effects are also
influencing trade through adjustments in volumes and policies as climate-sensitive sectors, such as
cotton in Zimbabwe, come under the influence of weather vagaries (Gwimbi 2009).

More importantly, there will be winners and losers as impacts and adaptation choices will vary across
countries and productive sectors. For instance, in some African farming districts temperature increases
are observed to positively affect farm returns, whereas the effect of reduction in rainfall is negative
(Gbetibouo & Hassan 2005). The effects of climate change on agriculture therefore depend on the
internal dynamics of agricultural systems and producer capabilities, including their ability to adapt
to the changes (Gbetibouo & Hassan 2005; Kurukulasuriya et al. 2006). This implies that agricultural
policy-making and governance of the sector must account for adaptations, both in the form of short-
term changes in production practices and long-term technological changes (McCarthy et al. 2001).

This chapter reviews the adaptation and policy-induced risk management options in the face of
global climate change. The premise of these methods hinges on the assertion that new and improved
management methods would be the driving force behind resilient agricultural systems that provide
for increased production while cushioning production risks under global climate change. These
developments require policy and infrastructure to promote adaptation options that permit improved
levels of crop and livestock production (Seo et al. 2009). The process of adapting to global climate
change, including technology transfer, offers new development pathways that could take advantage
of the resources and human potential of vulnerable regions (Kurukulasuriya & Rosenthal 2003;
Mendelsohn & Dinar 2003).

The chapter is divided into sections. The first reviews climate change risks in African agriculture. The
second identifies the risk management options across selected countries on the continent. The policy
challenges and shared responsibility for promoting adaptation are examined in the third section. The
chapter concludes by reiterating that African agricultural systems as managed ecosystems are prone
to the vagaries of weather, and new and improved technologies must be the driving force behind
agricultural systems that provide for increased production and household incomes.

Review of climate change risks and African agriculture

Agriculture plays a major role in the economy of most African countries, accounting for about 30 per
cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, at least 40 per cent of export value and approximately 70–80 per
cent of employment. In addition, two-thirds of manufacturing added value in most African countries
is based on agricultural raw materials. Increased productivity in the sector is therefore important for
the continent’s economic and social development. Growth in agriculture will assure general economic
progress, providing new engines of growth, particularly in the countryside, as well as an opportunity to
substitute imports and to generate exports. This is especially so as small-scale farming dominates the
sector and has an important role to play in combating poverty and promoting growth. For countries
such as South Africa, Senegal, Egypt and Zimbabwe, agriculture’s importance is noted from the strong
multiplier effects it generates throughout the economies.

However, Africa’s agriculture depends on climate as its primary factor of production (Maddison et al.
2006). Mindful of this dependence, global warming and associated climate change are projected to
have significant impacts on conditions affecting agriculture, including temperature, precipitation and
surface run-off (Kurukulasuriya & Mendelsohn 2006a; Seo et al. 2009). There is documented evidence
that the continent is warmer than it was 100 years ago (Hulme et al. 2001). Warming through the
twentieth century has been estimated at the rate of about 0.05°C per decade, with slightly more

| 111
warming in the June–August and September–November seasons than in the periods December–
February and March–May (Hulme et al. 2001). According to Nicholson (2001), one of the most significant
climatic variations has been the persistent decline in rainfall in the Sahel since the late 1960s. Mean
rainfall decreased by 20–40 per cent in the Sahel in the periods 1931–60 and 1968–97 and by 5–10
per cent across the rest of the continent. The trend was abruptly interrupted by a return of adequate
rainfall conditions in 1994. This was considered to be the wettest of the past 30 years and was thought
to perhaps indicate the end of the drought. However, dry conditions returned after 1994 (IPCC 2001).
Linear regression of 1901–90 rainfall data from 24 stations in the West African Sahel yields a negative
slope amounting to a fall of 1.9 standard deviation in the period 1950–85 (Nicholson & Palao 1993).
The five warmest years in Africa have all occurred since 1988, with 1988 and 1995 having been the two
warmest years. This rate of warming is not dissimilar to that experienced globally. Comparing data, the
periods of most rapid warming (the 1910s to 1930s and the post-1970s) occur simultaneously in Africa
and the world. The climate of Africa has thus experienced wetter and drier intervals that influenced
socio-economic conditions during the past two centuries. The most pronounced periods were during
the twentieth century (IPCC 2001).

For the years ahead, Joubert and Hewitson (1997) project precipitation to increase over much of the
southern region of the African continent by 2050. Similarly, Hernes et al. (1995) and Ringius et al. (1996)
show land areas over the Sahara and semi-arid parts of southern Africa warming by the 2050s by as
much as 1.6oC and the equatorial African countries warming at a slightly slower rate of about 1.4oC.
Turpie et al. (2002) estimate summer rainfall to decrease over most of South Africa by between 15 and

Box 1 Impact on crop productivity

Scientists at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and the International Livestock
Research Institute estimate an aggregate yield decline of 10 per cent by 2055 for smallholder rain-
fed maize production, representing an annual economic loss to the order of US$2 billion (Jones
& Thornton 2003). Van Duivenbooden et al. (2002) investigated the impacts of current climate
variability and future climate change on groundnut and cowpea production in Niger for three
major agricultural regions, including the groundnut basin. Niger is an important groundnut-
producing and -exporting country. It is estimated that by 2025 the production of groundnuts
will be between 11 per cent and 25 per cent lower than current levels, while cowpea yields will
fall by up to 30 per cent. Mohamed et al. (2002) examined the impact of climate change on
millet in Niger and estimated a 13 per cent decline in yield by 2025 as a result of the reduction
in the total amount of rainfall for July, August and September, combined with an increase in
temperature. Hydrological drought reinforced by climate change has generally been shown to
reduce global maize yields by as much as 15 per cent annually, and this looks set to worsen with
climate change. Scientists from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and the
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture are working with national partners in sub-Saharan
Africa to develop drought tolerant maize varieties. About 50 varieties have been developed and
are being grown on about 1 million hectares (CGAIR 2009). The success of this work is partly the
result of a novel breeding method, in which hundreds of small farmers take part in testing the
new varieties. Wetter isn’t better either. Wilkie et al. (1999) show that increased precipitation
from global warming, associated with a 1 mm per day increase in rainfall predicted for much of
the Congo Basin by the 2050s, may cause a basin-wide increase in the frequency of heavy rains
during the dry season, leading to a reduction in the size of farmer fields and, potentially, to a
substantial increase in food insecurity for poor rural families.

112 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

5 per cent. Winter rainfall is projected to decrease by more than 25 per cent in the northern winter
rainfall area, and increase slightly in the south-western region of South Africa. Temperature increases
are projected for the entire country, with the highest increases of up to 4°C over the north-central
regions (Turpie et al. 2002). On average, the same study projects the highest mean annual temperature
to increase between 2.5°C and 3°C, with lower increases projected for the coastal regions. Hassan
and Nhemachena (2008) note that warming, especially in summer, poses significant risks to African
agriculture. Projecting to 2060 and beyond, Seo et al. (2009) predict the net revenues of small livestock
farms to increase by as much as 120 per cent (i.e. a gain of US$6 billion),1 but those of large farms are
predicted to fall by 20 per cent (i.e. a loss of US$12 billion). Climate change therefore promises new
and unprecedented challenges across farm types, ecologies and modes of management which require
that we urgently understand what is going to happen to African farming (see Box 1). Given these
projections, this chapter reviews the effects on four selected African countries – South Africa, Senegal,
Egypt and Zimbabwe – and puts into context the possible policy shifts to promote adaptation.

South Africa
South Africa is an interesting case study not only because of its relatively developed manufacturing
sector but, unlike other countries on the continent, South Africa’s agricultural exports constitute about
8 per cent of total exports and 10 per cent of formal employment, and contribute around 3 per cent of
GDP. However, despite the size and modernity of its economy, South African agriculture is vulnerable
to the vagaries of weather and long-term climate change. Gbetibouo and Hassan (2005) show that
the production of seven field crops – maize, wheat, sorghum, sugar cane, groundnut, sunflower and
soybean – is sensitive to marginal changes in climate and edaphic factors across farming districts in
South Africa. They highlight the importance of season and location in dealing with climate, showing
that the possible spatial distribution of climate change impact and adaptations will not be uniform
across the different agro-ecological regions of South Africa.

Benhin’s (2006) detailed study shows that climate has a significant influence on crop revenues in the
country. Summer temperatures show an upward trend, autumn temperatures show a downward
trend, and winter and spring temperatures have a convex relationship with farm returns; that is, higher
temperatures in winter and spring will be beneficial up to a certain point, after which the benefit is
negated. Precipitation in all four seasons has a concave relationship with farm returns. In dry-land
assessment, summer precipitation is concave, winter precipitation shows an upward trend, and spring
precipitation has an inverse relationship with crop revenues. Comparing large-scale and small-scale
farms, summer and winter precipitation shows an upward trend, while autumn and spring precipitation
shows a downward trend. The climate effects for small-scale farms are similar to those of large-scale
farms except for autumn precipitation, which is convex in its relationship to farm returns. The similar
trends in the climatic factors in both large-scale and small-scale farms are due to the influence of
irrigation and dry-land farms. This suggests that whether a farm irrigates or not is more relevant to
climate effects in South Africa than the scale of the farm. In general, climatic factors are relevant for crop
farming activities in South Africa, and particularly for dry-land farming (Gbetibouo 2009; Gbetibouo &
Hassan 2005; Nhemachena & Hassan 2007).

Benhin (2006) shows from marginal analysis that a 1° C increase in temperature in the summer farming
season would have a negative effect on crop net revenues for all types of farms in the country. An
increase in temperature in the winter farming season positively affects crop net revenues. The estimates
show an increase in crop net revenue of US$80 per hectare for the whole country, US$191 for irrigated

1 Exchange rate of ZAR 7.302 per 1 US$ (source:

Climate change and African agriculture: Review of impact and adaptation choices | 113
farms, US$588 for large-scale farms and US$60 for small-scale farms. However, dry-land farms observe
a fall in their net revenues of about US$50 per hectare. The elasticity estimates indicate that a 1 per cent
increase in temperature leads to a 4 per cent increase in net revenues for the whole of South Africa,
7 per cent for irrigated farms, 27 per cent for large-scale farms and 4 per cent for small-scale farms, but
a fall of 5 per cent in net revenues for dry-land farms.

As concerns precipitation, an annual increase of 1 mm per month of precipitation has a positive effect
on net revenues, with small-scale farmers being the exception. As expected, dry-land farms benefit
more, as indicated by the significance of their positive effects and relative estimated high elasticity
of 7. For the country as a whole, an annual net gain of US$2 per hectare is expected with a 1 mm per
month increase in precipitation: US$29 for irrigated farms and US$25 for large-scale farms, but a loss of
US$28 for small-scale farms, with corresponding elasticities of 0.37, 3.12, 3.25 and –6.9 respectively. It
follows that a decrease in precipitation by the same amount reduces net revenues by similar amounts.
Including adaptation seems to have a positive effect for both irrigated and dry-land farms. With
irrigation, a 1 mm per month increase in precipitation will now lead to increases of about US$17 per
hectare and US$11 in crop net revenues for irrigated and dry-land farms respectively (Benhin 2006).

The gains and losses are not similar across South Africa. Turpie et al. (2002) project impacts on maize
production due to climate change to range from a loss of US$10 545 056 a year in Lichtenburg (North
West province) without the carbon dioxide fertilisation effect,2 to a gain of US$19 583 676 a year in
Ermelo (Mpumalanga) with the carbon dioxide fertilisation effect. Ermelo exemplifies the sensitivity to
carbon dioxide fertilisation effect, with the gain cited turning into a US$6 984 388 loss without the effect.
Similar observations are noted in the Free State in the districts of Bultfontein, Glen, Petrusberg and
Wesselsbron, all of which move from a loss to a gain due to inclusion of the carbon dioxide fertilisation
effect. Across 19 districts, the total value of lost maize production due to climate change impacts is
US$93 262 120 per year without the carbon dioxide fertilisation effect, but a considerably smaller loss
of US$6 299 644 with the effect (Turpie et al. 2002). Adaptation strategies, if properly implemented,
are expected to reduce the negative impacts of the climate scenarios on crop net revenues, especially
with respect to temperatures.

The challenges for Senegal, located on the fringes of the Sahel, are daunting. As in much of the Sahel,
Senegal has experienced a long-term decline in rainfall (Diop 1996). Camberlin and Diop (2003)
show a significant trend towards earlier cessation dates of the summer rains over a 43-year period
between 1950 and 1992, with an abrupt shift occurring around 1970. A small trend towards delayed
onset has also been observed in recent years, resulting in shorter growing seasons. Ndiaye (2007)
further notes a 35 per cent decline in rainfall throughout Senegal. This is critical, as beyond the
flood zones and the intra-dune basins, over 90 per cent of agriculture depends on the amount of

2 The carbon dioxide fertilisation effect relates to the biological process in which plants absorb atmospheric carbon
dioxide and convert it into carbohydrate in the photosynthetic process (Akita & Moss 1973; Amthor 1995). Some
studies highlight the potential of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide to facilitate photosynthesis and hence create
bio-matter and food in the case of crop plants (Bazzaz 1996; Jenkinson et al. 1994; Norby et al. 1992). However,
the biochemistry of photosynthesis differs among plant species. Plants are either carbon-3 or carbon-4 types, with
varying responses to carbon dioxide. Controlled laboratory experiments (e.g. in growth chambers and greenhouses)
show that under optimum growth conditions – water, nutrients, adequate temperature and non-existence of
pests – carbon-3 plants benefit more from increases in carbon dioxide than carbon-4 plants. Interestingly, close to
90 per cent of the world’s plants are of the carbon-3 type, including wheat, rice, soybean, potato, beans, and most
vegetables and fruits. However, the carbon-4 group includes the key food crops of maize (corn), millet, sugar cane
and sorghum as well as most pasture grasses (Bazzaz 1996). These carbon-4 plants will benefit little from carbon
dioxide doubling (Akita & Moss 1973).

114 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

precipitation that varies from year to year. A critical issue for development in Senegal is the ability
of its rain-fed agriculture to intensify and expand to keep pace with population growth (Downing
1992). However, the unreliability of rain has resulted in loss of soil fertility, poor harvests and
food insecurity, especially in rural areas. With over 70 per cent of women active in the agriculture
sector, and owning only 13.4 per cent of land, inaccessibility to water and other production inputs
compounds the climate challenge (Gueye 2008).

Climate change will without doubt directly alter yields and income in Senegal. Diagne (1992)
reveals that without the direct effects of carbon dioxide enrichment, a 4°C warming and 20 per
cent decrease in precipitation reduces regional yields of Senegal’s principal millet crop by 33–45
per cent. With climate change, coverage of food needs may worsen between 38 and 11 per cent
in relation to the current situation, exposing an additional 1 to 4 million people to food insecurity
by 2050 (Kandji et al. 2006).

An extensive study by Sene et al. (2006) shows that for dry summer seasons, most farms observe
low gross revenues. The revenues remain small because most of the farms are small and lack
adequate means to increase their yields. The maximum gross revenue of US$1 090 per farm per
year is obtained for farms in the Senegal River Basin, where irrigation is largely used to grow
commercial garden crops. The majority of farms have low gross revenue, less than US$500 per
farm per year, and there are very few with more than US$1 000. The yields do not exceed 1 ton
per hectare for many of the crops, in particular for the dominant varieties of millet, groundnuts,
cowpeas and sorghum. The highest yields are for the garden crops and fruit crops. About 15 per
cent of the variance in farm revenues is explained by climatic factors. When production costs are
examined, an increase in temperature is observed to have a negative impact on net revenue,
whereas an increase in precipitation has a positive impact on net revenue. This may be true for
Senegal given that the climate in the country is already hot.

Seasonal variation also accounts for crop production challenges in Senegal. In the rainy season,
an increase in precipitation is shown to increase net revenue and an increase in temperature
decreases it. In the dry season, an increase in temperature still decreases net revenue. That
precipitation during the dry season decreases net revenue highlights the inherent risks from flash
floods and increased run-off that destroys crops both in the fields and in storage barns. Overall,
both annual temperatures and seasonal precipitation show a positive relationship with farm net
revenues, implying that after reaching a minimal point, increases in each of these climatic factors
yield positive benefits to farm net revenues. Irrigation’s contribution is also positive, highlighting
a policy message for the need for government and the private sector to promote irrigation and
improve net farm performances for smallholder farms. This would also imply the need to facilitate
access to credit to allow for investments in irrigation facilities.

Sene et al. (2006) show that a unit increase in temperature is accompanied by an increase of
US$15 in net revenue. At the same time, a 1 mm increase in precipitation gives an increase of
US$16 in net revenue. Rainy season temperature is negative for net revenue whereas precipitation
is positive. The implication of these results is that further increases in temperature in the rainy
season are detrimental to agricultural activities. The simulations of an increase in temperature of
1.5°C combined with either an 8.5 per cent decrease in rainfall or a 17 per cent decrease in rainfall
negatively impact net farm revenues, highlighting the plausibility of agricultural production in
Senegal being affected by climate change associated with high temperature and low rainfall.

Climate change and African agriculture: Review of impact and adaptation choices | 115
Egyptian farming is a classic case of dry-land agriculture. Projections of climate impacts on Egyptian
crop yields simulated for different General Circulation Model scenarios indicate that global warming
has potentially negative effects (Onyeji & Fischer 1994). El-Shaer et al. (1997) highlight Egypt’s particular
vulnerability to climate change because of its large traditional agricultural base, its dependence on the
Nile River as the primary water source and its long coastline. Yield and water-use efficiency decrease on
two reference crops in the main agricultural regions with possible future climatic variation, even when
the beneficial effects of increased carbon dioxide are taken into account. Economic adjustments such
as the improvement of the overall water-use efficiency of the agricultural system, soil drainage and
conservation, land management and crop alternatives are essential. El-Shaer et al. (1997) conclude that
if appropriate measures are taken, the negative effects of climate change in agricultural production
and on water and land may be lessened.

Eid et al. (2006) show from extensive evaluation that the non-linear relationship for both spring and
autumn temperatures is concave with respect to farm net revenue. This is possibly so because spring is
when winter crops develop their seeds and any rise in temperature can consequently reduce the yield.
Similarly, the temperature in autumn is still relatively high, particularly in September and October when
summer crops develop their seeds, so any increase could reduce revenues. Their findings also reveal
that winter and summer temperatures have a convex relationship with crop area per net revenue.
This relationship between summer temperatures and net revenue is not expected, given that summer
temperature is already hot. The results also show that winter and summer temperatures negatively
affect net revenue.

Given an increase in temperature of 1°C, Eid et al. (2006) indicate a reduction of net revenue by
US$968.94 per hectare without livestock and by US$1 044.28 per hectare when livestock is in the
farming mix. This marginal increase in revenue shows that the option of raising livestock on farms as an
adaptation for coping with the harmful effect of increased temperature is not effective. An interesting
observation on farm management is noted in Seo and Mendelsohn (2008), who find that livestock
net revenues of large farms in Africa are more sensitive to temperature than those of small farms.
Cross-sectional analysis also reveals that large farms – but not small farms – have fewer animals per
farm in warmer places. Farmers tend to select beef cattle and chickens in cool climates and goats and
sheep in hot climates. While mixed farming is found to be very challenging, irrigation is shown to be a
better option as it reduces the harmful effect of increased temperature and simultaneously increases
net revenue by US$150.96 per hectare without livestock, and decreases it by US$1 412.41 per hectare
when livestock are included.

Projected temperature increases of 1.5°C or 3.6°C will significantly reduce farm net revenue per
hectare. The reductions in net revenue of US$1 453.41 and US$3 488.18 per hectare for increases of
1.5°C and 3.6°C respectively are observed if adaptation is not incorporated. However, reductions in
net revenue could be less severe if farmers used more heavy machinery on their farms. The reductions
in net revenue are US$116.67 and US$280.01 per hectare for 1.5°C and 3.6°C increases respectively,
showing that expenditure on farm machinery could reduce the harmful effect of temperature increase.
Irrigation could increase farm net revenues by a minimum of US$39.26 and a maximum of US$543.46
per hectare for 1.5°C and 3.6°C increases respectively.

Agricultural land use in Zimbabwe spans a range of natural farming regions, from the productive and
specialised intensive farming regions of central to eastern Zimbabwe, to the lowland extensive farming

116 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

zones of western and southern Zimbabwe (Downing 1992). The semi-extensive farming zone on the
margin of more intensive land uses appears to be particularly sensitive to small changes in climate. For
farmers in this zone, an increase in the risk of crop production would dramatically reduce net income.
These farmers experience climate change through prolonged hot and dry weather conditions which
affect farm investment decisions and outcomes – expressed in the form of crop damage, death of
livestock, soil erosion, bush fires, poor plant germination, pests, lower incomes and deterioration of
infrastructure (Mutekwa 2009). Matarira et al. (1995) show that the potential effects of climate change
on maize – the most widely grown crop in Zimbabwe – include declines in yields in dry-land farming,
which will drop by almost 30 per cent in some communities even under full irrigation conditions. Even
a cash crop such as cotton is affected, with production levels declining as precipitation decreases and
temperatures increase across farming districts (Gwimbi 2009).

Mano and Nhemachena (2006) show that summer temperature and precipitation positively and
significantly influence farm returns. This result is important given that much of agricultural production
in Zimbabwe is concentrated in summer; therefore, the positive relationship between farm net
revenues and summer climate is beneficial to farmers, particularly the smallholders who rely on rain
for their agricultural activities. The autumn precipitation shows negative effects, which coincide with
crop maturity and harvesting when crops do not need any additional rainfall. As such, increases in
precipitation may lead to a significant decrease in farm net revenues as more rain reduces crop yields.
The relationship between climate and net farm revenues is non-linear for summer temperatures and
rainfall tends to benefit farm net revenue, with diminishing marginal benefits up to a maximum turning
point, after which further increases in climatic conditions start to have negative effects on farm net
revenues. Seasonal climate is also shown to have significant differential effects.

Irrigation is significant and positive in explaining the variability of net farm revenues, thus emphasising
the importance of irrigation as a factor in helping farmers, particularly during the winter season and
mid-season dry spells in Zimbabwean summer (Mano & Nhemachena 2006). Farmers with access to
irrigation must cushion themselves against the harsh temperatures and limited rainfall during the dry
periods. There is also a positive relationship between net farm revenue and run-off as an additional
source of water for farms with irrigation and a negative relationship for dry-land farms. The possible
explanation for this is that increases in run-off are more beneficial to farms with irrigation compared
to dry-land farms that do not use any run-off. These results are consistent with the expectation that
additional water will increase water availability for agricultural activities and augment rainwater in
times of seasonal dry spells. In this case, additional water sources in the form of run-off can be used
as sources of water for irrigation during seasonal dry spells and help improve crop productivity and
hence farm net revenues.

