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Civil Society in Africa

Contact: Dr. Karin Fiege

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

The field of development studies has for some years been calling for the more active participation of civil society, the importance of which for sustainable development continues to be emphasised at major global conferences. Exploring the potential and limitations of civil society engagement is crucial to a full assessment of governance processes, democratisation, fragility and other relevant phenomena.

The SLE was part of a research group whose members have produced over twenty 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'. The symposium summary 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. SLE was also part of a research group that produced a desk study for BMZ on alliances for good governance at the end of 2013.