Civil Society in Africa

Contact: Dr. Karin Fiege

Civil associations have in the last two decades made decisive contributions to democratisation and reform processes in many African countries. This development has often gone unnoticed by the mainstream of academic development studies, where civil society in Africa is a relatively under-researched topic.

The field of development studies has for some years been calling for more active participation from civil society, and its importance for sustainable development continues to be emphasised at major global conferences. For a full assessment of governance processes, democratisation, fragility and other important phenomena, it is essential to examine the potential and the limitations of engagement from civil society.

The SLE is part of a research group whose members have brought together over 20 studies on the subject of 'civil society in sub-Saharan Africa'. These studies were published in September 2014, in a compendium edited by Walter Eberlei. In 2015, a symposium was held at the Hochschule Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences on the subject of 'political effects of civil society initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa'. In the summary of the symposium, it was concluded that although NGOs and other civil society organisations in sub-Saharan Africa are under enormous pressure, in some countries they have become powerful political forces. The SLE is also part of a research group carrying out a desk study for the BMZ on alliances for good governance (ending in 2013).