Higher summer temperatures are shown in Mano and Nhemachena (2006) to have mostly negative
effects on net farm revenues, implying that further increases in temperature would be harmful to
agricultural activities in the country. A further increase in summer temperature by 1°C would reduce
net farm revenues by about US$86 per hectare for all farms, US$98 for dry-land farms and US$76 for
farms with irrigation. Increases in the spring temperature also decrease net farm revenues. However,
increases in winter and autumn temperatures are beneficial to crops and increase net farm revenues by
about US$34 per hectare for all farms, US$45 for dry-land farms and US$69 for farms with irrigation. An
increase in precipitation has positive effects on net farm revenues, particularly for summer and spring.
An increase of 1 mm in summer precipitation would result in an increase in net farm revenues of about
US$39, US$31 and US$25 per hectare for all farms, dry-land farms and farms with irrigation respectively.
The increases in winter and autumn precipitation show almost similar results and both have positive
effects on net farm revenues. Mano and Nhemachena’s (2006) observation points to the importance of
more summer rain for successful farming, as more rainfall is associated with positive gains in net farm

Climate change and African agriculture: Review of impact and adaptation choices | 117
revenues. More rainfall will therefore be crucial for successful farming in most parts of the country. In
addition, dry-land farms are more sensitive to changes in temperature and precipitation.

Mano and Nhemachena’s (2006) projections of temperature increases by 2.5°C and 5°C and decreases
in precipitation by 7 per cent and 14 per cent show that a 2.5°C increase in temperature would result in
a decrease in net farm revenues of US$0.4 billion by the end of the twenty-first century for all farms, but
a US$0.3 billion increase in net revenue for farms with irrigation. For a 5°C increase in temperature by
2100, the results show that net revenues would decrease across all farms, dry-land farms and farms with
irrigation by US$0.4 billion, US$0.5 billion and US$0.003 billion respectively. A 7 per cent and a 14 per
cent decrease in precipitation would result in a decrease in net farm revenue by US$0.3 billion for all
farms. It is evident that further changes in adverse climate variables of temperature and rainfall are
detrimental to crop production in the country. Dry-land farming is affected most by further increases
in temperature and decreases in rainfall. Increases in temperature tend to be beneficial for farms with
irrigation, implying that irrigation is important for sustaining agricultural production in Zimbabwe and
as an adaptation option for smallholder farmers. Irrigation is an additional source of water for crop
production, particularly during the dry season and during mid-season dry spells that affect agricultural
production. These findings imply that successful farming systems in Zimbabwe would have to be
responsive to good seasons, implying improved use of weather information and flexible markets for
inputs and produce.

Climate risk management and adaptation options

General perspective
Over time, humans have adapted agricultural systems and practices to changing economic and
physical conditions. This has been accomplished by adopting new technologies, changing crop mixes
and cultivated acreage, and changing institutional arrangements. Such flexibility is suggestive of
significant human potential to adapt to climate change (Rosenberg 1992). Agricultural systems are
inherently dynamic; producers and consumers are continuously responding to changes in crop and
livestock yields, food prices, input prices, resource availability and technological change (Kurukulasuriya
& Mendelsohn 2008b; Seo et al. 2009). Accounting for this adaptation, though difficult, is necessary in
order to measure accurately climate change impacts (Kurukulasuriya & Rosenthal 2003). According to
Adams et al. (1998), failure to account for human adaptations, both in the form of short-term changes
in consumption and production practices as well as long-term technological changes, will overestimate
the potential damage from climate change and underestimate its potential benefits. That agricultural
systems adapt to prevailing climate conditions is well documented (Easterling et al. 1993; Kaiser et al.
1993; Molua 2002; Rosenberg 1992; Seo & Mendelsohn 2008). However, a fundamental question with
regard to climate change is whether agriculture can adapt quickly and autonomously, or whether the
response will be slow and dependent on structural policies and programmes.

There are two types of adjustments that agriculturists could make in response to a new climate. The first
is using technologies that are currently available but are not economically competitive in the present
climate – for example, it is possible that farmers in the humid rainforest, operating under a warmer
and drier climate 60 years from now, may sow millet and cowpea varieties that are currently common
in drier, more semi-arid regions. The second type of adaptation by farmers will be the adoption of new
technologies and management practices developed by agricultural research institutions in response
to the changing climate. The importance of farm and regional level adaptations to current climate
variations demonstrated in Reardon et al. (1988), Mendelsohn and Dinar (1999), and Molua (2002)
reveal that a wide variety of adaptive actions may be adopted to overcome the adverse effects of

118 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

climate change on agriculture. This may involve adjustments of capital, labour and land allocations.
At the farm level, such adjustments may include the introduction of late-maturing crop varieties or
species, switching crop sequences, changing planting dates, adjusting the timing of field operations,
conserving soil moisture through appropriate tillage methods, improving irrigation efficiency and
changing crop types.

Srinivasan (2000) presents a comprehensive review of the strategies for climate risk management in
subsistence agriculture, and observes that farmers use both on-farm (structural) and off-farm (non-
structural) mechanisms to cope with climate risks. Maddison (2006) identifies on-farm practices to
include enterprise diversification, early planting, varying crop mixes, water harvesting, windbreaks,
etc. Off-farm risk avoidance measures include production contracting (contract selling and futures
market), credit and insurance. While the choice of irrigation is sensitive to both temperature and
precipitation, irrigation is an effective adaptation against loss of rainfall and higher temperatures
provided there is sufficient water available (Kurukulasuriya & Mendelsohn 2006b). There are, however,
important differences in the propensity of farmers living in different locations to adapt, and there may
be institutional impediments to adaptation in certain countries.

Adaptation choices in African agriculture

South Africa
Simulations of climate change scenarios in Gbetibouo and Hassan (2005) indicate that climate impacts
would require very distinct shifts in farming practices and patterns in different regions, including major
shifts in crop calendars and growing seasons as well as switching between crops, with the possibility of
the complete disappearance of some field crops from some regions. This implies regional disparity in
vulnerability. Gbetibouo and Ringler (2009) note that vulnerability to climate change in South Africa is
intrinsically linked with social and economic development; for instance, the Western Cape and Gauteng
provinces, which have high levels of infrastructure development, high literacy rates and low shares of
agriculture in total GDP, are relatively low on a nationwide-constructed vulnerability index. In contrast,
the highly vulnerable provinces of Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape are characterised
by densely populated rural areas, large numbers of small-scale farmers, high dependency on rain-fed
agriculture and high land degradation. At the farm level, Gbetibouo (2009) notes that while farmers’
perceptions of climate change in the Limpopo River Basin are in line with climatic data records, only
half have adjusted their farming practices to account for the impacts of climate change. Inadequate
access to credit is identified by respondents as the main factor inhibiting adaptation.

Benhin (2006) reveals that 70 per cent of the farmers across South Africa identify a number of adaptation
options that they apply to address the changes they perceive in higher temperatures and the changed
timing and reduced volume of rainfall. The main adjustments in farming activities include adjustments
in farming operations which embody changes in the planting dates of some crops; planting crops
with a shorter growing period, such as cabbage; and planting short-season maize (120–140 days).
Other measures include the increased use of crop rotation and the early harvesting of some crops.
In KwaZulu-Natal, for example, farmers prefer to cut their sugar cane early. If they wait for the cane
to mature in the field, they risk losing produce due to the dryness of the cane as a result of increased
temperatures. In a situation of heavier rainfall, concentrated in shorter periods and starting earlier
(previously early September and now late October in some provinces of South Africa), farmers have
responded by delaying the start of the planting period, increasing their use of modern machinery
to take advantage of the shorter planting period, collecting rainwater by making furrows near the
plants, and increasing their use of irrigation. In response to higher temperatures, South African farmers
have resorted to using heat-tolerant crop varieties, crop varieties with high water-use efficiency, early

Climate change and African agriculture: Review of impact and adaptation choices | 119
maturing crop varieties, and increased crop and livestock farming (mixed farming). For example,
because of the high temperatures, sugar-cane farmers in KwaZulu-Natal have shifted to producing
macadamia nuts and tea, which they consider easier to irrigate than sugar cane. According to
Shewmake (2008), when a household is hit by a shock, its coping strategies are an important indication
of adaptation and vulnerability. Coping responses in the Limpopo River Basin, for instance, include
selling livestock, borrowing from relatives or the bank, receiving aid, migrating to another rural or an
urban area, seeking off-farm employment or eating less (Shewmake 2008).

Livestock farmers adopt numerous practices aimed at the efficient use of water and scarce fodder
(Seo et al. 2009). There is a general tendency to resort to more heat-tolerant animal breeds rather than
the traditional ones, and most livestock farmers now also produce their own fodder, such as lucerne
or maize, and stock it for use during the long dry seasons. In response to the long drought periods,
farmers have adjusted the stocking intensity of their livestock by selling their animals at younger ages.
Another practice is to change the timing, duration and location of grazing. However, mixed cropping
and livestock farming are generally shown to be associated with positive and significant adaptation to
changes in climatic conditions compared to specialised crop and/or livestock farmers, thus indicating
that mixed farming systems are better able to cope with changes to climatic conditions through
undertaking various changes in management practices (Nhemachena & Hassan 2007).

Increased application of farm chemicals, use of irrigation and provision of shade and shelter are also
employed to cushion the risk of varying and changing climate. With higher temperatures and increased
evapotranspiration, farmers resort to increased application of chemicals such as Erian to slow down
evapotranspiration. They also apply more farm manure to keep the moisture content of the soil higher
and to retain the soil fertility. More lime is applied to maintain the soil’s correct pH balance. With
water being the most important factor limiting agriculture in South Africa, irrigation appears to be
the most appropriate adaptive strategy. Hence 65 per cent of farmers choose irrigation as an option
to adjust to climatic changes. Farmers have also shifted from flood irrigation to sprinkler irrigation for
an efficient use of limited water. Several farms have also built their own boreholes to make effective
use of underground water. There has also been increased use of wetlands for agricultural production.
When it is hot, livestock farmers plant trees to provide natural shade for their livestock or as a wind or
hailstorm break. South African farmers typically plant pine trees, Acacia karoo and Celtis africana trees
for this purpose. In some instances, farmers use fishnets, grass and plastics as coverings to protect their
plants against dryness and heat, as well as cold and frost. Heating provided by firewood and paraffin
heaters is also used by livestock farmers to protect their animals against the cold.

Conservation efforts ranging from various soil conservation practices to maintaining or improving
soil moisture and fertility are employed principally to fight erosion (Maddison 2006). Benhin (2006)
observes that while some farmers in South Africa build small dams or plant trees around their farms,
others increase the fallow periods by as much as one to two agricultural seasons (instead of continuous
cropping) to allow the land to restore its nutrients. Another conservation technique is keeping the
crop residues of previous harvests on the farmland to preserve soil moisture, cool the soil surface and
stabilise soil temperature. To avoid excessive extraction of soil nutrients, some farmers reduce the
density of crops or livestock on their land. Large farms manage income risks through the purchase of
insurance or reducing cropping areas, while small-scale farmers increase their involvement in non-farm
activities. These observations in South Africa corroborate those at the Nile Basin of Ethiopia, where the
choice of adaptation includes use of different crop varieties, tree planting, soil conservation, early or
late planting and irrigation (Deressa et al. 2008).

Some 30 per cent of South African farmers who do not employ any adaptive strategies attest to lack
of funds, lack of information and absence of government support. Shewmake (2008) concludes that

120 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

households that rely primarily on rain-fed agriculture and do not own livestock are more vulnerable
than other households to climate change-induced shocks in the Limpopo River Basin in South Africa.
In general, however, household size, farming experience, wealth, availability of credit, access to water,
tenure rights, off-farm activities and access to extension are the main factors that enhance the adaptive
capacity of South African farmers (Gbetibouo 2009).

The prolonged and increasingly intense dryness in Senegal, combined with the shortening of the rainy
season and the frequency of dry spells, as well as the marked degradation of the soils, have resulted
in a succession of bad crop years. Farm plots are increasingly infertile because of soil degradation and
water flow that uproots vegetation and crops (Gueye 2008). Sene et al. (2006) identify about 20 per
cent of farms where the sowing periods are reduced and 10 per cent resort to prayer in the face of
climatic constraints in Senegal. Some farmers construct shelters to protect people and animals against
high temperatures. In the face of changing rainfall patterns, a reduced sowing period is the strategy
most commonly adopted on 50 per cent of farms. Many farmers tend to wait for the rains to set in
before sowing. Other strategies include the use of different crop varieties and resorting to agroforestry.
Gueye (2008) observes that the erosion of farm returns in Senegal has led to the outmigration of men
in search of employment in urban areas. Women have consequently been left to fend for themselves
and their families, although they are now beginning to migrate too. Those who remain adopt intensive
agriculture practices and extend the cultivation of land to combat the effects of climate change.

The observations in Senegal are corroborated by evidence across the continent. Kurukulasuriya and
Mendelsohn (2008b) find that crop choice across Africa is highly sensitive to both temperature and
precipitation. Farmers adapt their crop choices to suit the local conditions they face. The study also
found that farmers often choose crop combinations to survive the harsh conditions in Africa, such as
maize–beans, cowpea–sorghum and millet–groundnut. These combinations provide the farmer with
more flexibility across climates than growing a single crop on its own. For example, farmers in cooler
regions of Africa choose maize–beans and sorghum, whereas those in hot regions choose cowpeas and
millet. Farmers in dry regions choose millet and sorghum, whereas those in wet regions choose maize–
beans, cowpea–sorghum and maize–groundnut. Other crops, such as maize, are grown throughout
Africa. However, the ability of Senegalese farmers to adapt is limited by their lack of economic and
technical resources, and their vulnerability is accentuated by their heavy dependence on rain-fed
farming systems (Downing 1992). Given the diversity of the constraints they face, the general capacity
to adapt to climate changes is currently very low.

The simulations of Onyeji and Fischer (1994) show that high-cost adaptation measures involving
major changes in the agricultural system and practices may mitigate any adverse impacts. According
to Eid et al. (2006), Egyptian farmers have noticed a change in temperature and rainfall patterns and,
through their own experience and with limited assistance from agricultural extension agents, have
chosen some methods to overcome the harmful effects. The most common adaptation to increased
temperatures is irrigation, either by increasing the frequency of irrigation or by increasing the amount
of water channelled onto farms. Some farms modify the timing and irrigate early in the morning or late
in the evening; they avoid irrigating in the afternoon when the temperature is at its highest. On some
farms, the crop sowing dates are modified to avoid the expected high temperatures, while others use
heat-tolerant varieties. Other practices include managing pesticide and fertiliser applications, planting
trees as fences around farms, using intercropping between crop plants of different heights, and fruit
mulching for vegetables. To adjust to changes in rainfall, farmers employ varieties with high water-

Climate change and African agriculture: Review of impact and adaptation choices | 121
use efficiency and early maturing to cope with rainfall shortage. Some farms employ underground or
drainage water for irrigation, and improved drainage is seen as important. These possibilities indicate
that adaptation is not without costs. Changes in technology imply research and development costs,
along with the costs of farm level adoption, including possible physical and human capital investments.
In addition, certain barriers to adaptation – such as inaccessibility of financial resources and technical
assistance, as well as unavailability of ancillary inputs – limit farmer responses. In Egypt, as in Ethiopia,
while the age of the household head, wealth, information on climate change, social capital and agro-
ecological settings have significant effects on farmers’ perceptions of climate change, Deressa et al.
(2008) note that the main barriers to adaptation include lack of information on adaptation options and
financial constraints.

Zimbabwean farmers’ perceptions on whether the climate is changing are influenced by incidences
of drought and changes in the seasonal timing of rainfall, and in a few cases of unusual floods. While
cotton farmers, for instance, are prepared to adapt to changes in climate, their options are very limited,
making them vulnerable (Gwimbi 2009). Mutekwa (2009) notes that soil and water conservation
strategies, such as water harvesting activities, are being practised by about 38 per cent of smallholder
farmers. This is combined with other adaptation strategies such as growing legumes, for example
beans, towards the end of the rainy season when cereals fail, largely due to excessive rainfall, as well
as the application of more fertilisers when nutrients are heavily leached from the soil. The choice of
legumes is accounted for by its early maturity, nutritional content and market value. Maize farmers in
particular switch to drought tolerant small grains and maize varieties, and appropriate management
practices (Matarira et al. 1995).

Mano and Nhemachena (2006) observe that more than 60 per cent of farms in Zimbabwe employ
multiple adaptation strategies simultaneously. About 21 per cent engage in dry and early planting
and use seed varieties that stay in the soil for some time before the rains, as well as early maturing
varieties. Winter plowing is important as it helps conserve moisture, especially when it is done soon
after the winter rains. This conserved moisture is important for the success of dry and early planting
activities that most farmers use as an adaptation strategy. Some farms plant short season and drought
resistant crop varieties and practise multiple cropping that includes changing crop mixes. Planting
short season and drought resistant crop varieties increases the chances of successful harvests and
hence higher net farm revenues, despite adverse climatic conditions. This is particularly challenging
under mono-crop agriculture. Hassan and Nhemachena (2008) show that specialised crop cultivation
(i.e. mono-cropping) is the agricultural practice most vulnerable to climate change in Africa. Multiple
cropping by smallholder Zimbabwean farmers ensures that they are able to get some positive net
returns from their farming activities: when some crops fail, others produce positive returns, particularly
drought resistant crops such as sorghum.

For cash-crop cotton farms, 10 per cent depend on irrigation and diversify into cotton varieties that
are more drought resistant, 11 per cent diversify into other crops, and 14 per cent time the planting
period to coincide with the onset of the rains. More than 70 per cent opt for short season hybrid
varieties because the growing season is perceived to be getting shorter (Gwimbi 2009). In Zimbabwe,
as in the Horn of Africa, the level of education, gender, age and wealth of the head of household,
as well as access to extension and credit, information on climate, social capital and agro-ecological
settings are shown to influence farmers’ adaptation choices (Deressa et al. 2008). In some communities
in Zimbabwe, farmers depend on remittances, gold panning, fruit gathering and selling to supplement
agricultural incomes (Mutekwa 2009).

122 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

In the face of strong climatic shocks, Zimbabwean farmers express the need for meteorological and
agricultural extension information to assess forecasts, and up-to-date information about rainfall
patterns in the forthcoming season so that they can make well-informed decisions about planting
dates (Mano & Nhemachena 2006). Dilley (2000) notes that preparation based on information obtained
from climate forecasts, drought early warning systems and stocking up on food allowed households
and vulnerable groups to weather climatic constraints in the 1997/98 agricultural season in southern
Africa. The adaptation strategies reported by Zimbabwean farmers are based on indigenous knowledge
systems or lessons learnt from previous climatic stresses, shared knowledge with other distant farmers
through farmer field days and trips, and advice from agricultural extension officers and NGOs that are
involved in various food security activities (Mutekwa 2009).

Shared responsibility in promoting adaptation

The farm level strategic responses in South Africa, Senegal, Egypt and Zimbabwe to climatic extremes
and change differ from those of a developed industrial country, not only because of the unrivalled
technological, infrastructural and institutional capacity possessed by developed states, but also because
of the diversity of constraints facing these nations which limit overall adaptive capacity. Responsibility
in promoting adaptation requires understanding why vulnerability persists in developing countries
(McCarthy et al. 2001). Civil society and producers remain vulnerable because of poor governance, lack
of access to assets, remoteness from policy decision-making processes, lack of effective institutions
serving and promoting their needs, absence of markets which do not militate against the poor, and
the dearth of knowledge technologies and inputs to serve their farming practices. For instance,
access to free extension services has been shown to significantly increase the probability of taking
up adaptation options (Nhemachena & Hassan 2007). Vulnerability persists in part because of an
unsupportive policy and institutional environment. The unsupportive institutional environment exists
because the vulnerable groups have no major influence over the policies and institutions that shape
their livelihoods.

Adaptation may therefore be hampered until such time that vulnerable people exercise greater power
over the policies and institutions that are critical to them. Even though there is a need for material
assistance, the vulnerable will not get access unless they have greater influence over the national
and local institutions that distribute access. What this means is that reducing vulnerability requires
empowering the vulnerable. They have to be able to develop their own institutions that serve their own
interests. This means farmer associations, self-help groups, water-user groups, reforestation groups, and
locally based savings and loan organisations. They have to be enabled to influence other institutions
in political and economic bargaining, and their interests must be represented in policy development.
Empowering vulnerable groups and improving resource allocation will reduce vulnerability. Resources
without empowerment is not the answer. How can an enabling environment, which facilitates adaptation,
be created? As shown in Figure 10.1, the power to create conditions enabling poor households and
communities to escape climate induced risks rests largely with two parties:
• National governments: In many developing countries, such as Cameroon, national governments may
have the necessary power but lack the political will to carry out pro-poor policies and programmes.
They are indifferent to rural needs and the needs of vulnerable sectors of society. The vulnerable
should have resources directly in their hands. There is an overwhelming need for adequate invest-
ment in public goods (education, research, health and infrastructure). In short, the road to meaning-
ful and successful adaptation emanates from the will of national policy-makers and runs through
the provision of resources and public goods, and the empowerment of vulnerable groups through
institutional change. Through representative democratic institutions, poor communities can influ-
ence this will and commitment. It may be a long and tortuous path, but there is no other way.

Climate change and African agriculture: Review of impact and adaptation choices | 123
Figure 10.1 Shared responsibility in promoting adaptation through national and international collaboration

Climate change

Governance National warming
& policy collaboration

Adoption Adaptation
& training

International trade

Climate variation & climatic extremes

Source: Author’s conceptualisation

• International community: In 1996, the World Food Summit, organised by the Food and Agriculture
Organization, underlined in its Plan of Action that the resource base for food, agriculture, fisher-
ies and forestry is under stress and threatened by problems such as desertification, deforestation,
overfishing, loss of biodiversity, inefficient use of water and climate change. With the aim of coun-
tering the environmental threats to food security, the Plan encouraged governments to take the
anticipated impacts of natural climate variability and climate change on rainfall and temperature
into account in developing agricultural and land-use policies (FAO 1997).

