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Civil society and the public space in Africa

Abstract : The introduction of ideas of good governance, decentralization, rural development, and above all, of civil society, as key factors in new forms of multilateral intervention has allowed the completion and enforcement of a general approach to the reform of the State and to a redefinition of its role in the economy first begun under structural adjustment programmes. However, the approach of "civil society" is based on a simplistic and divisive concept of the social domain and has had the result of taking politics out of the process of democratization. The difficulty of defining what exactly civil society is and, therefore, the infinite number of possibilities of manipulating this "concept", have opened the way for an erosion of administrative and institutional capacity, and the strengthening of elites. In Benin, the association movement has been developed not only as an interface between the State and civil society, but also as a melting pot for the reciprocal assimilation of elites. Local development associations have become major politico-economic resources and important ways of upward social mobility for political actors. They provide one of the main areas for redefining the collusive transactions of the passive democratic revolution, offering the 'évolués' (Akowé) of the new regime unexpected opportunities for straddling the borders of the economic and the political, the rural and the urban, and the local and the global. This "associative straddling" has turned the elites of the "Renewal" into the Akowé of the countryside, whose involvement in collective action through local development associations has become increasingly necessary if they are to gain access to resources from abroad (particularly aid channelled to NGOs), essential for conquering prestige and power.
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Submitted on : Friday, November 5, 2021 - 11:48:15 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 18, 2022 - 11:42:04 AM

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Béatrice Hibou, Richard Banegas. Civil society and the public space in Africa. Bulletin du CODESRIA, CODESRIA, 2000, pp.39 - 45. ⟨hal-03416530⟩

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