However, it is unlikely that African countries on their own will have sufficient resources to respond
effectively. Governments must be assisted materially, institutionally and politically. The donor
community is in a position to influence the ‘will’ and commitment of national governments. Hence,
the international community has a role in enabling the enablers. Appropriate actions for international
agencies will have to include: i) institution building; ii) assistance for developing basic infrastructure
and human capital; and iii) providing means for dialogue between community-based organisations
and governments. Unfortunately, current evidence indicates that donors, like developing country
governments, are not demonstrating political will and commitment equal to the challenge. A trend
has been documented of declining international and national resources being dedicated towards
agriculture and rural communities in least developed countries, especially by the IFAD3 (MFAD 2006).
This trend has to be reversed, and aid for agriculture and sustainable improvement in rural livelihoods
must be raised substantially.

3 The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is engaged in the development and implementation of
projects that focus on agricultural development planning and policy-making; identification, execution and evaluation
of investment projects; building up of indigenous capabilities in the operation and management of farmer institutions;
land reform policies; and integrated rural development and transformation. However, these efforts are not far-reaching.
IFAD and other international organisations must also influence the will and commitment of national governments.

124 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

In sum, therefore, as expounded in Figure 10.1, promoting both short-term autonomous and long-
term planned structural adaptations that encourage inherent changes in production patterns and
input choices, and policy responses that alter the adaptive capacity of communities, would require,
inter alia,
• adjusting agricultural research priorities in a manner that enhances the use of technological
options to manage climate associated risks;
• strengthening agricultural extension and communication systems, and encouraging better partner-
ships between regional and national research institutions and extension, with the goal of ensuring
better training and education of economic agents in climate-sensitive sectors.

Onyeji and Fischer (1994) observe that creating appropriate conditions for effective diffusion and
development of technologies – particularly for the agricultural sector – would seem a desirable

Box 2 Building adaptive capacity and promoting community-based management

The Africa Rice Center and its national partners are propagating New Rice for Africa (NERICA)
varieties which combine the high productivity of Asian rice with the ability of African rice
to tolerate harsh growing conditions. Varieties for rain-fed upland rice are already being
grown on 200 000 hectares across 30 African countries. Farmers are particularly interested
in early maturing NERICA varieties, which permit more intensive cropping and tend
to escape intermittent droughts occurring at critical stages in crop development. The
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics is involved with a project
that seeks to improve incentives and opportunities for households to cope with and adapt
to the increasing vagaries of climate through improved crop production practices (CGIAR
2009). Key interventions include: i) building local institutions and demand-led rural service
provision; ii) strategies and decision support tools for managing smallholder assets, including
livestock; and iii) participatory development of new technologies for natural resource use
under variable rainfall. The adoption of these practices will be stimulated by linking their
dissemination with complementary investments in climate forecasting, and building linkages
to other projects that are involved in the development of input and product markets.

The impacts of climate change fall disproportionately on poor communities. These communities
must be helped to adapt to enhanced climatic stresses through community-based adaptation
that focuses on enabling such communities to enhance their own adaptive capacity and
increase their own resilience to the impacts of climate change. For instance, Elasha et al. (2005)
note that villages in the drought-prone Gireigikh rural council in Bara Province of western
Sudan undertook community measures to reduce the risk of production failure by increasing
the number of livelihood alternatives, leading to greater local stability. The measures included
rangeland rehabilitation, replanting, stabilisation of sand dunes, creation of windbreaks, and
livestock restocking and management. This resulted in the creation of community institutional
structure, the development of land-use master plans, oversight and mobilisation structures,
implementation of rangeland rehabilitation measures, revegetation of five kilometres of sand
dunes, creation of 195 km of windbreaks sheltering 130 farms, about 700 hectares of improved
livestock restocking, two revolving funds, five pastoral women’s groups focused on livestock
value-adding activities, five new irrigated gardens and wells, and a grain storage and seed
credit programme. The community-based effort effectively combined participatory planning,
capacity-building and access to credit, as well as diversified production system and drought
contingency measures.

Climate change and African agriculture: Review of impact and adaptation choices | 125
strategy in adapting to climate change. Hassan and Nhemachena (2008) identify better access to
markets, extension and credit services, technology and farm assets (labour, land and capital) as
critical for helping African farmers adapt to climate change. Government policies and investment
strategies must also support education, markets, credit and information about adaptation to
climate change, including technological and institutional methods, particularly for poor farmers
in the dry areas of Africa.

Also important is a framework for regular mapping and participatory identification of vulnerabilities
through early warning and risk management systems, which also make important community-
based disaster risk reduction efforts (see Box 2). For instance, Smit and Skinner (2002) have
shown that much can be done by using farmers’ knowledge of variation in the past to adapt to
future extreme events. These would, without doubt, inherently encourage the application of new
technologies, new land management methods and water-use efficiency-related techniques, which
are sine qua non for adaptation to climate change.

Concluding comments
This chapter elucidated the human response and adaptation options that might shape the nature
of the impact of climate change on vulnerable agrarian societies. Climate’s direct impact forces
agricultural producers to adopt new practices and coping strategies in response to the altered
conditions. Agriculturists take a variety of adaptive options to lessen or overcome the adverse effects
of climate variation on agriculture. In general, to weather the impact of climate change, there are two
major types of adjustments farmers will have to make. The first is using technologies that are currently
available and the second is the adoption of new technologies and management practices developed
by agricultural research institutions and pushed by the agriculture extension services. Current
technologies and approaches are unlikely to be adequate to meet projected demands, and increased
climate variability will be an additional stress. New and improved technologies will be the driving force
behind sustainable agricultural systems that provide for increased production while protecting farm
incomes under a globally changed climate. These developments will require policy and infrastructure
to promote adaptation options that will permit the improved levels of crop and livestock production
needed to enhance agricultural growth. The process of adapting to global climate change, including
technology transfer, will offer new development pathways that could take advantage of the resources
and human potential of vulnerable regions.

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Climate change and African agriculture: Review of impact and adaptation choices | 129
chapter 11

Exploring environmental consciousness

in South Africa
Barbara A Anderson, Marie Wentzel, John H Romani and Heston Phillips

The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries witnessed the emergence of concern for the
environment as an important political and social issue (Dunlap et al. 1993; Ebero & Vining 2001;
Inglehart 1995; Jacobs 2002; Schelas & Pfeffer 2005). This rising interest in environmental pollution
and climate change has sparked an increased need for understanding the factors that underlie public
perceptions regarding water, air and ground pollution and actions taken to alleviate these conditions.
How views regarding the environment are formed and the influence of living conditions, social status
and other factors in the development of these attitudes and resultant environmental behaviours are
important questions in both social science and public policy.

The Republic of South Africa offers a special context in which to examine these questions. The provision
in section 24 of the Constitution that entitles South Africans to an environment that is ‘not harmful to
their health and well-being’ is one element. Another is the broad range of environmental protection
legislation and administrative actions taken by post-apartheid governments (DEAT 2004; DWAF 2005;
Peart & Kogi 2001).1 Thirdly, South Africa, historically and today, can be viewed as a country containing
two parallel societies (Lumby 2005). One, largely white, enjoys access to economic and social amenities
comparable to those in the developed world, while the other is composed mainly of the African and
coloured populations, many of whom live in circumstances more often found in developing societies.
This setting provides the opportunity to examine the influence of different living conditions on
environmental perceptions, behaviours and awareness.

Social scientists have studied the role of socio-economic status (SES) and individual characteristics in
the formation of environmental perceptions and actions taken to protect the environment (Dunlap
& Scarce 1991; Hunter et al. 2010; Jacobs 2002; Van Liere & Dunlap 1980; White & Hunter 2009). Early
work by Inglehart and others argued that concerns about the environment and its protection were
more likely to be found in developed societies where populations enjoyed a higher SES (Franzen 2003;
Inglehart 1995). Others have challenged this position, contending that environmental awareness is not
confined to more developed societies. Some researchers have found that individuals in less developed
settings not only express concerns about environmental conditions, but also differentiate between

1 See also National Environmental Management Act No. 107 of 1998, available at
a107-98.pdf, accessed on 2 February 2006.

130 |
these conditions and actions regarding environmental matters (Anderson et al. 2007; Dunlap et
al. 1993; Dunlap & York 2008; Jacobs 2002; White & Hunter 2009).

Contributing to this perspective is the role of the specific environmental conditions in which individuals
find themselves. A study on the perceptions of water pollution in South Africa found that ‘those most
directly affected by water pollution were also most likely to see it as problem’ (Anderson et al. 2007:
157). White and Hunter concluded from their examination of environmental issues in Ghana that
‘residents of less-wealthy nations also often prioritise environmental issues’ (2009: 24). Hunter and her
associates found in their study of environmental perceptions of rural South Africans that ‘there may
actually be more commonality than differences with regard to social and environmental concerns’
among people and communities around the world than previously believed (Hunter et al. 2010: 20).

Another factor – one with special relevance to South Africa – is that of race and ethnicity in the
determination of environmental attitudes and behaviours. Conventional wisdom has been that
environmental concerns are largely a ‘white’ issue (Mohai & Bryant 1998). Mohai and Bryant’s study of
this question in the United States led them to observe that while there appeared to be racial differences
when the question concerned environmental conditions in neighbourhoods, these distinctions,
‘rather than representing a race effect based on cultural conditionings, appear to be related to the
greater likelihood of African Americans living in poorer environmental conditions’ (1998: 500). This
view is consistent with other studies where local environmental conditions were seen as an important
contributor to environmental attitudes (Blake 2001; Blake et al. 1997; Parker & McDonough 1999).

The analysis presented here explores the relationships between perceptions, behaviours and public
awareness concerning four different environmental conditions in South Africa: water pollution, land
degradation, air pollution and littering. One purpose of this analysis is to assess the extent to which
the perceptions, behaviours and levels of awareness among South African households correspond
to those found elsewhere in the world. A second is to examine the influence of race and ethnicity in
determining environmental perceptions and behaviours. The question is not simply one of aggregate
differences between populations, but the degree to which such differences are the product of the
specific circumstances in which each population group lives.

The data used in this chapter were drawn from the 2004 General Household Survey (GHS) conducted
by Stats SA. This survey was a stratified random sample of 26 214 households, of which 19 950 (76 per
cent) were African households and 6 264 (24 per cent) were non-African2 households. Contained in
this survey were items dealing with four specific conditions of environmental contamination: water
pollution, land degradation, air pollution and littering. For land degradation and air pollution, questions
were only asked to determine if these conditions were seen as community problems. The questions
on water pollution and littering, however, sought information regarding household behaviours to
deal with these conditions. There were also questions about the awareness of households of three
programmes developed to deal with environmental problems.

The 2004 GHS had both a ‘person’ and a ‘household’ section. The items that we analysed were
in the household section, and the 2004 GHS did not indicate which household member was the
respondent. Interviewer instructions only stated that it was to be a ‘responsible adult’. The education

2 Non-African refers to the white, coloured and Indian populations.

| 131
TABLE 11.1 Explanatory variables used in survey
Urban Urban/non-urban classification based on 1996 South Africa Census
1=Yes, is an urban place
0=No, is not an urban place
Flush/chemical Flush/chemical toilet includes any flush or chemical toilet
toilet 1=Yes, uses a flush or chemical toilet
0=No, does not use a flush or chemical toilet
Clean water Clean water includes piped water in dwelling, piped water on site or in yard,
neighbour’s tap, public tap, or water from a water carrier/tanker
1=Yes, has clean water
0=No, does not have clean water
Formal housing Formal housing includes dwelling/house or brick structure on a separate stand or yard
or on a farm, flat or apartment in a block of flats, town/cluster/semi-detached housing,
or unit in a retirement village
1=Yes, lives in formal housing
2=No, does not live in formal housing
Household head (HH) 1=Yes, HH has 5 or more years of education
5+ years education 0=No, HH does not have 5 or more years of education
HH bachelor degree+ HH has a bachelor degree, bachelor degree and diploma, honours degree, or higher
degree (masters, doctorate)
1=Yes, HH has bachelor or higher degree
0=No, HH does not have bachelor or higher degree
Access to land The household has access to land that is, or could be, used for agricultural purposes
for agriculture 1=Yes, has access to land for agriculture
0=No, does not have access to land for agriculture
Rubbish collected Rubbish collected at least weekly, whether removed by local authority or by
at least weekly community members
1=Yes, rubbish collected at least weekly
0=No, rubbish not collected at least weekly
African household Population group of HH
1=Yes, HH is African
0=No, HH is not African

Note: The data used in all tables and figures in this chapter were drawn from Stats SA (2004).

level of the head of household is a relevant household characteristic; however, neither the sex/gender
of the actual respondents, their respective levels of educational attainment nor their ages were known.
The explanatory variables used are presented in Table 11.1. Since, as shown in Table 11.2, African and
non-African households have very different characteristics, it was difficult to find a set of independent
variables that was equally appropriate for the analysis of both African and other households. The
variables selected work well for the analysis of all households and of African households. If, however,
the main purpose of the analysis were the examination of non-African households, a somewhat
different set of independent variables might have been used.

The proportions of all households, African households and non-African households with particular
characteristics are shown in Table 11.2. Non-African households are made up of households headed

132 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

TABLE 11.2 Households with various characteristics (%)
All households African households Non-African households
(%) (%) (%)
Urban 59 50 88
Flush/chemical toilet 57 46 95
Clean water 86 82 98
Formal housing 67 59 94
HH 5+ years education 75 70 93
HH bachelor degree+ 5 2 13
Access to land for agriculture 14 17 5
Rubbish collected at least weekly 56 46 88
African household 77 – –

Table 11.3 All households, African households and non-African households with perceptions, behaviours and
awareness in various environmental areas (%)
All households African Non-African
(%) households (%) households (%)
Water pollution Perceived as a community problem 10.8 13.0 3.9
Behaviours: Treating drinking water
sometimes or always? 5.8 5.8 6.0
Awareness of initiatives: Working
for Water 12.0 7.0 28.1
Land degradation Perceived as a community problem 11.7 14.3 3.4
Behaviours – – –
Awareness of initiatives – – –
Air pollution Perceived as a community problem 15.1 17.2 8.3
Behaviours – – –
Awareness of initiatives – – –
Littering Perceived as a community problem 21.5 24.1 12.9
Behaviours: Recycling 6.5 4.1 14.5
Awareness of initiatives:
Collect-a-can 62.7 59.5 73.2
Green Cage 19.0 14.0 35.6

by members of the white, coloured and Indian populations. There were 2 886 coloured, 604 Indian and
2 950 white households in the survey. Readily evident are the differences between African and other
households. White, coloured and Indian households are far more likely than African households to
have access to clean water, good sanitation, formal housing, heads with more education and frequent
refuse collection. The only characteristic on which the proportion of African households exceeds that
of other households is access to land for agricultural purposes.

Exploring environmental consciousness in South Africa | 133

Table 11.4 Logistic regression results for perceptions of environmental problems
All households African households
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Water Land Air pollution Littering a Water Land
pollution degradation a problem problem pollution degradation
a problem a problem a problem a problem
Urban 0.639 -0.270 0.662 1.120 0.653 -0.252
(.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000)
Flush/chemical toilet –0.333 –0.961 –0.173 –0.440 –0.333 –0.995
(.000) (.000) (.001) (.000) (.000) (.000)
Clean water –1.087 –0.246 0.122 0.308 –1.111 –0.237
(.000) (.000) (.04) (.000) (.000) (.000)
Formal housing –0.565 –0.011 –0.252 –0.190 –0.560 –0.016
(.000) (.794) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.713)
HH 5+ years 0.057 0.082 0.141 0.143 0.079 0.086
education (.371) (.064) (.001) (.000) (.108) (.057)
Access to land for – 0.175 – – – 0.153
agriculture (.001) (.005)
Rubbish collected at – – –0.391 –0.704 – –
least weekly (.000) (.000)
African household 0.945 0.838 0.778 0.677 – –
(.000) (.000) (.000) (.000)
Constant –1.940 –2.078 –2.597 –2.144 –1.001 –1.238
(.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000)
X2 1119.480 1601.772 549.166 1065.449 697.953 895.106
(.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000)
N 26 214 26 214 26 214 26 214 19 950 19 950
Notes: p values in parentheses; coefficients in bold and underlined if p < .05; – indicates that the variable was not included in the
given analysis.

Perceptions of a specific environmental condition as a community problem
The first issue examined is the perception that a given environmental condition is a community
issue and the household characteristics associated with that perception. Table 11.3 presents the
percentages of all households, African households and non-African households that perceive specific
environmental conditions as community problems. Three things stand out from these data. First is the
small proportion of all households that saw any of these conditions as a community problem. Only
littering was seen as a community problem by more than 20 per cent of all households. These levels of
awareness of environmental pollution are lower than those reported in other studies (Holl et al. 1995;
White & Hunter 2009).

Second were the differences in relative importance of the four environmental conditions. Water
pollution was seen as a problem by the lowest proportion of all households, followed, in ascending

134 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

African households Non-African households
(7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12)
Air pollution a Littering a Water pollution Land Air pollution a Littering a
problem problem a problem degradation a problem problem
0.657 1.115 0.429 -0.242 0.710 1.201
(.000) (.000) (.077) (.269) (.001) (.000)
–0.159 –0.387 –0.400 –0.375 –0.244 –0.885
(.004) (.000) (.184) (.209) (.310) (.000)
0.135 0.306 –0.117 –1.063 –0.387 0.175
(.022) (.000) (.821) (.001) (.284) (.617)
–0.245 –0.178 –0.635 0.039 –0.378 –0.342
(.000) (.000) (.003) (.896) (.025) (.016)
0.152 0.193 –0.469 –0.272 –0.080 –0.570
(.001) (.000) (.045) (.285) (.676) (.000)
– – – 0.730 – –
–0.408 –0.766 – – –0.206 0.245
(.000) (.000) (.316) (.157)
– – – – – –

1.740 –1.499 –2.088 –1.617 –1.814 –1.275

(.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000)
210.782 628.659 19.292 38.480 20.696 92.744
(.000) (.000) (.002) (.000) (.000) (.000)
19 950 19 950 6 264 6 264 6 264 6 264

order, by land degradation, air pollution, and littering. The same pattern of perceptions held for African
households. Views of non-African households, however, were slightly different. These households saw
land degradation as less of a community problem than water pollution.

Third were the differences in views between African and non-African households regarding these
environmental conditions as community problems. African households were three times as likely as
other households to see water pollution and land degradation as community problems. The proportion
of African households that saw air pollution and littering as community problems was twice that of
non-African households.

Perception of water pollution as a problem

Table 11.4 presents the results of a logistic regression examining the relation of the explanatory
variables to perceptions of environmental pollution as a community problem. In a logistic regression,

Exploring environmental consciousness in South Africa | 135

the dependent variable has the value of 1 if the condition is true (for example, perceives water pollution
as a community problem) and the value is 0 if the condition is not true. For all households, as well as
African households, there was the strong likelihood that water pollution was considered a problem
when that household was urban, lacked a flush or chemical toilet, did not have clean water and resided
in informal housing. African households were also more likely to see water pollution as a problem than
were other households. For non-African households, only the type of housing and the educational
level of the head of household were significantly related to the perception of water pollution as an
issue. Neither the location of the household nor access to clean water was statistically significant.

Three observations emerge from this analysis. First, households with lower SES – as reflected by the lack
of a flush toilet, unclean water and residence in informal housing – were much more likely to identify
water pollution as a community problem than households in better conditions. This was true both
for all households and for African households. In non-African households, only the informal housing
variable was statistically significant in predicting viewing water pollution as a community issue. These
results underscore the importance of specific living conditions in determining the perception of water
pollution as a critical community problem. Second, an African-headed household was more likely
to see water pollution as a community issue than one headed by a non-African. Given the marked
differences in levels of living as set out in Table 11.3, this pattern also reinforces the observation that
low SES households were more likely to identify water pollution as a community problem than higher
SES households. The third observation is the role played by the educational attainment of the head
of household in explaining the perception of water pollution as a community concern. Conclusions
from studies cited earlier suggested that awareness of environmental concerns was more likely to
be associated with higher levels of educational attainment (Inglehart 1995; White & Hunter 2009).
This was clearly not the case among South African households in 2004. Not only was this variable
not statistically significant for all households and for African households, but it had a weak negative
influence in non-African households (Table 11.4).

Perception of land degradation as a community problem

Land degradation was the second environmental condition dealt with in the 2004 GHS. Slightly less
than 12 per cent of all households said that land degradation was a community problem. Fourteen
per cent of African households indicated that this condition was a community problem, but only
3 per cent of other households viewed it as a problem (Table 11.3). Perhaps more important is that
the percentages of all households and African households that saw land degradation as a problem
were only marginally higher than the proportions which perceived water pollution as a community
issue. Neither the type of housing nor the educational level of the head of household was a statistically
significant explanation for the view of land degradation as a problem by all households and by African
households (Table 11.4). Non-African households were likely to see this condition as a community
problem only when those households lacked clean water and had access to land for agriculture. None
of the other variables was statistically significant for non-African households.

Three observations about perceptions of land degradation as a community problem can be noted. First
is the importance of access to agriculture in determining whether a household views land degradation
as a community problem. This factor is statistically significant not only for all households, but also for
non-African and African households (Table 11.4, Columns 2, 6 and 10). However, not clear from the
available data is the meaning of access for agricultural purposes. Nor is it possible to determine if the
household actually used the land for agriculture or received any income from the use of the land. The
most that can be said is that if a household sees itself as having the potential to engage in agriculture,

136 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

it is much more likely to perceive land degradation as a community problem. Second, and equally
striking, is the importance of the quality of the water available to the household. For all categories
of households the lack of a clean source of water was statistically significant in explaining the view
that land degradation was a community problem (Table 11.4, Columns 2, 6 and 10). This differs from
perceptions of water pollution as a community issue where the source of water supply for non-African
households was not statistically significant (Table 11.4, Columns 9 and 10). Third, African households
were also more likely to view land degradation as a problem than were other households (Table 11.4,
Column 2).

Perception of air pollution as a community problem

The third environmental issue considered in the 2004 GHS was air pollution. As with land degradation,
respondents were asked only if air pollution was a community problem. The percentages of all
households that viewed it as a community problem were higher than those that saw either water
pollution or land degradation as a problem (Table 11.3). Among African households, the proportion
which viewed poor air quality as a problem was greater than that which saw either water pollution or
land degradation as community problems. The percentage of African households with the perception
of air pollution as a problem was twice that of the proportion of other households with this view and
more than four times the percentages of non-African households that identified water pollution or
land degradation as a community problem.

As might be expected, the urban location of a household was a strong predictor of its view of air
pollution as a community problem. This statistically significant positive relationship held for all
household categories. When the influence of the other independent variables is examined, a slightly
different pattern emerges. African households as well as all households were more likely to see air
pollution as a community problem if the household lacked flush or chemical toilets, had clean water,
lived in informal housing, was headed by someone with five or more years of formal education, and
whose rubbish was collected less frequently than once a week. None of these variables, except for the
type of housing, was statistically significant for non-African households. Further, if a household was
African it was more likely to see air pollution as a problem.

There is, however, a counter-factual element which needs noting. African households, only 50 per cent
of which are urban, were more than twice as likely to view air pollution as a community issue than were
non-African households, 85 per cent of which are urban. What may be the case here is that the generally
poorer overall conditions in which African households find themselves override the significance of
urban location of a household as a predictor of the perception of air pollution as a community problem.
This observation also tends to support the conclusions reached by Mohai and Bryant (1998) cited earlier.
Further, an urban African household without a flush or chemical toilet, but which has clean water
and does not live in formal housing, is essentially a brief sketch of the poor part of the urban African
population. Even though these African households are materially better off than their rural counterparts,
they are still poor compared to other urban African households (Stats SA 2010).

Perception of littering as a community problem

Littering was the fourth environmental condition covered in the 2004 GHS. Littering was perceived as
a community problem by 22 per cent of all households (Table 11.3). Not only was this twice that of all
households which viewed water pollution as a community problem, but also higher proportions of
both the African and non-African households saw littering as a community problem than any of the
other conditions (Table 11.3). A possible explanation for this is that littering is more readily observable
than the other environmental conditions about which information was sought.

Exploring environmental consciousness in South Africa | 137

FIGURE 11.1 Percentage distribution of households by number of environmental problems perceived

Percentage 100





All % African % Non-African %

0 problems 65 60 80

1 problem 19 21 13

2 problems 10 11 5

3 problems 5 6 1

4 problems 2 2 1

Urban households whose head had more than five years of education, which lacked a flush or chemical
toilet, had access to clean water, lived in informal housing, and whose rubbish was collected less
frequently than once a week were more likely to view littering as an issue than those households
without these characteristics (Table 11.4, Column 4). African households with these same conditions
were also more likely to see littering as a problem than other African households (Table 11.4, Column 8).
Among non-African households, however, littering was likely to be seen as a problem when the
household was urban, lacked a flush or chemical toilet, lived in informal housing and whose head had
five or less years of education. Neither access to clean water nor the frequency of rubbish collection
was statistically significant for these households (Table 11.4, Column 12).

It might be argued that since only one-third of the households surveyed reported perceptions of
environmental pollution, the similarities and differences in the relationship between perceptions and
household characteristics were a function of some households reporting multiple problems. That this
is not the case can be seen in Figure 11.1. Of the nearly 35 per cent of all households that reported
specific environmental conditions as community problems, less than half identified more than one
condition as a community concern. Of the 40 per cent of African households that reported cases
of environmental pollution, less than half of them – 19 per cent – identified more than one
problem. Of the 20 per cent of non-African households that reported seeing at least one case of
environmental pollution, only 7 per cent identified two or more problems.

Table 11.5 shows characteristics that are associated with a household that reported several
environmental problems. Households that had a low SES – lack of clean water supply, lack of a
flush or chemical toilet, was resident in informal housing, and whose rubbish was collected less
than once weekly – were more likely to report several problems. These relationships also held
among households that reported at least one problem and among households that reported at

138 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

TABLE 11.5 Multiple regression results for analysis of factors related to the number of environmental problems
perceived (all households)
Number of problems Number of problems Number of problems
perceived among all perceived among perceived among
households households that perceived households that perceived
at least 1 problem at least 2 problems
Coefficient Sig. Coefficient Sig. Coefficient Sig.
Urban 0.374 .000 .246 .000 0.179 .000
Clean water –0.087 .000 –.071 .000 –0.075 .000
Flush/chemical toilet –0.200 .000 –.106 .014 –0.077 .019
Formal housing –0.131 .000 –.153 .000 –0.133 .014
HH 5+ years education 0.067 .000 .048 .025 –0.005 .843
Access to land for
agriculture 0.067 .010 .093 .001 0.100 .002
Rubbish collected at
least weekly –0.280 .000 –.168 .000 –0.099 .002
African household 0.274 .000 .168 .000 0.052 .174
Constant 0.538 .000 1.634 .000 2.551 .000
R2 0.059 0.035 0.032
F 206.229 41.131 17.165
Significance of F 0.000 0.000 0.000
N 26213 9196 4200
Notes: Coefficients in bold and underlined if p<0.05

least two problems. Also, African-headed households were more likely to see the presence of an
environmental problem.

Specific household behaviours taken in response to perceived cases of

environmental pollution
The 2004 GHS asked if households took any actions to mitigate the perceived effects of environmental
contamination. One set of questions focused on treatment of water by households and another dealt
with households’ participation in recycling. No questions were asked about household behaviours
related to land degradation or air pollution.

Water treatment
Questions were asked about whether households treated water for drinking and whether they treated
water for food preparation. The results in both cases were similar. Thus, we present only the analysis for
treatment of drinking water. Water was treated by less than 6 per cent of all households (Table 11.3).
The proportions of African and non-African households that treated water were also equally small
(Table 11.3). More important, however, is whether households that treated water were different from
those that did not. Table 11.6 shows the results of a logistic regression in which this is examined.

Households were more likely to treat water for drinking if they perceived water pollution as a
community problem, lacked access to clean water, did not have a flush or chemical toilet, and whose
head had five or more years of education (Table 11.6, Column 1). African households which saw water

Exploring environmental consciousness in South Africa | 139

Table 11.6 Logistic regression results related to water pollution and littering behaviours
All households African households Non-African households
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Treat Engaged in Treat Engaged in Treat Engaged in
drinking recycling drinking recycling drinking recycling
water activities water activities water activities
Urban –0.114 0.099 –0.095 0.162 –0.090 –0.055
(.191) (.310) (.341) (.173) (.619) (.746)
Flush/chemical toilet –0.270 –0.144 –0.348 –0.276 0.447 1.222
(.003) (.114) (.000) (.010) (.162) (.000)
Clean water –1.311 0.295 –1.279 0.362 –2.017 –0.230
(.000) (.009) (.000) (.002) (.000) (.535)
Formal housing 0.122 0.224 0.101 0.169 0.201 0.638
(.052) (.001) (.121) (.028) (.417) (.002)
HH 5+ years 0.299 – 0.255 – 0.915 –
education (.000) (.000) (.002)
HH bachelor degree+ – 0.982 – 0.716 – 1.001
(.000) (.001) (.000)
Rubbish collected at – 0.049 – 0.011 – 0.259
least weekly (.626) (.929) (.149)
Water pollution a 0.858 – 0.691 – 1.922 –
problem (.000) (.000) (.000)
Littering a problem – 0.617 – 0.673 – 0.528
(.000) (.000) (.000)
African household –0.597 –1.224 – – – –
(.000) (.000)
Constant –1.565 –2.540 –2.081 –3.752 –2.363 –3.791
(.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000)
X2 757.547 970.490 654.754 119.451 160.063 200.709
(.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000)
N 26 185 26 214 19 932 19 950 6 264 6 264
Notes: p values in parentheses; coefficients in bold and underlined if p < .05; – indicates that the variable was not
included in the given analysis.

pollution as a problem were more likely to treat water if they lacked clean water, lacked a flush or
chemical toilet, and whose head had five or more years of education (Table 11.6, Column 3). Neither
the type of housing nor urban location had a significant relationship to whether African households
treated water. Drinking water tended to be treated in non-African households which viewed water
pollution as a problem, lacked a clean source of water and whose head had five or more years of
education. While the relationship in this household category between formal housing and treatment
of water for drinking was positive, it was not statistically significant.

140 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Household participation in recycling
Only 7 per cent of all households reported participation in any recycling activity (Table 11.3). The 2004
GHS asked about several possible recycling activities, such as making compost and separating paper
from rubbish for collection. For the purposes of this analysis, households which answered affirmatively
to any of the questions about recycling were counted as engaging in recycling activities. The relationship
between household characteristics and involvement in recycling employs a different educational level
of the head of household variable than used earlier. The distinction is made between households
headed by individuals with a bachelor’s degree or more and those which are not (Table 11.1). This
change was made because a bachelor’s degree was the lowest level of educational attainment which
made a difference in whether an African household recycled.

Although the percentage of non-African households which perceived littering as a community

problem was nearly half that of African households, the proportion of non-African households
involved in recycling was about three times that of African households and more than twice that for
all households. Recycling was more likely among all households and African households which had

Table 11.7 Logistic regression results for awareness of initiatives related to water pollution and littering
All households African households Non-African households
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9)
Aware of Aware of Aware of Aware of Aware of Aware of Aware of Aware of Aware of
Working Collect-a- Green Working Collect-a- Green Working Collect- Green
for Water Can Cages for Water Can Cages for Water a-Can Cages
Urban –0.112 0.559 0.324 –0.048 0.522 0.335 –0.164 0.734 0.297
(.069) (.000) (.000) (.553) (.000) (.000) (.084) (.000) (.017)
Flush/ 0.342 0.264 0.425 0.204 0.212 0.327 1.314 1.090 1.385
chemical (.000) (.000) (.000) (.011) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000)
Clean 0.325 0.497 0.420 0.453 0.547 0.504 –0.505 –0.404 –0.369
water (.001) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.049) (.106) (.153)

Formal 0.680 0.436 0.347 0.714 0.440 0.316 0.477 0.258 0.545
housing (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.001) (.031) (.000)
HH 5+ 0.466 0.471 0.498 0.353 0.414 0.428 0.875 1.020 0.858
years (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000)
Rubbish – –0.020 –0.192 – 0.011 –0.141 – –0.087 –0.231
collected (.684) (.002) (.832) (.049) (.492) (.063)
at least
African –1.206 0.072 –0.755 – – – – – –
household (.000) (.058) (.000)
Constant –2.572 –1.039 –2.328 –3.788 –0.946 –3.062 –2.852 –1.363 –2.958
(.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000)
X2 2048.289 2492.662 1955.484 273.827 1840.018 541.707 126.284 354.308 177.444
(.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000) (.000)
N 26 214 26 174 26 173 19 920 19 923 19 925 6 264 6 251 6 248
Notes: p values in parentheses; coefficients in bold and underlined if p < .05; – indicates that the variable was not
included in the given analysis.

Exploring environmental consciousness in South Africa | 141

access to clean water, formal housing, lacked a flush or chemical toilet, whose head had post-secondary
education and saw littering as a community problem (Table 11.6). These same characteristics, except
for access to clean water (which virtually all non-African households had), were significantly related
to engagement in recycling by non-African households. The frequency of rubbish collection was not
related to recycling by any of the household categories. Also for non-African households having a flush
or chemical toilet was positively related to recycling. Somewhat clear from this limited analysis is that
recycling tends to be done by households that exhibit higher SES characteristics. To the degree that
this is true, behaviour by South Africans reflects what has generally been found regarding recycling
elsewhere in the world (Schultz et al. 1995).

Awareness of environmental programme initiatives

Respondents to the 2004 GHS were asked if they were aware of three specific programmes concerned
with environmental improvement. Knowledge of these endeavours varied considerably (Table 11.3).
Among all household categories, the Working for Water Programme3 was not only the least known,
but the percentage of African households that knew of the programme was one-quarter that of non-
African households. The percentage of African households aware of the other two activities – Collect-
A-Can4 and Green Cages5 – was also the lowest amongst the household categories. More salient are
relationships between household characteristics and awareness of these three efforts. Table 11.7 shows
the results of a logistic regression in which the relationship between the independent variables and
awareness of these programmes is examined. The Collect-A-Can and Green Cages initiatives were more
likely to be known by all household categories if the household was urban, had a flush or chemical
toilet, enjoyed formal housing and was headed by one with five or more years of education (Table 11.7).
For African households, as well as for all households, access to clean water was also significant. Less
than weekly trash collection was predictive of an awareness of the Green Cages programmes for both
African and all households, but not for non-African households. Further, neither the type of water
available nor the frequency of trash collection was significantly related to awareness of these two
initiatives among non-African households.

Knowledge of Working for Water – jointly developed by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
and the Department of Social Development to remove alien vegetation from South African waterways
and to provide work for rural Africans – was more likely for African and all households when these units
had formal housing, the head of which had more than five years of education, and had access to safe
sanitation and clean water. Urban location was not significant for any household category, while
the lack of clean water was important in awareness of this activity among non-African households.
Moreover, if the household was African it was least likely to know about the endeavour.

This lack of awareness of the Working for Water programme is in sharp contrast to the proportion
of all households – 63 per cent – which were aware of Collect-a-Can (Table 11.3). Not only did three-
quarters of the non-African households know of this activity, but close to 60 per cent of African
households knew about it, as did three-fifths of all households. The Green Cages endeavour was
also substantially better known than Working for Water. Unlike Working for Water, Collect-a-Can
and Green Cages are private initiatives: BMW established Green Cages while Mittal Steel created
Collect-a-Can.6 Both initiatives have partnerships with a variety of other groups, including schools,
foundations and local governments, but they differ in some important respects. First is their age.

3 See
4 See
5 Green Cages no longer has a website. For relevant information, see Also see Nhamo
6 See, accessed on 31 July 2010.

142 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Collect-a-Can was created in 1993 and Green Cages some five years later. Second is their mode
of operation. Collect-a-Can pays individuals and recycling businesses to collect and deliver cans
to an extensive set of locations in South Africa and other sub-Saharan countries. Green Cages
uses a somewhat smaller set of collection points and, at the time of writing, had not provided a
set of financial incentives for people to deposit plastic bags at these collection centres. None of
the South African members of the team that conducted this study had prior knowledge of Green
Cages before their involvement in this project.

This examination of perceptions, behaviours and awareness of environmental issues in South
Africa provides some insight into the factors that are associated with environmental consciousness
in that society. The relationship between housing that lacks clean water, the absence of flush or
chemical toilets and living in informal housing and a household’s perception of water pollution
as a community problem is clear. Also important is the influence of SES as measured by specific
indicators such as access to clean water, formal housing, and education level of the household
head in evoking behaviours such as treatment of water for drinking and cooking and participation
in recycling. Awareness of environmental protection activities is also strongly associated with
a high SES. These observations are supported by the results of the logistic regression analysis
of the factors associated with the number of environmental problems reported by households
(Table 11.5). While these similarities among households tend to mask the differences among the
household categories, they support the argument that specific living conditions are important
in predicting how South African households will define environmental conditions as community
problems. This finding corresponds to those found elsewhere (Inglehart 1995; Mohai & Bryant
1998; White & Hunter 2009).

Perhaps more important are the differences between African and other households in environmental
perceptions, behaviours and awareness. The former were more likely to see specific environmental
conditions as community problems than the latter, regardless of the particular environmental
condition (Table 11.4, Columns 1, 2, 3 and 4). Also of note are the differences in behaviours taken
by each household category to deal with a given case of pollution (Table 11.6). Africans treated
water when the household had neither clean water nor a flush or chemical toilet and its head
had more than five years of formal education. Non-African households tended to take this action
when the head of household had five years plus of education and their water supply was not clean.
While neither household group engaged extensively in recycling, the proportion of non-African
households which did this was nearly four times that of African households, even though African
households were twice as likely to see littering as a community issue (Table 11.3).

Even more illustrative of these differences in recycling is the role played by the educational
attainment of the head of an African household. This variable was important only when that household
head possessed a bachelor’s degree or more (Table 11.6). Analyses not shown indicated that for every
increment of education for the head of household, non-African households were more likely to recycle.
For African households there was no relationship to household participation in recycling until the
household head had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

More striking are differences between these two household categories in the levels of awareness
of environmental initiatives. These are most obvious regarding the Working for Water programme.
African households were much less likely to know of the programme than non-African households
(Table 11.3). While there were similarities in the variables associated with awareness of the programme

Exploring environmental consciousness in South Africa | 143

between the two sets of households, the more important consideration was the extremely low level of
knowledge about the activity among African households. This is evidenced by the negative coefficient
of –1.206 for the characteristic whether the household was African. This pattern also obtained when
awareness of the Collect-a-Can and Green Cages initiatives was examined. While there was greater
knowledge of these programmes by both household categories, the proportion of African households
aware of these activities was substantially lower than that of non-African households (Table 11.3). In
this case, as with Working for Water, knowledge of these efforts was largely confined in both household
groups to those units with characteristics associated with a higher SES (Table 11.7).

Although it would be easy to argue that these differences are attributable to race, a counter-argument
is that the differences may be a function of differences in living conditions between the two groups.
It is clear from the results in Table 11.2 that non-Africans on the whole enjoy living conditions that
more closely approximate a high SES than do Africans. This condition, coupled with the finding that
African households are much more likely to see conditions of pollution, suggests that SES and the
lower standards of living associated with those circumstances are a significant factor in explaining
these differences. This also suggests that the differences reflect a continuation of the circumstances in
which Africans lived during the apartheid period.

It was suggested at the outset that the special conditions in South Africa would lead one to predict
that there would be a higher level of awareness of environmental matters among South Africans than
found elsewhere in the world. This assertion is challenged by this analysis. Only slightly more than
10 per cent of all households identified water pollution as a community problem (Table 11.3). In only
one instance did more than 20 per cent of households report that a particular environmental condition
– littering – was a community problem. Slightly less than 20 per cent of all households reported a
problem of environmental pollution and less than 2 per cent indicated the presence of four conditions
(Figure 11.1). It is difficult to conclude from this that the constitutional provision of an environmental
right has raised the level of environmental consciousness in South Africa. In this respect, attitudes in
South Africa seem to conform to what has been reported in other studies that environmental matters
are generally not seen as among the most important issues facing society (Bloom 1995; Dunlap & Scarce
1991; Dunlap et al. 1993; Van Liere & Dunlap 1980). However, a cautionary note needs to be added. What
has been reported in the literature generally has asked respondents to rank environmental problems
in relation to other issues confronting a country. Since respondents in the 2004 GHS were not asked
to judge environmental issues in contrast to other social concerns, it is not clear that the low levels of
recognition of environmental issues reflect how South Africans see environmental matters in contrast
to other problems facing them. One could argue that the HIV/AIDS epidemic, high unemployment,
continuing poverty for many rural Africans and growing inequality are potential reasons for the small
percentages of households perceiving environmental pollution as a community problem.

Finally, not clear from this examination is the impact of emerging environmental issues associated
with climate change on perceptions of South Africans about the environment. The recent report of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change raises several questions to which governments will
be asked to respond (Panchuri & Risinger 2007). The effectiveness of these responses will, as in the
past, require a greater public understanding of the specific environmental conditions which need
addressing, as well as how community and individual behaviours can affect these conditions. The
analysis presented here suggests the need for additional and more focused examinations of how to
stimulate greater public awareness of both the underlying causes of environmental degradation and
the governmental and community measures best suited to mitigating these conditions. It will only be
through such efforts that the vision contained in the South African Constitution can be made real along
with ensuring greater equity for all segments of the South African population.

144 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Anderson BA, Romani JH, Phillips H, Wentzel M & Tlabela K (2007) Exploring environmental perceptions,
behaviors and awareness: Water and water pollution in South Africa. Population & Environment 28: 133–161
Blake DE (2001) Contextual effects on environmental attitudes and behavior. Environment and Behavior 33(5):
Blake DE, Guppy N & Urmetzer P (1997) Canadian public opinion and environmental action: Evidence from British
Columbia. Canadian Journal of Political Science 30(3): 451–472
Bloom DE (1995) International opinion on the environment. Science 269, 21 July: 354–358
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Dunlap RE, Gallup GH Jr & Gallup A (1993) Of global concern: Results of the health of the planet survey.
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Dunlap RE & Scarce R (1991) Poll trends: Environmental problems and protection. The Public Opinion Quarterly
55(4): 651–672
Dunlap R & York R (2008) The globalization of environmental concern and the limits of the postmaterialist values
explanations: Evidence from four multinational surveys. The Sociological Quarterly 49: 529–563
DWAF (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry) (2005) Annual Report: 2004–2005. Pretoria: DWAF
Ebero A & Vining J (2001) How similar are recycling and waste reduction? Future orientation and reasons for
reducing waste as predictors of self-reported behavior. Environment and Behavior 33(3): 424–448
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Social Science Quarterly 84(2): 297–308
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43 societies. Political Science and Politics 28(1): 57–72
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Quarterly 62: 475–505
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Exploring environmental consciousness in South Africa | 145

chapter 12

The challenges of implementing

an African water resource
management agenda
Mike Muller

Water is an essential ingredient of social and economic development and is also integral to the natural
environment. Its use and management has therefore long been a focus for communities as well as
meriting the attention of their governments. But water is also a complex resource. It is renewable, as
a product of natural weather systems. However, as a consequence of the variable and unpredictable
nature of those same weather systems, its availability is also extremely uncertain in many places. Often,
its availability or unavailability in the extremes leads to what are described as natural calamities: floods
and droughts.

The variability is spatial as well as temporal and as a result the characteristics of the water economy –
the relationship between water resource and the activities that it supports – are usually very local and
differ from place to place. Thus, while Africa’s average annual rainfall is around 800 mm, that rate is
not evenly distributed throughout the continent. West Africa’s coastal areas and Central Africa’s forests
typically receive over 2 000 mm annually; the extensive deserts of the Sahara as well as north-east and
south-east Africa may receive less than 100 mm (Figure 12.1). From year to year, rainfall may vary by a
factor of two or three, particularly in the intermediate areas.

The management of this variability and skewed distribution poses major challenges and the ‘localness’
of the water economy makes it difficult to provide generic responses. Although water is essential to
life, its monetary value is low in most uses. Unlike oil, it is often uneconomic to transport in significant
volumes over long distances, except where there are wealthy communities able to afford the costs.
And even in relatively well-watered regions, there are dry seasons during which storage is required to
maintain supplies. It has been demonstrated that the economic performance of nations is associated
less with the total amount of water that they have available than with its variability (Brown & Lall
2006). This is understandable since floods, through the damage they wreak, and droughts, through
the production losses they cause, impact negatively on the economy. Limited water availability, on
the other hand, is easier to deal with, as long as it is predictable through a variety of structural means –
including the structure of economic activities as well as the physical infrastructures used to store
and convey what water is available. In the absence of infrastructure to manage variability, and in an
economy diversified away from rain dependent agriculture, Africa is the continent most vulnerable to
the economic impact of drought (Figure 12.2).

These are just some of the challenges of managing this essential natural resource to support social and
economic development for the benefit of African communities. To these challenges must be added
the maintenance, at an acceptable state, of the natural environment, of which water is an integral part,

146 |
Figure 12.1 Rainfall zones in Africa


both for the services it provides (such as fisheries, purification and storage) as well as for the inherent
value of the biodiversity that it underpins. These challenges are being aggravated by the imminence
of climate change, which is expected to impact negatively on many parts of Africa. These issues have
current resonance. In December 2008, the African Union adopted a resolution1 calling for action
to, inter alia,
• ensure the equitable and sustainable use, as well as promote integrated management and develop-
ment of national and shared water resources in Africa;

1 African Union, Sharm el-Sheikh commitments for accelerating the achievement of water and sanitation goals in
Africa, Doc Assembly/AU/Decl.1 (XI) Rev.1, 2008.

| 147
Figure 12.2 Drought risk and vulnerability*

Note: * Economic loss, as a proportion of GDP density.

• put in place adaptation measures to improve the resilience of African countries to the increasing
threat of climate change and variability in water resources, and capacity to meet the water and
sanitation targets.

However, many African countries face an additional set of challenges as they seek to address these
issues. The challenges they face range from the limited human, technical, institutional and financial
resources that they have available to them to their significant dependence on external support to
bridge the gap.

The generic area of ‘water’ has often been given a high priority by developed countries and their donor
agencies, reflecting global political commitments, such as the Millennium Declaration with its water
supply and environmental protection goals.2 Thus, the Kananaskis G8 (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the
United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Russia) Africa Action Plan3 committed members to supporting
African efforts to improve water resource development and management – including through:
• supporting African efforts to promote the productive and environmentally
sustainable development of water resources;
• supporting efforts to improve sanitation and access to potable water;
• mobilizing technical assistance to facilitate and accelerate the preparation of potable
water and sanitation projects in both rural and urban areas, and to generate greater
efficiency in these sectors; and,
• supporting reforms in the water sector aimed at decentralization, cost-recovery and
enhanced user participation.

2 United Nations Millennium Declaration, Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, A/55/L.2, New York.
3 See afrique.
aspx?lang=eng. Accessed 26 August 2009

148 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Figure 12.3 World hydroelectric potential and hydropower production, 2004

Source: UN World Water Assessment Programme/UNESCO (2009: 119)

Even though this expression of support suggested that greater resources would be available than those
that could be mobilised at national level, access to additional resources is conditional on compliance with
certain key conditions highlighted by the inclusion of key language about efficiency, cost-recovery and
participation as well as environmental sustainability. This is one illustration of how the policy objectives and
preferences of developed countries are expressed and transmitted. The language is deliberately chosen
to influence and constrain the policy choices that are feasible for African governments. It also reduces the
potential take up of financial aid, which is a main reason the proportion of G8 donor aid for water going to
sub-Saharan Africa actually fell between 2002 and 2007.4

It would be ideal if donors who step forward to assist Africa on water issues adopted common objectives
and approaches towards achieving them. However, there is often a substantial distance between African
realities and donor perceptions of them. When this is combined with donor preferences that are influenced
by extraneous factors, such as the political preferences and commercial interests of their domestic
constituencies, it is not obvious that appropriate approaches will be adopted and supported.

One dimension in which there is particular divergence is around the environmental priorities of developed
countries, which tend to be significantly different to those of developing countries. This reflects both
ethics and self-interest, as well as the historical development path chosen by the developed countries,
whereby economic development received priority at the expense of the environment, followed by relatively
successful environmental reclamation after economic growth had been achieved.

4 G8, Preliminary Accountability Report, L’Aquila, 2009.

The challenges of implementing an African water resource management agenda | 149

The difference in approach has been most acutely manifest in an acrimonious debate over the merits
and demerits of constructing large dams in different places in the developing world. In India, for one,
where very large dam-linked water projects threatened to displace tens of thousands of people, that
debate is led by vociferous NGOs from North America and Europe, with backing from well-organised
civil society. In each case, there have been real political issues to be resolved at local level. Although
that debate has had little impact on countries such as China and the Republic of South Africa, which
tend to muster water funding through ‘sovereign’ means, it has impacted negatively on donor-
dependent countries, since campaigners focused on multilateral development agencies and bilateral
donor agencies, seeking to impose strict guidelines on financing for dams (World Commission on
Dams 2000). One consequence of this has been a decade-long drought of funding for infrastructure
investment in Africa, despite the acknowledged need to expand irrigation and achieve greater water
security. Another is the fact that Africa’s hydroelectric potential is woefully underdeveloped as a result,
despite the fact that if that potential is exploited, hydroelectricity will offer Africa protection from rising
fossil fuel prices and contribute to the mitigation of climate change (Figure 12.3).

However, while the issue of dams remains controversial, it is only one element of the broader debate
about how best to manage the world’s water resources. In this chapter I look at the more general
challenges of formulating water policy and programming, and implementing actions to give effect to
it in a contested milieu in which there are inevitable tensions. Those challenges include the different
priorities for the developmental objectives of African governments and the environmental objectives
of the donors on whom they depend, as well as the broader differences in approach to development
policy and governance.

The analysis here is focused on two competing frameworks that have emerged at the international level
to describe the objectives and approaches that can be adopted in the management of water resources,
under the generic title of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). The analysis is informed
by empirical data from a number of sources, including reviews of water resource management case
studies, donor-supported water resource management planning projects, and reports of collective
interventions on shared rivers in Africa, including unpublished project documentation. Additional
perspective in the analysis is provided by reference to experiences from beyond Africa – from ‘sovereign’
developing countries such as China, Chile and Mexico that have not relied on donor funding and have
independently produced and implemented their own water resource management paradigms.

Finally, the chapter draws attention to progress that has been made as pressures on water resources,
due to the need to achieve food security for growing populations and to cope with the expected
impacts of climate change, attract the attention of donors and African governments alike on the need
for urgent and effective action.

Background: Competing paradigms of

water resource management
The management of water resources has been a formal concern at the international level since the
1977 United Nations Conference on Water (United Nations 1977). The same was addressed in detail at
the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. In Rio, the core recommendations from Mar del Plata emphasised the
importance of managing and developing water in the context of national development plans, and
promoting programmes for the integrated management and development of the resource. All core
recommendations were synthesised into the concept of Integrated Water Resource Development and
Management, which was accepted by the world’s governments as the recommended paradigm for
water resource management (United Nations 1992).

150 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

The overarching goal for the Earth Summit was to move beyond the debate between those developed
countries that were promoting environmental priorities and the developing countries whose focus was
on the achievement of development goals. The water sector was not immune from these tensions. The
water chapter of Agenda 21, the Summit’s final Action Plan, which supported an integrated approach
to water resource development and management, states the following:

The widespread scarcity, gradual destruction and aggravated pollution of freshwater

resources in many world regions, along with the progressive encroachment of
incompatible activities, demand integrated water resources planning and management.
Such integration must cover all types of interrelated freshwater bodies, including both
surface water and groundwater, and duly consider water quantity and quality aspects.
The multi-sectoral nature of water resources development in the context of socio-
economic development must be recognized, as well as the multi-interest utilization
of water resources for water supply and sanitation, agriculture, industry, urban
development, hydropower generation, inland fisheries, transportation, recreation, low
and flatlands management and other activities. Rational water utilization schemes for
the development of surface and underwater supply sources and other potential sources
have to be supported by concurrent waste conservation and wastage minimization
measures. (United Nations 1992, para. 18.3)

But this careful formulation could not disguise the underlying tensions inherent in the compromise
reached in Rio between environmental and developmental objectives. In the overall debate,
‘sustainable’ was the code word for the balance between environmental and development objectives.
In the water debate, ‘development’ was the code word for infrastructure. While the concept of
‘sustainable development’ gained traction, the notion of ‘water resource development’ rapidly
disappeared from the post-Rio water management lexicon and the promoters of IWRM adopted as
their flagship the Dublin Principles,5 a pre-conference lobbying product, rather than the subsequent
Agenda 21 intergovernmental agreement itself. In parallel to this, focused attacks from single-issue civil
society organisations, including the International Rivers Network, made lending for dam construction
from multilateral agencies, including the World Bank, decline dramatically as they found that it was, in
the words of one official, ‘more trouble than it was worth’ (Briscoe 2010).

As the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group described it,

… the Bank’s 1993 Water Resources Management Policy Paper moved the institution
away from infrastructure development towards management…Under the pressure
of environmental and social nongovernmental organizations, the Bank backed
away from major investments in infrastructure…In addition, the private sector was
expected to become a major financier in water supply and sanitation. Lending for water

The emphasis on non-structural interventions was reinforced when, at the 2002 World Summit on
Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, the donor countries lobbied hard to include,
as the major water resource-related outcome, a specific resolution in the Johannesburg Plan of
Implementation that all countries should ‘develop integrated water resources management and water
efficiency plans by 2005’ (WSSD 2002). This resolution lacked clarity about the nature of those plans and

5 Dublin Conference on Water and the Environment, The Dublin Statement on Water and Sustainable Development,
Dublin, 1992.
6 See Accessed 26 August 2009

The challenges of implementing an African water resource management agenda | 151

excluded any reference to the development of new infrastructure – except, bizarrely, to desalination,
one of the more expensive, environmentally damaging and climate unfriendly technologies. This
approach was only accepted after the needs of African countries were addressed in a separate section
of the Action Plan that included a focus on the development as well as the management of water
resources, which was absent in the general provisions.

Subsequently, there has been growing debate in academic and practitioner circles about the usefulness
and validity of the concept of IWRM. Many criticisms have been made which focus primarily on the
usefulness of a generic management approach to water resource management, the complexity of the
approach proposed, the feasibility of its implementation and, critically in my view, whether the models
that are being implemented reflect the original concept. Thus, it has been stated that the concept
of IWRM has ‘a dubious record in terms of its implementation, which has never been objectively,
comprehensively, and critically assessed’ (Biswas 2004: 248). Biswas and his co-author questioned
whether ‘a single paradigm of sustainable water resources management can encompass all countries
of a very heterogeneous world, with very different cultures, social norms, climatic conditions, physical
attributes, management and technical capacities, institutional and legal frameworks, and systems of
governance’ (Biswas & Tortajada 2004: 249). Other commentators noted that ‘the concept possesses
two major weaknesses from which the bulk of its perceived failings arise: the nature of the science
which has informed its development, and its curiously ambiguous character in terms of contemporary
intellectual paradigms’ (Jeffrey & Geary 2006: 3).

Perhaps the most serious criticism was the assessment of a major study carried out by a consortium of
researchers which concluded that in developing countries, ‘what usually gets passed-off in the name
of IWRM at the operational level takes a rather narrow view of the philosophy’ and has tended to
focus on a blueprint package; ‘…the so-called IWRM initiatives in developing country contexts have
proved to be ineffective at best and counter-productive at worst’ (Comprehensive Assessment of
Water Management in Agriculture 2008). Another assessment of its implementation was caustic: at a
scale of one to 100, ‘any objective analyst will be hard-pressed to give a score of 30 to any one activity
anywhere in the world in terms of its application’ (Biswas 2008: 21). Finally, in a comment relevant to
the present study, another author pointed out that some of the criticism of IWRM is not a criticism of
the IWRM concept itself, but rather of ‘the flexible use of terminology as a general slogan, which is used
very often because it is fashionable’ (Dukhovny 2004: 531).

Given the contested background, I consider the implications and outcomes of the promotion of two
essentially competing versions of IWRM. I contrast the pragmatic approach adopted in Rio (which
promoted administrative integration of the resource and its users and the application of a mix of
management and infrastructural interventions) with that of the Dublin group (which encouraged the
application of a normative set of prescribed instruments and emphasised stakeholder participation
with no reference to physical infrastructure).

The dimensions of difference

In order to consider the impact of the different approaches, it is necessary to characterise each approach
and to define the key areas of difference between them. The differences between Rio and Dublin are
conveniently grouped in three dimensions: economic, institutional and environmental. Some of the key
differences are outlined in Table 12.1. However, it should also be noted that the Rio document, which is
the outcome of lengthy negotiations between governments, is longer and more detailed than the Dublin
statement, which was simply the outcome of a short technical meeting whose conclusions, because they
had no official status, did not merit substantial review at the time.

152 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Table 12.1 Competing versions of IWRM: Differences between the Rio and the Dublin approaches
Dimension ‘Pragmatic’ Rio ‘Prescriptive’ Dublin
Characterised as Developmental Washington Consensus
• Nature of water • Economic and social good • Economic good
• Priority of economic instruments • Economic instruments balanced • High priority for economic
• Priority setting by social considerations instruments
• Role of private sector • Within national economic • Stakeholder participation;
development policy economic instruments
• Major role for government; • High priority for role of private
recognition of private role sector; limited government
Institutional, national
Characterised as Public administration New Public Management
• Institutional objectives • Importance of national • Focus on ‘enabling environment’
• Participatory approaches development strategies • Heavy emphasis on participatory
• Governance • Where there is clear demand approaches
• Appropriate institutions • Performance-based institutions
Institutional, international
Characterised as Multilateralism continued Retreat from multilateralism
• Transboundary approaches • Basin-specific approaches • River basin organisations
• Institutionalisation of • United Nations system • World Water Council outside
global water intergovernmental domain
Characterised as Balance needs of people and Ecosystem approach
• Infrastructure environment • ‘Development’ deleted
• Decision-making • Infrastructure development a key • Emphasis on ‘full stakeholder
• River basin organisation element participation’
• Effective implementation and • River basin organisation the most
coordination required appropriate entity
• Manage ‘in basin context’
Source: Compiled by the author

In outlining the differences between the Rio and the Dublin approaches, it must also be clarified that the
contents of these approaches reflect more than the specific contents of the individual policy documents.
Rather, they describe the broad approach that has become associated with each stream of practice,
derived from key practitioners. To provide further context, these streams of practice are in turn associated
with some of the broader development policy trends – the period considered was that during which the
economic guidelines of the so-called Washington Consensus and New Public Management approaches
were dominant in donor–recipient relations.

Case studies and other evidence

Some sets of case studies will be used to illustrate the issues that have arisen. Key sources include a
collection of case studies of integrated water resource in practice, which reviewed instances where
an IWRM approach had yielded positive results across a range of social, environmental and economic
dimensions (Lenton & Muller 2009). Another set of cases has been provided by the Partnership for

The challenges of implementing an African water resource management agenda | 153

Africa’s Water Development programme,7 involving support to 10 African countries for the development
of integrated water resource management plans that were undertaken by the Global Water Partnership
(GWP) supported by Canadian and Dutch donors. Finally, a number of regional programmes to manage
shared river basins in Africa have been reviewed using published sources informed by a recent donor-
commissioned review of international water management architecture (Pegasys 2009). Critically, for
the purpose of the analysis, a distinction is made between cases in which the country concerned
was essentially donor-dependent and those where policy was made on a sovereign basis. While this
distinction is necessarily approximate, it was found to provide a useful guide.

The experience of sovereign countries

Given the mounting criticism of the IWRM paradigm, various organisations, including the GWP whose
mandate is the promotion of IWRM, have sought to demonstrate the benefits of an IWRM approach.
One difficulty was that until the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) resolution
calling on countries to prepare IWRM plans, there were few countries that had formally implemented an
IWRM approach. However, from another perspective, the resolutions of Mar del Plata and Rio reflected
a consensus amongst sector practitioners and their governments about appropriate directions for
water resource management, and these were increasingly guiding national practices. There were thus
many examples of water management in practice which included substantial elements of an integrated
approach to water resource development and management. A selection of these was chosen for the
collection of case studies referred to above.

In South Africa, it was noted that there was ‘an obvious need to move from the historic approach
of developing the resource to increase supplies to focusing on effective resource management and
conservation’ (DWAF 1997), a need which had been identified for decades. Efforts to change this focus
have been constrained by the political dominance of the country’s farming community, but political
change in 1994 made it possible for a sweeping set of reforms to be introduced. These included many
of the key instruments associated with IWRM, including
• the establishment of formal consultative processes to guide the evolution of the National Water
Resource Strategy;
• the establishment of institutions at catchment level to undertake certain management functions
with the involvement of local water users;
• the reform of the water rights system to limit the length of entitlements to use water and provide
criteria for its allocation;
• the establishment of a consultative process for allocation, together with provision for trading in
water-use entitlements;
• prioritisation of water conservation and demand management;
• the establishment of a social and an environmental ‘reserve’ giving priority to basic human water
needs as well as to the protection of the aquatic environment;
• provision for ‘polluter pays’ charges as well as for payments for environmental services by the
forestry industry.

These processes were linked to South Africa’s National Spatial Development Framework and other
planning processes which ensured that decisions in the water sector reflected broader development
priorities. The review reported that the process was successful across a number of dimensions, including
greatly improved access to water for domestic purposes, increased water productivity and success in
assuring reliable supplies to key economic water users, as well as increasing cooperation between local

7 See Accessed 6 August 2010

154 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

government and industry to manage waste water and substantial improvements in water use and
pollution control by large industry. Critically, however, the management reforms were accompanied
by continued investment in infrastructure and underpinned by an existing infrastructure base which
provided the country with 10 times more storage capacity per person than the African average to help
manage rainfall variability, and included extensive transfers of water between river basins.

Another case considered was that of the Ofice du Niger irrigation system in Mali. Although Mali is a
donor-dependent country, the case is relevant in this section since the reforms in the country occurred
mainly outside the water sector. Institutional and management reforms in the agricultural enterprise
were introduced parallel to a programme to rehabilitate the physical infrastructure of an 80 000 hectare
irrigation scheme. The reforms included democratisation of the agricultural management system
(which included water management), changes in the land tenure arrangements and water allocations,
which gave more security to individual farmers, and the establishment of formal performance
agreements between scheme management and farmers, including around water management. These
reforms were reported to have led to improvements in water-use efficiency and productivity and were
associated with significant increases in household incomes as well as the participation of women in
the local economy. Significantly, many of the initiatives were taken outside the formal domain of water
management, and were also underpinned by a programme of investment to rehabilitate and then
maintain the irrigation system.

From outside Africa, cases from Latin America highlighted the need for the appropriate sequencing
of water resource management reform to address the specific challenges faced. In Mexico, as early
as 1975 the government had begun to place greater emphasis on institutional development and
management innovations to complement the historic infrastructure-focused approach to water, and
to encourage a basin-wide approach to planning and development. A river basin approach, involving
local governments and farmers, was initiated in the Lerma-Chapala region of Central Mexico after a long
period of water stress. During that time supplies to key urban centres and farmers were challenged,
the quality of water was deteriorating rapidly, and the important Lake Chapala was drying up. Two
decades later, lake levels and reliable water supplies were restored to the 16 million people who were
dependent on the system and water quality was improving, thanks to extensive investments in waste
water treatment. The management model had also been extended to other areas.

In Chile, extensive economic and institutional reforms of the water sector were made under the
Pinochet regime. These included the privatisation of water rights and promotion of water trading. While
this reform was associated with extensive growth of key water-dependent mining and agricultural
industries, it also gave rise to problems of speculation and ‘water hoarding’, as well as undermining
small farmers. A new government thus adopted measures to regulate water hoarding and ensure
ongoing access for small users, in order to guarantee greater social equity.

The case of the Yangtse River in China is particularly dramatic. With a government led by engineers (the
president of China is a hydraulic engineer), the water resource management approach of the country
had, since the revolution of 1948, been dominated by a focus on construction – the majority of the
world’s large dams in the period 1990–2010 have been built in China. The climax of this construction-
focused development, which was fuelled by the demands of China’s rapid economic growth, was
undoubtedly the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. This project produces more electricity than
all of Africa south of the Sahara (excluding South Africa), protects 100 million people from flooding and
facilitates navigation on what is now the world’s busiest inland waterway.

However, the predictable problems which were encountered in the Yangtse River developments
focused the government on the importance of the social and environmental dimensions of water

The challenges of implementing an African water resource management agenda | 155

management. The case reports significant developments in pollution control, water conservation
and environmental protection, along with a focus on the development of appropriate institutional
arrangements, all of which were triggered by the experience of rapid development in the Yangtse.
In the terminology used in China, this experience has produced an understanding of the need to
coordinate three sets of relationships: between city development and infrastructure construction (in
relation to flood control); between consumption and conservation (in relation to water-use efficiency);
and between utilisation and protection (to leave sufficient water to maintain the aquatic environment).
Without initially using the term ‘IWRM’, in 1999 the then new minister of water resources, Wang
Sucheng, called for a new perspective on what he termed ‘resource-oriented water management’.

The key conclusions drawn from this set of case studies included that, ‘Societies will use their own
practices of governance to determine the appropriate balance between social, economic and
environmental goals, which will change over time’ and that ‘the most important determinants, as well
as outcomes, of better water management will usually be found outside the water sector’ (Lenton &
Muller 2009: 207).

On the nature of the IWRM approach itself, conclusions were that

• T here is no ‘magic bullet’ for all situations. IWRM is an approach rather than a
method or a prescription.
• Successful IWRM efforts adopt an integrated approach in order to address specific
development problems; they never have an integrated approach as their principal
• The IWRM concept reflects good practice rather than radical new directions; in fact
there are many excellent examples of IWRM in practice that pre-date the formal
adoption of the concept in 1992.
• The process of water management does not have an end point and will continually
have to respond to new challenges and opportunities. (Lenton & Muller 2009: 207)

Similar examples of water resource management innovation that respond to specific challenges can
be drawn from North Africa. Tunisia is well known for its focus on the regulation, management and
reuse of waste water, which is identified as an important instrument in the IWRM toolbox. However,
the trajectory of this reform highlights the importance of local priorities – a key driver was the pollution
of the Lake of Tunis, which led to unbearable smells. In turn, that drove a process of technological
innovation, infrastructure investment and institutional reform that solved the local problem and later
extended to the water sector more generally. The focus on reuse of waste water became associated
with broader improvements in irrigation efficiency (World Bank 2009).

Donor-dependent countries
The conclusions drawn from the review of sovereign efforts made on water resource management
reform provide a framework from which to consider the more recent interventions in donor-
dependent countries driven by the WSSD’s resolution that all countries should prepare IWRM plans.
The preparation of IWRM plans provides a useful focus because it reflects the emphases inherent in
the donor perspective since, in many cases, they funded and guided the preparation of those plans. In
particular, it illustrates the degree to which local contexts were considered in designing and promoting
water resource management interventions. According to project documentation, the IWRM plan

… sets out a national strategy that identifies the priority steps that must be taken to reform
the water management system to meet IWRM principles. It may suggest changes to

156 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

national policy, the legislative framework, financing structure, organisational framework,
and a range of management tools. It should set out a sequence of actions over a specific
time-frame to transform existing practices to more sustainable ones. (GWP 2007a: 1)

In considering specific cases, attention is given both to issues of commission and omission; the contents
of the approaches adopted and the issues that were not addressed. Also reviewed is the extent to
which the sequencing of IWRM reforms reflects the national development context and priorities rather
than simply seeking ‘to meet IWRM principles’.

Uganda provides perhaps the most egregious example of the disconnect that exists between Dublin-
IWRM and national priorities. In Uganda, the construction of the Bujagali Dam on the Nile, a hydropower
project identified in 2001 as a key element of the country’s Poverty Eradication Action Plan, was
delayed for almost a decade by environmental opposition and poor management. Opposition to the
construction of the hydropower plant was largely stated in terms of its potential impact on water
and the related environment (although Bujagali lies immediately below the existing Owen Falls Dam
and creates few additional impacts), even though the International Monetary Fund (IMF) considered
the project sufficiently important to make 25 references to it in its consultation report in 2007, and
other agencies had identified electricity shortage to be the most serious and immediate constraint
on Uganda’s economy (IMF 2007; Ssemogerere 2005; World Bank 2007). Notwithstanding that, the
Bujagali issue and hydropower generally were not considered as part of the country’s IWRM planning.
Yet the delay of the project has caused significant economic damage and job losses. Investments were
made in diesel generators that produced extremely expensive electricity and were still insufficient
to meet local needs. Many industries curtailed their activities or closed down, with significant loss of
employment in the country’s economy. The loss in GDP aggravated poverty and, in addition, there
was unnecessary environmental damage due to the use of fossil fuels rather than the renewable
hydropower option.

Another case is that of the Pungwe River basin in central Mozambique where the government – since
shortly after independence in 1975 – has been seeking funding for the construction of a dam to enable
the irrigation potential of the area to be tapped. However, a recent donor-funded IWRM project simply
ignored this request. It noted that within 15 years, not even the urban needs of Beira, Mozambique’s
second largest city, could be met and that the lack of finance for a dam was identified by local stakeholders
as the greatest challenge for water management. However, in its conclusions the project report simply
recommended more attention to the establishment of management institutions, water allocation, the
introduction of user charges and pollution control (IMF 2007; SWECO International 2008).

The consequence is that the region, one of the poorest in Mozambique, is in a low-equilibrium trap.
It has substantial irrigation potential but is using only a tiny proportion of its available land and water
resources. This is because the extent of irrigation is currently determined by the low flows in the river,
whereas construction of a medium-size storage dam would provide guaranteed flows during the cool
dry season (the most risky but potentially the most productive period for high-value crops) to expand
the existing 20 000 hectares of commercial irrigation fourfold. Ironically, the environmentally driven
approach promoted as IWRM has severe environmental impacts: the growing population, which is
recovering from years of insecurity, is turning to the surrounding forests for subsistence rather than
to the potentially far more productive flood plains, and large tracts of the region’s forest have been
destroyed in the past three decades. Sometimes the plans simply fail to confront local realities, as in
Kenya, one of the most water-stressed countries in Africa. In Kenya, the IWRM plan noted that the
agriculture sector aimed to expand irrigation by 500 000 hectares – without mentioning the absolute
water shortage that faces the country and the fact that, in many potentially irrigable areas, irrigation is
already competing with other users for scarce water.

The challenges of implementing an African water resource management agenda | 157

Other countries covered in the GWP’s Partnership for Africa’s Water Development programme provide
more examples of the limitations of normative IWRM planning in practice. In one Horn of Africa country,
the cost to implement a recently completed IWRM plan was estimated at 5 per cent of GDP, simply
for institutional interventions. There was no consideration of the feasibility of this or of the need to
prioritise limited resources between the costs of managing the resource and actually providing water
for economic and social purposes. In another post-conflict country, in which the availability of water
transport is likely to be the key determinant of economic success, this element of water management
was simply not considered to be part of the IWRM.

This trend of disconnect between real national priorities and the normative content of sector
interventions is repeated elsewhere. And the failure to address key infrastructure-related issues is
systemic since the original guidance for a series of IWRM planning projects states that: ‘The structure
and content of a Plan will of course vary from country to country. Nevertheless, there are features
common to all countries that assist those preparing plans in their work. The IWRM Toolbox developed
by GWP can be seen as a checklist for an IWRM Plan’ (GWP 2007a: 3).

However, the toolbox made no mention of infrastructure-related issues. The disconnect between
national context and priorities and the normative approach of donors is not limited to Africa. In a well-
documented case in Sri Lanka, the Asian Development Bank had made the adoption of certain water
resource management reforms, including the introduction of tradable water rights and new allocation
systems, a condition for a loan to build a dam that was needed to ensure the capital’s, Colombo, water
security. The outcome, however, was that ‘the National Water Resources Policy, which was approved
by the cabinet in 2000, was never implemented’ (GWP 2007b). In this case, symbolic compliance was
sufficient to release the loan but the costs in terms of government’s credibility and the more immediate
priorities that were displaced were substantial (GWP 2007b).

Trans-boundary rivers and management institutions

The management of water resources where rivers cross or are contiguous to a number of different
countries is particularly important in Africa, where no fewer than 59 rivers or water bodies are shared
between countries in one way or another. However, the extent of the challenge posed differs greatly from
one location to another. Thus, the Nile River, which has 11 riparian states, is almost fully utilised by the
time it reaches the Mediterranean Sea and there is a perception of intense competition between users.
The Congo, on the other hand, is so large and use of its waters so limited that, although it has 13 riparian
states, the likelihood of significant basin-wide competition in the medium-term future is negligible.

It is notable that in ‘sovereign’ countries, relations with neighbours about trans-boundary rivers have
tended to be undertaken through bilateral or multilateral committees which meet when required,
often within the framework of a cooperation agreement (Pegasys 2009). Such cooperative relationships
will be triggered when there is a specific joint project to be built or a common problem (droughts and
floods). Southern Africa provided a number of examples of this in the past, with such committees having
oversight over the main rivers which South Africa shares with its neighbours, notably the Orange and
the Komati. Where joint projects were undertaken, special purpose organisations were established to
promote them, as in the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (bilateral between Lesotho and South
Africa) and the Komati Basin Water Authority (bilateral between Swaziland and South Africa), both of
which only included the countries directly affected by the projects and not other basin states, although
the other states were consulted through the existing committee structures.

There is, however, substantial pressure from donors to establish formal river basin organisations, which
is in line with the Dublin approach. So there is currently a plethora of trans-boundary organisations

158 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

being created. In southern Africa alone, the Orange, Okavango, Limpopo, Zambesi and Pungwe are
all subject to commission formation, although few of these have any immediate prospect for the kind
of significant joint development that would merit the establishment of a permanent organisation.
Further north, a commission has been established for the Congo as well as for a number of West African
rivers, while a long-running process is under way seeking to get all the Nile riparian states to work
together and eventually form a permanent body.

Some of the issues that arise are demonstrated by the approach taken in the Okavango Commission
(OKACOM). Of the three countries that are riparian to this river, southern Africa’s third largest, Angola,
might be interested in the development of the river’s hydropower capacity for users across the region,
and Namibia will draw supplies for the arid interior beyond the river basin. Meanwhile, Botswana’s
interests are to maintain as great a flow of water as possible into the Okvango Delta, a wetland area
which sustains a valuable tourist industry (although it results in virtually all the water being ‘lost’ to
evaporation). So the ‘stakeholder consultation’ approach that has been promoted by the OKACOM,
which focuses on the residents of the river basin rather than on the broader community that may
benefit from its management and use, is supported by environmental campaigners and enabled by
the commission approach.

The creation of these commissions can have negative impacts. Firstly, they weaken national water
resource management capabilities, particularly in the poorer countries since some of their better
staff are lured out of service by donor-subsidised salaries in the commissions. Secondly, they weaken
political oversight over water management and strengthen the hand of potentially unrepresentative
interest groups. It is thus understandable that environmental groups enthusiastically support the basin
organisation concept since they can obtain a stronger voice in it. In addition, the establishment of
these organisations provides donor countries with an easy channel of influence for both political and
commercial purposes – in trade negotiations, the industrialised countries have expressed interest in
opening the market for the provision of ‘environmental services’ to developing countries, and the
establishment of basin organisations provides many opportunities for such business.

Some donor countries believe that they have comparative advantages in this area. France, which
promoted and hosts an International Network of Basin Organisations, has a system of regional water
authorities, although these were established mainly to manage pollution, which is not a significant
problem in most of Africa’s shared river systems. Germany has extensive experience of managing
the Rhine. However, it seems to have ignored the lessons of its own history, since an international
commission was only established in 1970 after centuries of less formal management arrangements,
despite the fact that the river, which lies at the heart of Europe’s industrial area, is one of the most
intensively used in the world for navigation and water supply.

However, the inappropriateness of the institutional prescription for river basin organisations is
beginning to be recognised. A draft report on trans-boundary water architecture commissioned by
the British government’s Department for International Development concludes that

One key challenge…is ensuring that donor support addresses the priorities of the basin
states, rather than donor priorities. Experience in some basins is that donors choose
what to fund and what not to fund, according to their own priorities, sometimes
leaving the key priorities of the basin states themselves under funded or not funded at
all. (Pegasys 2009: 42)

The challenges of implementing an African water resource management agenda | 159


… [the] report has highlighted the basin specific nature of transboundary water
agreements and institutional arrangements. Based on the premise that there is no
one-size-fits-all, there is a need for the international architecture to be able to respond
to specific basin priorities, whether these fit the international mental model or not.
Equally, this requires national governments and basin institutions to be sufficiently
capacitated to be able to determine their own priorities and to ensure donor support
for such priorities. To achieve this, international players in the transboundary water
arena may need to provide substantial capacity building at the national level, in order
to shore up transboundary management potential. (Pegasys 2009: 45)

Analysis and conclusions

While it is not possible to draw definitive conclusions from the limited set of case studies presented,
they do suggest that some of the countries and communities that have adopted a ‘pragmatic Rio’
approach have made reasonable progress in achieving the key objective: managing water in a way
that supports balanced and environmentally sustainable development.

Where the prescriptive and normative approaches of Dublin have been adopted, the consequence has
often been a failure to address key development priorities as well as a diversion of resources from these
priorities. In understanding the background to this, there are many generic factors that are linked to
the overall dynamics of aid policy, as well as to the specific governance and development challenges of
poor countries. However, within the water domain, the normative approach is clearly skewed against
infrastructure and public intervention and in favour of environmental conservation. As such, it should
not be surprising that it does not support development priorities in countries which still need to build
the physical framework of productive and resilient societies.

The particular challenge that this poses for Africa as the continent most vulnerable to floods and
droughts, yet most dependent on external assistance, is obvious. There is, however, a growing
realisation that climate change and the pressures of growing population on natural resources are
major threats with implications within and beyond Africa. Coupled with that is an awareness of the
demands of economic growth for the utilisation of those resources as well as the pressure placed on
them. This is producing an understanding that better water resource management is not simply an
environmental goal or a matter of local survival, but an increasingly important dimension of global
development and of security in its broadest sense (New York Times 9 August 2009).8

In this context, the conclusions of the 2009 G8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, are significant. Once again,
despite the overarching challenge of the financial crisis, Africa’s development was given particular
attention; water was a focus within that, as were the issues of climate change and food security,
which have particular resonance for both Africa and water. The joint G8–African statement expressed
concern about growing water resources challenges, which were identified as a major impediment to
sustainable development, wealth creation and the eradication of poverty. It recognised that African
countries under the leadership of the African Union, and through the African Ministers’ Council on
Water, would work to make water-related MDGs a top development priority; specifically, that they
would take a leading role in guiding development assistance through donor coordination processes

8 Broder J, ‘Climate change seen as threat to U.S. security’.

160 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

in line with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. The statement committed the G8 not just to
the usual support for capacity-building and planning, but also to aligning assistance to better reflect
national priorities and improve bilateral and multilateral contributions to financial mechanisms aimed
at mobilising investment.9 The related statement on food security even recognised ‘long-standing
under-investment in agriculture’, of which irrigation development is a key element.

At the elevated level of the G8 Heads of State, this may reflect real progress and there are reasons to
be optimistic. An important parallel development has been the emergence of China as a significant
cooperation partner for Africa. While there may be questions about its development impact, there is
coherence between China’s capability as the world’s pre-eminent builder of large water infrastructure
and its interests in Africa’s natural resources, many of which require the development of power,
transport and water infrastructure for their successful extraction. Although the terms of engagement
between China and Africa will need much more attention in the future, the emergence of China as an
alternative supporter for Africa’s water sector has already produced a significant change in attitude
amongst donor countries and agencies. Thus, while the struggle for Africa to be allowed to follow its
own development path will continue, there are some signs of positive movement.

The debates are by no means over and still have their absurd moments – for example, at a recent
climate conference in Nairobi, a representative from a well-known global environmental organisation
felt able to stand in front of African ministers and request that the word ‘storage’ be removed from a
water management text as it was considered ‘provocative’.

But if the application of normative Dublin-IWRM in the face of the intergovernmental agreements at
Rio could be interpreted as an example of the continuation of ‘war by other means’, the change in
tone and approach that is emerging suggests that the battles are moving to a new and possibly more
productive front.

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Biswas AK (2008) Integrated water resources: Is it working? Water Resources Development 24(1): 5–22
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Related Environmental Challenges. Oxford: Oxford University Press
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Alternatives 3(2): 399–415
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Natural Resources Forum 30(4): 306–317
Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture (2008) Developing and Managing River Basins:
The Need for Adaptive, Multilevel, Collaborative Institutional Arrangements. Issue Brief No. 12. Colombo &
Stockholm: International Water Management Institute & Global Water Partnership
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Proposed Brief Guide on Preparation of IWRM Plans. Stockholm: Global Water Partnership

9 A Stronger G8–Africa Partnership on Water and Sanitation, joint statement of G8 and African partners, L’Aquila,
2009. Available at
Sanitation%5B1%5D.pdf. Accessed 6 August 2010

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GWP (2007a). Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Water Efficiency Plans. Proposed Brief Guide on
Preparation of IWRM Plans: A Perspective of the Global Water Partnership (GWP). Available at /pawd/docs/iwrm
plan brief description. Accessed on 26 August 2009
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Water Partnership
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IV Consultation. Washington: IMF
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realisation? Water, Science and Technology 53(1): 1–8
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SWECO International (2008) Case Study: Pungwe River Basin in Mozambique, Training Material in Integrated
Water Resources Management for River Basin Organisations. Stockholm: Swedish International Development
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Washington: World Bank
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162 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

chapter 13

Reducing climate change risks by

‘living with drought’: Investigating
local institutional design in Zimbabwe
Sithabiso Gandure

Drought presents serious agricultural and economic challenges for Zimbabwe. Scientific evidence
suggests that around the world, the frequency and magnitude of extreme events such as droughts
and floods will increase under climate change (IPCC 2007). One of the regions estimated to be most
at risk to climate change is Africa due to its reliance on rain-fed agriculture and limited capacities and
resources to adapt to climate stress. Therefore, the challenges of drought will be more pronounced in
the future because of climate change. For southern Africa, responding to this situation will be complex
because of the interaction of ‘multiple stresses’ such as macroeconomic factors, poor governance and
the escalating impacts of HIV/AIDS (Boko et al. 2007). Of those affected by drought in Zimbabwe,
the poor, those who exist on the margins of society, and women and children will suffer most under
climate change. In this context, institutional responses to drought are critical for livelihood security,
especially for smallholder farmers in rural Zimbabwe. Hence, they deserve serious scrutiny.

Institutions are central to sustaining livelihoods, particularly for poor rural farmers. Their role in the
management and governance of the environment has been acknowledged (North 1990; O’Riordan
& Jordan 1999; Ostrom 1990). The study of institutions has advanced over the past decade, bringing
deeper understanding and also contestations around their architecture and roles in environmental
management. In general, institutions have been conceived as the ‘rules of the game’, imposing
regulations or conventions that constrain human behaviour in order to facilitate collective action in
society (Berkes & Folke 2000; North 1990; Ostrom 1990). Institutions have also been conceptualised
in terms of networks including ‘social capital’, as well as in terms of formal organisations that
are hierarchical expressions of rule-governed structures (Adger 2003; Berkes & Folke 2000). Such
arrangements are meant to provide order and consistency in human activities.

Recent literature on earth systems governance provides a new perspective on environmental

management through the ‘governance lens’ of earth system transformation (Biermann et al. 2009).
This approach recognises the centrality of the people–environment relationship and the inclusiveness
and broader representation of various types of actors (Agrawal 2008). In this context, institutions are
defined as

… the interrelated and increasingly integrated system of formal and informal rules, rule-
making systems, and actor networks at all levels of human society (from local to global)
that are set up to steer societies towards preventing, mitigating, and adapting to global
and local environmental change and in particular earth systems transformation within
the normative context of sustainable development. (Biermann et al. 2009: 3)

| 163
This approach admittedly is a political challenge that has to be dealt with at varying scales because it deals
with negotiation and power-sharing dynamics.

With current and future climate change challenges, it is important to understand how societies have
responded to climate risks in the past. As Pielke and Sarewitz (2005) argue, it has been found that viable
strategies for responding to climate change are found predominantly in areas of societal governance
and not so much in controlling the future behaviour of climate. In fact, decisions at local levels have
profound effects on the magnitude and significance of future changes. In general, governance refers to the
institutional arrangements which shape actors’ decisions and behaviour, including the exercise of authority
(Hatfield-Dodds et al. 2007). It specifically involves institutional arrangements that are less hierarchical, more
decentralised, open to self-organisation and inclusive of non-state actors. In this context, there is no single
central authority. As reiterated by Nelson et al. (2008), ‘good’ governance also entails creating processes that
adapt spontaneously and engage communities in managing the environment. I believe that although good
governance in climate change adaptation is a noble approach, it is difficult to implement at local levels
as it cuts across different sectors that have diverse institutional mandates.

As indicated, climate conditions are inherently variable over time and this variability is considered an integral
part of climate change (Smit et al. 2000). The discourse here is focused on droughts in Zimbabwe as one
profound phenomenon of climate variability and change that increases societal vulnerability. Vulnerability
of society to this form of climate variability refers to the propensity of human and ecological systems to
suffer harm and their ability to respond to stresses imposed as a result of climate change effects (Adger et
al. 2007). It is well understood that the vulnerability of societies is influenced by the distribution of resources,
development paths and various formal and informal institutions. It has also been found that societies have
inherent adaptive capacities to respond to variations in climate and that these differ across countries
and societies (Ziervogel et al. 2006; Ziervogel & Taylor 2008). However, the institutions and organisations
through which humans currently govern their relationships with climate variability are poorly understood.
It is also true that institutions and people can only learn from past experiences if they are able to identify
the problem and ultimately adjust their structures and actions accordingly (Botterill & Fisher 2004). The
responses of local institutions to droughts in Zimbabwe are a key part of both adaptation and mitigation,
yet they have been inadequately studied.

This discourse contributes to the growing body of knowledge that seeks to understand the governance of
the earth system, using drought as an example to
• examine the roles, responsibilities and relationships of the actors in drought management and climate
change adaptation;
• analyse the effectiveness of different agents, their source and means of exercising authority and their
relevancy in drought risk reduction;
• assess the reality of the governance approach to droughts at the local level.

Case study site

In understanding the governance of droughts at local levels in Zimbabwe, a case study approach was used.
The case study was carried out in Mwenezi District located in the southern part of Masvingo Province. Two
villages located to the north (Neutaru and Mariot) as well as two villages (Timire and Chanaka) to the south
of the Mwenezi River were selected for the study.

Mwenezi District is located in natural regions IV and V, a drought-prone area of Zimbabwe with a
total annual rainfall of between 450 mm and 650 mm. The majority of households in Mwenezi District
depend on agricultural production, including livestock rearing, for their livelihood. The main source

164 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

of employment in the district is the sugar-cane plantations in Rutenga, a growth point or small rural town.
Before the invasions of commercial farms in the country in 2000, cattle ranchers in the district used to
employ a considerable number of people. In addition, households in the communal areas supplement
their land-based livelihood strategies with informal work that includes moulding bricks, making peanut
butter and brewing traditional beer. Cross-border trading in agricultural produce, including groundnuts,
exported particularly to South Africa, is also common in the district.

Data collection
Household questionnaires, key informant interviews and focus group discussions were the main data
collection tools used in the research. Eighty household questionnaires were administered during October
2007. The household questionnaire was used for getting information on farmer perceptions of drought,
vulnerability to droughts, climate risk management and the institutional context for drought response.
Focus group discussions were used for community mapping of institutions in Mwenezi District. The objective
for doing community mapping of institutions was to conduct an audit of past and current institutional
structures, roles and responsibilities, as well as processes for managing drought at the local level. Participants
outlined the impact of drought on their livelihoods and the actors involved in drought response. During the
mapping exercise, facilitators explored the activities and agents that enable the community to fully activate
the current institutional design to respond to drought, as well as those that frustrate efforts to fully manage
climate risks in the area.

Living with drought in Mwenezi District

Meteorological droughts
The average normal annual rainfall for Mwenezi District is 650 mm. Although the district has a long history of
drought, the rainfall data shown in Table 13.1 indicate that it has experienced extreme droughts since 1980
as measured by annual total rainfall. Of these seasons, 1982/83, 1986/87, 1991/92, 1999/2000 and 2004/05
had the worst meteorological droughts, with a deviation from normal of –510.7, –393.5, –601.5, –398 and
–365.7 respectively. In addition to the severity or intensity of droughts having increased in the district since
1980, their occurrence has become more frequent.

Perception of communities
Rainfall and temperature are two important variables that have been observed as changing and
causing greater frequencies of drought (Table 13.2). Shifts in rainfall seasons and dates of onset as
well as declining and erratic rainfall trends have been noted at both household and community levels
in the district. In addition, high temperatures have become common.

Respondents attributed climate variability mainly to natural (53.8 per cent) and cultural (12.5 per
cent) forces, whilst 25 per cent said they had no idea why the climate was changing. A large number
of households were not sure of the causes of climate variability despite the increased frequencies of
droughts. Natural forces, including the power of God, were cited as the most common cause of climate
variability by people in Mwenezi District. Cultural forces such as lack of rain-making ceremonies and
disrespect for the elderly were deemed to contribute to climate variability. There is the perception that
human factors contribute little to this variability, as shown by the 8.8 per cent household response rate.

Reducing climate change risks by ‘living with drought’: Investigating local institutional design in Zimbabwe | 165
Table 13.1 History of droughts in Mwenezi District (Rutenga Weather Station)
Season Annual total rainfall (mm) Deviation from normal of 650 mm Severity of drought
1981/82 415.7 –235.0 Extreme
1982/83 139.3 –510.7 Extreme
1983/84 338.9 –311.1 Extreme
1986/87 256.5 –393.5 Extreme
1988/89 301.6 –348.4 Extreme
1989/90 471.5 –178.5 Severe
1990/91 349.0 –301.0 Extreme
1991/92 48.5 –601.5 Extreme
1992/93 439.0 –211.0 Extreme
1993/94 530.5 –119.5 Severe
1994/95 393.1 –256.9 Extreme
1996/97 411.4 –238.6 Extreme
1997/98 316.0 –334.0 Extreme
1998/99 411.3 –238.7 Extreme
1999/00 252.0 –398.0 Extreme
2000/01 446.7 –203.3 Extreme
2001/02 502.4 –147.6 Severe
2002/03 446.7 –203.3 Extreme
2004/05 284.3 –365.7 Extreme
2005/06 353.9 –296.1 Extreme
2006/07 373.3 –276.7 Extreme

Source: Department of Meteorology, Harare, Zimbabwe

General impacts of droughts on agriculture

Table 13.3 shows how the communities have experienced the impacts of drought on agriculture. The
impacts experienced by a greater number of households have been declining crop yields (58.8 per cent
of households), livestock populations (60 per cent of households) and water availability (61.3 per cent
of households). Against this backdrop of agricultural decline has been an increase in livestock and crop
diseases as well as environmental degradation.

Table 13.2 Community perceptions of climate variability in Mwenezi District

Climate variable Changes as observed by communities Explanation % household responses

Rainfall Shifting rainy seasons and dates of onset Natural forces 53.8
Declining and erratic rainfall amounts Human causes 8.8
Frequent long dry spells Cultural influences 12.5
Had no idea 25.0
Temperature High temperatures
Source: Results from household questionnaires
Note: Responses do not add up to 100 because of multiple responses.

166 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Table 13.3 General impacts of drought on agriculture in Mwenezi District
Variables Household responses (%)
Increased Same Declined
Crop yields 31.3 3.8 58.8
Crop biodiversity (crop diversity) 40.0 25.0 13.8
Livestock populations 21.3 11.3 60.0
Water availability (for domestic use) 10.0 18.8 61.3
Livestock diseases 62.5 15.0 11.3
Crop pests and diseases 46.3 18.8 12.5
Rainfall amounts 16.3 10.0 57.5
Length of dry spells 51.3 8.8 18.8
Water quality and nutrition levels (pastures) for livestock 17.5 17.5 38.8
Soil erosion 26.3 37.5 13.8
Plant species diversity 11.3 38.8 21.3
Income from agriculture activities 15.0 8.8 50.0
Source: Results from household questionnaires

A positive outcome of increased drought events has been an increase in crop diversity in terms of crop
types and varieties. The growing of small grains in the form of sorghum and millet is now common in
Mwenezi District. Another observation is the decline in income from agricultural activities observed
by half of the households interviewed.

Local institutions and drought responses: A historical overview

The National Policy on Drought Management (NPDM) of 1998 deals with principles of forward
planning, preparedness, prevention, mitigation and response that are essential for sustainable drought
management. The key principles of the policy are the decentralisation of drought management, the
intensification of poverty reduction efforts, the creation of a favourable macroeconomic environment
to instil donor and investor confidence, and the integration of drought activities into development
planning. However, despite its noble intentions, it has not been implemented for a number of political
and economic reasons. The Fast Track Land Resettlement Programme implemented in 2000 caused a
delay and derailment in the NPDM’s implementation (Dube 2008). The Civil Protection Act (Chapter
10:06) of 1989 currently provides a legal framework for responding to disasters, including droughts.
Two parallel institutional arrangements exist in Zimbabwe that are mandated to deal with disasters:
the Department of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and the
Department of Civil Protection Unit in the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and Urban
Development – both have structures from national to village level. At a meso level, the District Drought
Relief Committee is responsible for coordinating drought response. Through the Ministry of Local
Government, Public Works and Urban Development, the Department of Civil Protection, working
with other relevant ministries and NGOs, coordinates all activities through its various structures at the
national, provincial and district levels.

The District Drought Management Committee (DDMC) is the top drought management structure at
the district level. The DDMC meets every two weeks to review plans. The DDMC comprises councillors,
chiefs, war veterans, agriculture extension, the Ministry of Lands which assists with resettlements,

Reducing climate change risks by ‘living with drought’: Investigating local institutional design in Zimbabwe | 167
Table 13.4 History of drought in Mwenezi District and local institutional responses
Drought Who was Drought response Comment
year involved?
1922 Community Hunting wild animals; harvesting forest products Coping and reactive
District District commissioner provided grain loans and draught Government
commissioner power. Cattle moved to allocated land close to Mwenezi programme
1947 Community Migration to South Africa (Musina) and Beitbridge. Diversification,
Collective action on purchases of maize grain, hunting adaptation practices
wild animals, harvesting wild foods
1968 Community Cattle rustling (from nearby white commercial farms – Coping and reactive
stocking of dried meat in grain silos)
1972 Community Used grain from past good seasons Insurance type
1982–84 Government Grain loan scheme for people and livestock provided by Government
Department of Social Welfare programme
Private Game farms provided food at subsidised prices to Diversification
employees. Game ranchers provided short-term
employment to locals
Community A large part of the male community was still employed
and sent remittances used for food purchases – food was
available in local shops
1992 Government Food relief provided by Department of Social Welfare and Short term, reactive
maize for cattle feed
NGO Food/cash for work by Catholic Development Community; Dams are poorly
construction of dams by Lutheran Development Services distributed and lack
through a livestock for work programme maintenance
Community Gold panning in Runde and Mwenezi rivers; consuming Coping and
wild foods; eating vegetables grown in community adaptation
gardens using water from small dams
2002 Government Grain sales by the GMB at subsidised prices Government
NGO Food relief provided by CARE International, Christian Unclear exit strategies
Care, Lutheran Development Services; distribution of and targeting
agriculture inputs criteria; response is
Private Individual business people and the church provided food Unclear exit strategies
and targeting
criteria; response is
Community Eating and selling processed wild fruits; gold panning; Short term
mopane worm harvesting and poaching by farmers; stone
carving; beer brewing using wild fruits (Marula)

168 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Drought Who was Drought response Comment
year involved?
2004/05 Government Grain sales by GMB to the community and private millers Coping
NGO Food relief provided by CARE International; distribution of
agriculture inputs
Private Game ranchers provided cattle fodder
Community Intensified growing of drought resistant crops
2006/07 Government Grain sales by GMB Coping and
NGO Food relief by CARE International; distribution of Coping and
agriculture inputs diversification
Community Migration to South Africa; grain purchases from areas with Coping and
better harvests; intensified growing of drought resistant diversification
Source: Community interviews

the Department of Veterinary Services, the Livestock Development Unit, and NGOs (CARE, PLAN and
Christian Care). Churches are indirectly involved through NGOs. The DDMC is chaired by the district
administrator. At this level, the food distribution subcommittee chaired by the deputy chairperson of
the DDMC is very important during times of drought. The food distribution committee determines the
tonnage to be distributed.

The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) is another government-run institution which acts as the conduit
through which local households purchase grain at subsidised prices. Various actors, including
councillors, the local chiefs and households, indicated that in most cases, maize sold by the GMB does
not get to target households. This was attributed to rampant corruption in the sale of maize, with large
amounts diverted to parallel markets at exorbitant prices.

The preceding paragraphs briefly outlined the policy and legal framework as well as major institutions
governing droughts in Zimbabwe. The rest of this section provides a recollection of past droughts and
corresponding institutional responses. As recalled by communities, Mwenezi District has experienced a
number of major droughts since 1922 (Table 13.4). During the earlier drought years between 1922 and
1972, the community was the major player with less visibility by government and an absence of the
private sector. Dependence on the natural environment for wild foods and forest products as well as
hunting for wild animals was an important coping strategy. Mwenezi’s strategic location on the main
route to the border town of Beitbridge made migration to South Africa conducive. Collective purchases
of grain in the community, either from government or from South Africa, were also common. Grain
storage and stocking of dried meat in grain silos were forms of insurance in responding to drought.
The government, through the local district commissioner, provided grain loans and assisted in the
relocation of cattle. The grain loan schemes provided the community with the opportunity to borrow
maize grain from the government with repayment after the next harvest.

The droughts that occurred from 1982 onwards involved a growth in the number of actors as well
as diversity in forms of response. In the early 1980s, government’s response was through grain loan
schemes for both people and livestock. In the most severe drought of 1992, the government provided
food relief and maize for cattle feed. The drought relief was for the purposes of preventing hunger,
starvation and malnutrition and this was coordinated by the district drought relief committees and
financed through the Department of Social Welfare.

Reducing climate change risks by ‘living with drought’: Investigating local institutional design in Zimbabwe | 169
Since 2002, the government’s role has been mainly that of providing grain for sale through its
parastatal, the GMB. Other actors, including NGOs, have also been involved in drought response since
1992 through food aid and the distribution of agricultural inputs comprising mainly maize seed and
fertilisers. The Catholic Development Community (CADEC), CARE International, Christian Care and
Lutheran Development Services provided food relief. CADEC also had a food-for-work programme
with two components, wage payment and food relief. Christian Care and the Lutheran Development
Services were also involved in small-dam construction through a livestock-for-work programme.

The private sector actors in drought response comprise the game ranchers on nearby farms and the
business people in the district. Some game farms, despite providing short-term employment, also
made food available to their employees and their families at low prices during the 1982–84 drought
years. In Chanaka village, collaboration between the local people and Malangani Ranch led to livestock
surviving the 2005 drought. Malangani Ranch allowed local people to harvest grass from the farm for
livestock fodder.

Governance of droughts and relevancy of local institutions

The relevancy of local institutions in responding to drought in Mwenezi District in terms of supporting
or constraining communities in their attempts to adapt to drought is shown in Table 13.5. In general,
the main players in drought response in Mwenezi are NGOs. They consult the councillor upon entry
into an area as a matter of protocol but after entry less interaction with relevant authorities in local
development issues was noted by communities. Such behaviour was interpreted as lack of respect
for community institutions and was deemed a key factor leading to the neglect of local priority needs
and activities. As such, tension between NGOs and the village heads was common in the district.
Regular meetings called by NGOs were thought to be a disruption of production activities and only
a few households were usually targeted as beneficiaries. NGO–beneficiary relationships were further
strained by the long beneficiary registration forms and the tedious form-completion process, resulting
in forms that were incorrectly filled in and subsequently excluded.

The distribution of agricultural inputs in the form of maize seed and fertilisers is mainly done by NGOs as
a way of supporting farmers in the agricultural season. The NGOs exercise authority over who benefits,
the type and size of assistance and when the assistance is received. Working within donor and NGO
mandates, the inputs are distributed using often contested criteria with communities. Despite this
assistance, there is still a shortage of agricultural inputs, particularly of small grains such as sorghum
and millet. The lack of seed is also due to its high cost. However, the decisions on what crops to plant
at the household level are determined first by yield potential, then by the preferred staple (usually
maize), then by the availability of seed on the market and lastly by market prices. In general, the prices
of agricultural produce are low because of a lack of markets.

The grain loan scheme was a government intervention that featured in the early 1980s after
independence and in the early 1990s. Although its effectiveness was not analysed in Mwenezi
District, studies in other areas of the country revealed that only a quarter of the loans were repaid to
the Department of Social Welfare (Munro 2006). Like many other social welfare programmes in the
country, this is no longer functional. Storage of grain is a community intervention that helps to prevent
households from falling into destitution and prepares them to deal with future drought risks. However,
consecutive years of drought have undermined this form of support.

The food relief programme was run by government in the early 1990s through the local drought
management structures and administered by the Department of Social Welfare. The poor
macroeconomic conditions coupled with an unstable political environment caused this form of

170 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Table 13.5 I nstitutional relevancy in responding to drought in Mwenezi District
Adaptation response Institutional relevancy in drought response
Agricultural inputs Farmers receive the agricultural inputs late, resulting in late planting
Inputs very expensive and most farmers cannot afford them
Drought resistant seeds not available on the local market
Lack of draught power
Prices for agricultural produce low
Farmer decision on crops planted determined first by yield, then by preferred
staple, availability of seed and market prices
Grain loan scheme Available early 1980s and 1990s; only a few households were able to repay the
loans; social welfare schemes no longer functional
Storage of grain and meat Consecutive years of drought have constrained this form of adaptation
Food relief/food aid Lack of government institutional capacity
Poor targeting causing poor relations between NGOs and the community
Distribution and selection process does not use existing local structures
Inconsistency in type of food aid and timing of distribution
Unpredictable and unreliable
Provides relief in emergency situations
Food/cash for work Repairing local infrastructure such as roads, dams and bridges in exchange for
food or cash payments; food was given for free to the elderly and chronically sick
Construction of dams Through livestock-for-work programme
Use of dams restricted to livestock watering and not crop production
Distribution of dams is poor as the dams are far from the villages
Lack of infrastructure maintenance – dam walls cracking
Grain sales by GMB Shortages of grains and non-availability
Restrictions of quantities and access
Political influence and power determines access
Drought resistant crops Do not have adequate technical knowledge
Shortage of seed; over the years farmers retained seed from previous harvests
More labour requirements
Taste preferences for maize; maize can be prepared in a variety of ways
Diversification Communities have diversified more into livestock because of increasing droughts
but face problems with diseases, limited dip tanks and low livestock prices; short-
term employment on farms
Dependence on wild foods Local rules and norms apply on harvesting; government policy prohibits
Relocation of cattle Shortages of land and change in government policy have caused this to cease;
an efficient form of preserving livestock assets
Collective action Arrangements in the community coordinated by the chief and other local
informal networks
Migration Remittances from relatives and close ties abroad in the form of food and cash;
illegal migration to South Africa
Source: Community interviews

Reducing climate change risks by ‘living with drought’: Investigating local institutional design in Zimbabwe | 171
support to cease. NGOs have thus been playing a prominent role in providing food relief in emergency
situations. As noted in agricultural input support, the authority and decisions on targeting mechanisms
are vested with NGOs in consultation with local level informal structures. The role of drought
management committees in this context is not known or acknowledged. The food- and cash-for-work
programme in Mwenezi was run by CADEC. The programme aimed at supplementing and quickly
transferring incomes to the poorest households for a limited period through temporary employment in
labour-intensive projects. Some of the prescribed types of work included repairing local infrastructure
such as roads, dams and bridges.

The construction of dams through the work-for-assets programme involved provision of labour by
households in exchange for goats. Dams constructed under the scheme, for example at Shayamabvudzi,
were used for irrigation. The Lutheran Development Service worked in collaboration with the local
councillor. The dams are poorly distributed in the district and not easily accessible to many villages.
Access is restricted to domestic use as well as livestock watering purposes, with no crop production
permitted, while issues of maintenance of infrastructure are a concern for communities. As such, this
form of response has been inadequate in supporting local communities during times of drought.

The GMB as a source and buyer of grain ensures that stability in supplies is maintained at the local level.
However, due to broader climatic, macroeconomic and political challenges, the organisation faces capacity
constraints in ensuring adequate supplies as well as a variety of grain. The organisation has exercised
power and authority in distribution procedures, so limiting quantities and determining beneficiaries.

The growing of drought resistant crops is now increasing in Mwenezi because of high frequencies of
drought. More households in Mwenezi District now grow sorghum and millet than maize. However,
there is an acknowledgement that growing small grains was much easier in the past because of
retained seeds, but now their shortage in the market is restricting the practice. In addition, the small
grains are viewed as labour-intensive and households still prefer to grow maize because of its taste and
the fact that it can be prepared in a variety of ways. Diversification through intensification of livestock
production is another important adaptation option. Challenges in the form of livestock disease, poor
livestock prices and the lack of markets are a constraining factor.

Dependence on the natural environment through harvesting wild foods, although an important
activity during early years of drought in the 1920s, has now lessened as their availability has declined.
Local access and use is governed by government policy and local norms and processes. Relocation of
cattle as government policy in 1922 was enabled by the availability of land and the low population.
Collective action in the purchase of grain was possible through local community arrangements around
relationships of trust and membership organisations. Migration due to climate is said to occur under
conditions of declining agricultural productivity and food security, temporary displacements due to
natural disasters, and as a result of relocation (Gommes et al. 2004).

Droughts in Mwenezi District have been recurring and increasing in severity. Their impacts on
agriculture have affected both crop and livestock production, although not all impacts have been
negative. For example, an observed increase in the variety of crops grown in the district illustrates how
households have embraced diversification, which is an important form of climate change adaptation.
However, amidst an increasingly variable climate, the nature of the response has remained static and
traditional. Prolonged humanitarian relief and welfare-type responses in the form of food aid and food
for work have dominated since the early 1980s, just after the country’s independence.

172 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

The mismatch between the problem of drought and corresponding nature of responses is largely
a result of a lack of a clear framework for managing drought in Zimbabwe. Although the National
Policy on Drought Management formulated in 1998 is in place, it has not been implemented. Its core
principles of governance, which include decentralisation and proactive drought management, have
not been realised. At the national level, issues of drought take high precedence, with the vice president
as chair of the task force, but only during years of drought. Through the Civil Protection Act (No. 10:06
of 1989), the structures for managing drought devolve from the national to district levels. Although the
Department of Civil Protection is expected to work with several actors at the local level, this partnership
is evident at the planning stage at provincial level but becomes disjointed at the implementation stage
in support of adaptation practices at the district level.

Alongside these structures are also political structures which have been formed along political lines
through elections. Although these institutions are expected to work in harmony, they are currently
disjointed. The processes by which institutions come into existence have thus created further
mismatches between the nature of the problem and the relevancy of responses. The nature of
responses and their effectiveness is not informed by a clear analysis of the problem, but is largely
determined by authority and power. In addition, in most cases political structures have either enabled
or constrained the community’s ability to deal with drought.

An analysis of the district structure for managing drought shows a top-down hierarchy of power
and authority with little representation of farmers except through the chiefs. The DDMC consists
of technocrats in various government departments as well as NGOs and politicians, but with no
representation from the private sector. This structure appears to be relevant during emergencies
through the drought relief committee, but is not as prominent under normal conditions. Over the years,
the types of actors have broadened to include NGOs and the private sector, but the arrangements have
remained rigid and informed by institutional mandates rather than the changing nature of droughts in
the district. In addition, the relationships and interactions between institutions have remained closed
and have focused on addressing the symptoms of drought and not the underlying causes. This lack of
flexibility has caused response strategies to be reactive rather than planned or proactive.

Local communities seem to be ahead in seeking to adapt to drought conditions, as shown by the
diversity and type of responses. There are lessons to be learnt from various drought responses of the
past, including collective action, and grain and meat silos. This form of self-organisation, without a
strong focus on hierarchy, allowed communities to prevent hunger and prepare for future drought
events. It can be argued that various enabling factors existed at the time, such as favourable natural
and economic environments, low people and livestock population, and employment opportunities in
the South African mines. This supports evidence from other sources (Reid & Vogel 2006; Ziervogel &
Taylor 2008) that adaptation to climate variability does not happen in isolation from other non-climatic
stresses. Recent community responses have been a diversification from agriculture to gold panning and
other income generating projects such as stone carving and beer brewing. Diversification in agriculture
has involved the intensification of livestock production, which is a recommended type of agriculture
in this region. But the challenge that diseases represent is undermining this form of response and,
coupled with a current bias towards support for crop production over livestock production, points to
inadequate knowledge to support livestock production in climate change adaptation.

Drought responses have been designed without a broader lens of adaptation to climate change.
There is a disparity between drought events, appropriate crops and the institutional support provided.
Although communities realise the importance of growing drought resistant crops such as sorghum
and millet, they have limited technical knowledge, they lack seed and the labour demands of such
crops are high. There is also the dilemma of dealing with the taste preference for maize, a situation

Reducing climate change risks by ‘living with drought’: Investigating local institutional design in Zimbabwe | 173
that may determine the sustainability of drought resistant crops in the face of increasing droughts and
climate change. Since yield is a major factor in determining the types of crops planted, it shows that
households are concerned about their household income and food security. It may also imply that
droughts or future climate changes are not of the utmost importance in terms of crop choices. The
‘maize trap’ caused by its sustained promotion has caused farmers to prefer it over other crops even
though it does not perform well in areas of low and erratic rainfall.

The history of drought management in Mwenezi District reveals a predilection towards relief and post-
drought recovery activities that are rooted in promoting crop production. This has stifled farmers’
potential to be innovative and to diversify their drought response strategies. Humanitarian assistance
through food relief, although necessary in emergency conditions, has a downside because prolonged
assistance has created dependency and reduced effective responses to drought over time. The lack
of coordination among actors as evidenced by different targeting criteria, inconsistency in the type
of food assistance and the use of different structures for its delivery has undermined the community’s
ability to plan for the future and to take calculated risks to respond to future droughts. Where the
private sector is involved, its interest is purely commercial and does not coincide with local farmers’
aspirations and needs. While these non-state actors helped to alleviate hardship and supported good
nutrition for young children, they were insufficient to significantly reduce poverty and vulnerability.

The research in this chapter was supported through a grant by the South African Cooperation Fund for Scientific
Research and Technological Development of the National Research Foundation, South Africa. The inputs of
several respondents at both regional and local levels are gratefully acknowledged. My thoughts were greatly
enhanced by discussions with researchers from the Zimbabwean team (Leonard Unganai, Bella Nyamukure,
Steven Matema, Naomi Chimbetete and Petronella Shoko) and the South African team (Coleen Vogel, Ingrid
Koch, Koos van Zyl and Scott Drimie).

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Reducing climate change risks by ‘living with drought’: Investigating local institutional design in Zimbabwe | 175
4 Economy and livelihoods in Africa
chapter 14

Lovemore Rugube and Innocent Matshe

In their daily existence, Africans become the unwitting victims of state policies or of the consequences
of incidents that originate in the main from the actions and/or inactions of the state. This assertion
underscores the subject matter tackled by the contributors in this section. Mijere (Chapter 16) shows
how age-old cross-border economic interactions between Africans in southern Africa are not being
enhanced by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which was created by states in
the sub-region to supposedly achieve economic integration between the member states. Wamucii
and Idwasi (Chapter 15) reveal that in Kenya social insecurity spawned by state-inspired conflict in
society poses serious threats to the youth. Snodgrass and Obika (Chapter 17) tell a story from Uganda,
where children who were caught in the crossfire of internal war grapple with the trauma and hardships
of reintegration into their communities. The contributions in this section can be understood from
a livelihoods-constraint perspective and deal with three of the most vulnerable groups in society:
children, the youth and the poor (informal traders). The chapters highlight the effects of the state’s
failure to provide the conditions necessary for livelihood provision. This failure of the state is starkly
illustrated by informal cross-border trading (ICBT) in neighbouring SADC countries.

As Chapter 16 highlights, cross-border trade, like many forms of informal activity, arises out of a need
to diversify household-income earning capacity. In that respect, it is both a form of livelihood risk
mitigation and a general income-generating activity. Trading informally across borders presents
individuals with opportunities to earn an income to supplement their livelihood assets, including
social, personal, financial and physical assets. Thus the framework for understanding this section
is based on the centrality of individuals’ vulnerability and their attempts to open up opportunities
to participate in the economy and to claim rights that are not easily accessible to some segments
of society, but that are critical for their well-being. Inevitably, this creates tensions as interests are
infringed upon in the competition for scarce resources. Chapter 17 considers children as a vulnerable
group, in particular the reintegration of former child soldiers and captives into post-conflict society.
The case study emphasises the role of three aspects of the livelihoods framework: human assets, social
assets and personal assets.

Cross-border trade in the SADC

Informal trading across borders is by no means a new phenomenon in the SADC region. It is an ancient
activity that continues to grow and change form with the evolutions and turns of regional dynamics.
The SADC region is characterised historically by common cultures and relations that were divided by

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national boundaries established during the colonial period. However, in recent years ICBT has increased
substantially, partly due to the intensification of the globalisation process. Technological advances in
communication and transport, as well as reductions in tariffs under the World Trade Organization
arrangement, have greatly contributed to this process. These developments have seen a growth in
exports, at the rate of 5.5 per cent between 2000 and 2004, outpacing global output which increased
by 3.1 per cent annually over the same period. The share of exports relative to global output has more
than doubled and is now over 25 per cent; and export elasticity (the rate of growth of exports relative
to output) rose substantially from 1.5 in the 1980s to 2.5 in 2004.

A persistent phenomenon in most sub-Saharan African countries is their preference for trading with
the west. This has resulted in SADC member states being dominated by West European/industrialised
countries when it comes to trade, a situation exacerbated by the absence of significant intra-sub-
regional formal and informal trade amongst SADC member states. Most significantly, the SADC has not
established trade protocols to stimulate informal trade between member states.

Two factors account for the existence of intra-SADC trade: widespread unemployment and a shortage
of essential goods in the region. It is argued that chronic unemployment has been caused by the
external economic structural adjustment policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World
Bank. The policies have forced national governments to dismantle or privatise industries that used to
provide employment. The privatisation of programmes has left urban dwellers with no other source
of income. Rural migrants come to urban areas where there is no wage employment. The need for
sources of urban livelihood is the key motivation for micro trade, as most trans-border informal traders
lack wage employment. Unlike in other areas, the social and economic profiles of micro traders are
not important in this business enterprise. Most ICBTs have little formal education and are thus unable
to compete in an environment of selective wage employment. The majority of traders attained a
secondary school level of education, which is insufficient to earn them good wage employment and
an adequate source of income.

Informal border trade can assist in creating regional markets for goods and services, which would
improve the livelihoods of Africans on the continent. For states, intra-sub-regional trade can be
a significant source of revenue and a home-grown source of economic growth. A simple way of
developing closer trade between countries with a common border would be to enhance already
existing international cross-border trading with informal cross-border trade. Despite the initiatives
taken by these informal traders to advance the mission of the SADC and facilitate the SADC common
market, SADC member states have not put in place policies and protocols to facilitate the creation of
a common market in an environment where small traders have already been practising cross-border
trade as a household livelihood strategy. In addition, these informal traders make contributions to
the SADC national economies and to the economy of the region as a whole. If cross-border trading
between the citizens of countries in southern Africa is developed and facilitated, it may prove to be
faster and more accessible than the formal interstate structures that tend to founder even though
governments in the region devote so many resources to establishing them. ICBT is a safety net for the
unemployed people in the region. The trade provides a source of income to people without wage
employment. More importantly, ICBT promotes the entrepreneurial skills of people without formal
education, and has the potential to transform the traders into formal businessmen and women. It is
argued that by distributing goods and services in the region, ICBT promotes the mission of the SADC
and the creation of an SADC common market and citizenry.

Some basic questions that inform the discussion in Chapter 16 are: do the informal traders contribute
to the national economies of the SADC member states and the economy of the sub-region as a whole?
Is the revenue generated by ICBTs acknowledged by the governments of the SADC member states?

180 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

Have the SADC member states, or the SADC as an organisation, formally established trade policies and
regulations that promote the development of ICBTs in the sub-region?

Social insecurity, youth and development issues in Kenya

In recent years, the problems of poverty and food insecurity caused by endemic inefficiencies in African
governments and political instability have forced many youths in sub-Saharan Africa to engage in
violent activities aimed at addressing the inequities that characterise the distribution of public wealth
and opportunities. Policy-makers agree that there is a need to redirect attention and resources to the
advancement of youths. Political conflicts have also contributed to the problems of food insecurity
and poverty, as evidenced by the increase in the number of people going hungry in countries that
are plagued by political conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa. The problem of political conflicts has also
introduced the phenomenon of children being forced into military service as sources of low-cost and
expendable humanpower. The causes of this child soldier phenomenon can be attributed to a complex
combination of macro factors such as politics, poverty and underdevelopment, while its consequences
include a range of social pathologies that afflict the families and communities from which the children
come. In order to address the complex needs of the children who are victimised by this phenomenon,
integrated approaches are needed that combine socio-economic development and psychosocial
interventions, including well-conceived and targeted education, vocational training and mental health
programmes. This issue is addressed in Chapter 17.

Chapter 15 explains how Kenya’s history reveals that the nexus between colonialism, urbanisation,
poverty, weakened government legitimacy and globalisation has led to various forms of youth
unrest. These factors reveal how youth identities have been reconfigured over time as they engage
in violent activities, highlighting youth as a social construction that is heavily influenced by material
circumstances. Although many youths are involved in development activities, the proliferation of gangs
is an issue of concern that is a threat to national security. Gangs reveal how deteriorating relationships
between state and society could be a source of insecurity. Unless human security issues are addressed
by focusing on youth development, the Kenyan government is likely to continue experiencing
political tensions and conflicts. Large numbers of unemployed and loosely engaged youth create an
environment of idleness and despair, which can lead to crime and general unrest.

The authors of Chapter 15 indicate that youth movements are an indelible aspect of society and are
prevalent in different parts of the world. The movements reveal youth’s willingness to initiate, change
or resist the social order. According to Braungart (1990), youth movements emerge when traditional
institutions fail to meet the legitimate needs of certain age groups in society, and when a critical
number of people become aware of their common plight and believe that something can be done to
alleviate their problems.

The plight of young people in Kenya has been well documented. According to the Kenya National
Commission on Human Rights (2008), young people continue to face numerous challenges. Only
about 25 per cent of youth are able to get jobs, leaving a 75 per cent unemployment rate among the
youth. Moreover, a number of those who find employment are overqualified and their jobs are often
not consistent with their personal goals. More than 75 per cent of people infected with HIV/AIDS are
aged 20 to 45 years, and about 33 per cent of all new cases of HIV/AIDS reported are of those aged 15
to 30 years. Many youth drop out of school and college due to the high cost of education, increases
in overall poverty levels, poor returns on investment in education and lack of a re-admission policy
for teenage mothers, among other reasons. The rate of crime has increased, the largest proportion
of crime in the country is committed by youths, and over 50 per cent of convicted criminals are aged

Section 4: Introduction | 181

between 16 and 25 (The East African October 2007).1 The energy embodied in the huge numbers of
idle and frustrated youth has been channelled in various ways. One category of youth chooses to
participate in community development activities as volunteers in local NGOs. The Mathare Youth
Sports Association located in the Mathare slums is an example of such a venture. The organisation
uses sport as an entry point to community activities by requiring its members to put in a number of
community service hours, for example through environmental clean-ups or by engaging in HIV/AIDS
awareness campaigns. Political organisations that focus on the grassroots levels have also emerged
in recent years. The Youth Agenda, for example, provides civic education for young people, monitors
development in youth policy, and engages in building capacity in youth organisations.

A second category of youth directs its energy towards deviant activities. Cities, and slums in particular,
have become hot spots for gang-related activities. Gangs function as socialising institutions when
other institutions fail; they are defined as problems when they engage in violent and criminal activities
(Spergel 1995). The emergent gangs in Kenya are marked with these paradoxes. Gang activities veer
between legitimate security concerns and delinquency. In some cases, the two areas overlap. As Branch
and Cheeseman (2008) note, the emergence of gangs throughout Kenya in the 1990s was largely in
response to economic rather than political stimuli, and formed the foundations for the privatisation
of violence. The majority of gangs in Kenya evolved first because of the marked absence of the state
and later because of the direct sponsorship of the state. Interestingly, slums are often referred to as
informal settlements, a label that signifies government’s non-provision of public and social services,
including security, public health facilities and schools.

Many youth gangs’ activities are geared towards providing some of the public services that would
ordinarily be provided by government, therefore earning the groups the label of ‘shadow governments’
(Waki Commission 2008). Another factor contributing to insecurity is that the Kenyan police force has
never really enjoyed a high degree of popular legitimacy, and some individuals in the police are viewed
as key agents of crime in the country (Ruteere & Pommerolle 2003). Thus, gangs emerged as private
security outfits in the form of vigilante groups. These groups are loose associations of unemployed
people who are easy to mobilise at short notice (Mkutu & Sabala 2007). The groups became the
preferred option over ineffective responses by the police, and the presence of vigilantes was sometimes
authorised by local residents. For instance, the Taliban vigilante group was invited by local leaders to
protect residents and their property (Anderson 2002). This gang, which was formed in 2001, has been
accused by residents of outright extortion in some cases. Other vigilante groups include the Baghdad
Boys and the Kosovo Boys, who are active in the Kibera slums in Nairobi.

Gangs as sources of insecurity are embedded in societal discourses. First, battles over turf or control
of certain areas are not uncommon. In 2001, for example, the Mungiki gang members fought with
the Kamjesh gang over control of Matatu city routes (Anderson 2002). The conflict continued for a
number of weeks. In the following year, a gang of between 200 and 300 Mungiki members embarked
on a revenge mission against the Taliban gang in Nairobi’s Kariobangi estate, resulting in 20 deaths
(Anderson 2002). Second, landlords are also known to hire gangs as a way of ensuring that tenants
comply with the payment of rent. Third, political gangs emerged as a means for politicians to consolidate
political power. As early as the 1960s, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) used its youth wing
to intimidate political opponents, while in the 1980s it became commonplace for politicians to have
their own (violent) gangs of supporters, generally of the same ethnic group (Kagwanja 2003). The
KANU youth wingers, mostly poor local youth, collected levies and were KANU’s ‘eyes and ears’ on
the ground (Klopp 2008). In the struggle for the reinstatement of multiparty politics, the ruling elite

1 Oluoch F, ‘Kenya: Criminal youth gangs wreak havoc in Nairobi’.

182 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

mobilised KANU youth wingers on 7 July 1990 to reinforce riot police in dispersing a defiant crowd that
attempted to gather at Nairobi’s Kamukunji grounds. More than 20 people were killed, 1 000 arrested
and between a few dozens and several hundreds injured in riots that rocked Nairobi and spread to
other parts of the country (Kagwanja 2003: 26).

Peter Kagwanja (2006) locates the utilisation of youth in politics within patron–client relationships. He
notes that the Mungiki, for example, was supported by government in controlling various Matatu routes.
This relationship provided gang members with tangible returns. During the height of its influence, the
Mungiki is said to have collected at least KSh 10 000 (US$125) per day from all the routes under its
control. Patron–client relationships have also been evident in election violence. According to various
reports by commissions established to investigate ethnic clashes during elections (Waki Commission
2008), youths were paid and offered land and jobs as tokens for evicting certain groups of people. While
it was not clear if they were actually rewarded, the promises were sufficient to engage them. A Human
Rights Watch (2002) report also indicated that the perpetrators of the Coast Province clashes in the early
1990s were largely disgruntled local Digo young men, whose hostility toward non-indigenous residents
of the region led them to support a divisive ethnic agenda that also served KANU’s political aspirations.
The youth were motivated by anger over the economic marginalisation of the local population. Their
goal was to evict the ‘upcountry’ population, in order to gain access to jobs, land and educational
opportunities. Similarly, between 1991 and 1998, violence linked to ‘tribal militias’, such as the Maasai
Morans, Kalenjin Warriors, Chinkororo (Kisii), Sungu Sungu (Kuria) and Kaya Bombo (Digo), claimed an
estimated 3 000 lives and displaced nearly half a million Kenyans (Kagwanja 2006).

The 2007 election violence was a culmination of previous conflicts. Various groups, including well-
organised and established groups, spontaneous groups and tribal militias situated in various parts of
the country, took up arms after the final results were announced. The tactics utilised included arson,
murder, maiming and rape (Waki Commission 2008). Not surprisingly, the attacks were precipitated
by previous grievances that revolved around human security issues. In Nairobi, the Kibera slums were
marked with incidents of unrest. Kibera holds a large part of the population consisting of young
people who are constrained by economic circumstances, unemployment and poverty. In some parts
of the slums the violence was unleashed on landlords, who were mostly from the Kikuyu nationality
group. Violence in the area revolved around the eviction and looting of Kikuyu supporters’ houses
and businesses by the Luo, who form a large segment of tenants (De Smedt 2009). Other parts of
Kibera, like the upper part of Kikuyu-dominated Laini Saba that was guarded by the Kikuyu, were not
extensively affected by the looting. In revenge, the Luo living in these areas were forced to leave their
homes or beaten, while their homes were looted and occupied by the Kikuyu, often those fleeing other
parts of Kibera (De Smedt 2009).

Election rigging concerns were also reflected in Kisumu, an opposition stronghold. Opposition leader
Raila Odinga’s loss catalysed demonstrations in this area. In the Rift Valley Province, violence was
precipitated by landownership concerns. Thousands of minority ethnic groups were displaced over
land issues that have not been addressed since independence. During the colonial period, the Nandi
and the Kipsigi were forcefully displaced to give way to white settlers. At independence, President Jomo
Kenyatta replaced the settlers with members of the Kikuyu community. Many Kikuyu, however, bought
the land through legitimate means. Similarly, in the Coast Province the violence was aimed at evicting
certain groups (‘upcountry’ people) who had moved into the area from other parts of the country.

As indicated in the analysis here, a consideration of human security issues is central to understanding
insecurity. Recurrent youth violence, and the 2007 election conflict in particular, reveals government’s
ineffectiveness in protecting its people both physically and in the provision of basic human rights. The
sheer growth of youth gangs has made it difficult for government to adequately address the issue.

Section 4: Introduction | 183

Similarly, the marginalisation of youth, which has led to poverty and a lack of mechanisms for upward
mobility, makes it difficult to address development issues as such a task would require tremendous
resources. Additionally, previous government interventions – such as bans, extrajudicial killings of
gang members by specialised criminal investigation squads and arrest of gang leaders – have failed
to limit gang activities. This failure could be attributed to the fact that the real issues, which include
economic empowerment for sustainable livelihoods provision and a space for youth engagement in
politics, have not been addressed.

The Kenyan government, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs established in 2005, has
initiated steps to address youth issues through the provision of a youth fund referred to as the Youth
Enterprise Development Fund, which is aimed at lending money to youth for small enterprises. While
this is an appropriate strategy, the impact is yet to be felt and there are still many youths who do not
have access to the funds. In addition, the current coalition government has also initiated a project –
known as Kazi kwa Vijana (jobs for youth) – geared towards providing employment for youth. The
project’s activities include tree planting, infrastructural developments, urban garbage collection, and
water and irrigation projects. The major limitation of this initiative is that it provides only seasonal jobs
and does not address long-term unemployment issues. In other words, the project does not have any
sustainability elements built into it.

At the core of the problems facing the youth are the concerns and imperatives of their present and
future livelihoods. As explained by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development
(1999), a livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (including both material and social resources)
and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and
recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, both now and in
the future. Specifically, the Department identifies the three key dimensions of livelihoods as livelihood
assets, vulnerability context, and techniques and interventions. All of these are located within specific
rules, social norms, politics and gender/age/class/ethnic issues that help make livelihoods more culture
specific. The youth find themselves having to innovate and create livelihoods in an environment where
they are amongst the most vulnerable group, and where the state has limited ability to intervene
meaningfully on their behalf in creating enabling conditions for them to accumulate livelihood assets
that assure them physical, material and spiritual security.

The resolution of youth problems, therefore, demands multiple approaches. Of significance to this
study and its reliance on the human security framework for analysis is the military spending by Kenya’s
government. According to the 2009 Budget tabled in June, the government allocated Ksh 44 billion
to the defence ministry, which was nearly four times the Ksh 11.4 billion provided for agriculture,
the country’s most important sector which employs 80 per cent of the population either directly or
indirectly (Daily Nation 13 June 2009). This trend is worrisome because internal insecurity is likely to
be the greater threat.

The reintegration of former child soldiers in Uganda

Uganda’s economy has been growing steadily in recent years although that growth and benefits from
it remain unequally distributed throughout the country. Poverty in rural parts of northern Uganda,
particularly in the Gulu and Kitgum districts, continues to be exacerbated by small-arms proliferation,
rebel incursions and human rights abuses. There is limited access to basic services such as healthcare and
education, while food scarcity and mortality rates remain high. According to the population and housing
census carried out in Uganda in 2002, 75 per cent of the population in the Acholi sub-region lives in
poverty because of the war and the disruption of economic activities that stem from it (UBOS 2006).

184 | Africa in Focus: Governance in the 21st century

As a community comes out of armed conflict, all the vulnerabilities of its different groups tend to
re-emerge exaggerated. The poor in society struggle to get a foothold in the economy and integration
is slow and often very difficult. As one of the poorest and most vulnerable groups, children tend to be
affected the most and former child combatants have been found to face even more challenges than
other children as they tend to lack any of the livelihood assets necessary for a decent life. Many, if not all
of them, bear deep scars from the trauma of their experiences and from having been disconnected from
‘normal’ peaceful means of existence. Their immediate challenge then becomes one of sustenance. For
that, they need to have access to some livelihood sustenance, not least of which are livelihood assets
(DFID 1999). In order for these children to access livelihood assets, they need to be integrated into
society as part of the constituent elements of the formative societal structure.

Chapter 17 by Snodgrass and Obika is based on a case study of an NGO in Gulu in northern Uganda
which is involved in the rehabilitation and reintegration of under-age former combatants. The study
provides an in-depth description of the rehabilitation and reintegration processes and reveals certain
key aspects of the challenges and difficulties faced by the NGO. The authors indicate that, in 2008
an estimated 250 000 children were serving as combatants around the globe, representing 10 per
cent of all global combatants. Although the definition of ‘children’ and therefore ‘child soldiers’ differs
between countries and cultures, a child soldier is a boy or girl under the age of 18 who is forcibly
or voluntarily recruited or otherwise used in hostilities by armed forces, paramilitaries, civil defence
units or other armed groups (Machel 2000). These children are recruited to fight, kill, loot and destroy
property, and lay mines both in their own and neighbouring countries. They are also a low-cost source
of labour, used by armies as cooks, cleaners, porters, messengers and spies and for their sexual services
as ‘forced wives’ (Hick 2001). Weak state capacity, the failure to deliver essential services, the political
invisibility of young people, and too few life chances are conditions that exist before, during and
immediately after armed conflicts.

One of the first tasks in empowering the former child combatants is to assess their health and provide
the necessary healthcare, thus improving the employability, earning capacity and good health of the
children. Their level of education is also established and, where possible, improved upon to ensure
sustained self-development. Education is central to development as it empowers people by enabling
them to lift themselves out of poverty, access basic needs, and reduce inequality. Education in the
livelihoods framework not only promotes economic growth, national productivity and innovation, as
well as values of democracy and social cohesion, as noted by Mazurana and McKay (2001), but also
unlocks potential and enables the attainment of other livelihood goals. For example, natural assets’
contribution to people’s well-being can be greatly enhanced by knowledge of how to use them
sustainably as well as how to preserve and monitor their use.

As noted, health is another aspect that is given special attention in the study of the Gulu Support the
Children Organisation (GUSCO). Besides the immediate health needs of the children, it was found
that they are deeply psychologically scarred and rehabilitation needs to include counselling. Surviving
intense fear and helplessness in war situations can cause serious psychological impairment (Terburg
2000). Project workers emphasise the central importance of the spiritual aspects of the children’s
lives. In some cases, reintegration sessions include ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ aspects of the livelihood
framework (both of which fall under personal assets). This aspect links individuals to the universe and
is important to the children’s motivation, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-perception, emotional well-
being, assertiveness and spirituality.

Former child combatants also need society to be receptive and understanding of their plight. It is
therefore important for the community to participate in the activities that promote understanding
between the two sides. Importance is attached to local and community leaders, because through them

Section 4: Introduction | 185

community members may find it easier to be reconciled with the children. In addition, empowerment
programmes are put in place to directly assist the children in starting up projects and running them.
This addresses two aspects of the livelihoods of the former child soldiers: the social and the financial
assets aspects. The social aspect includes cooperation, networks (interconnectedness), relationships
of trust and exchange, and partnerships and collaboration, whilst the financial aspect includes
income from productive activity, regular inflows of money and access to credit. GUSCO aims to meet
as many of these as possible. The inclusion of these two aspects effectively provides all of the major
components of livelihood provision for these children, and should equip individuals with the basics to
start a new life. However, the environment in which the individual operates also needs to be addressed.
There are two main aspects to the environment: one is regulatory (or institutions) and the other is
psychosocial. Institutions can be taken to be a given for the purposes of GUSCO and the implications
of the linkages that exist are indeed taken to be a factor in the analysis. This is because GUSCO does
not attempt to build new institutional structures within the area that it operates, but rather tries to
work within the framework of existing institutions and tries to influence how these can better assist the
integration of the children. The second element is dealt with under peace-building and reconciliation.
This is an important element of the GUSCO programme. Sensitisation and community dialogue are
very important in GUSCO’s work, particularly because of how they help to check negative attitudes
and perceptions. Forgiveness and understanding that these children are as much victims as any other
victim is critical to understanding and reconciling with this group of young people. It is thus critical for
the project to address reconciliation to allow participants to be treated as equal members of society
and willing contributors to the growth and development of their area and, indeed, their lives.

The findings suggest that in order to address the complex needs of the children, integrated approaches
are needed that combine socio-economic development and psychosocial interventions, including
well-conceived education, vocational training and mental health programmes that meet the actual
needs of the children (Honwana 2006). There is merit in considering the complete set of livelihood
aspects in analysing the impact of these interventions. In particular, it has been found that in light
of the trauma that the children face, rehabilitation is vital before they are finally reunited with their
families. The authors recommend that reintegration of child soldiers into society will bring economic
stability and address the problem of poverty and hunger in the affected parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

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