On January 11th, 12th, and 13th 2017 Amaterra’s director David N. Berger collaborated with Andrzej Polus, the president of the Polish Centre for African Studies and an assistant professor at the Institute of International Studies at the University of Wroclaw, to host a panel and present their paper at the Activisms in Africa: Discourses on civil society and activism conference in Lisbon, Portugal.
Titled: “Exercises in Activism and Citizenship – Trajectories of Government – CSO’s Relations in SSA.” Focused on citizenship and activism and drew upon an understanding of political and social forces that have shaped civil society and government interaction. It built from the supposition of an ideational structure of mutual suspicion and mistrust that has adversely affected activism to encourage discussion and consideration of this structure and its effects. The panel worked to analyze the evolution of CSOs’ role and position in Sub-Saharan Africa, through the examination of structures that promote development and activism.
The panelists were asked to attempt to outline a “map” of CSOs’ positions toward the governments in the entire region. Regional or country-orientated research proposals were also included as they provide vital references on the nature of CSO-government relations.
In an effort to map CSOs’ role in activism, submissions that addressed historical, economic, cultural, political, policy-orientated, or even descriptive aspects of the evolution of CSO – government relations, were welcomed and vigorously discussed. Additionally, David and Andrzej welcomed proposals devoted to the evolution of the Sub-Saharan political landscape in times of economic decline as well as those related to relatively new aspects of CSO activism.
These included how mobile technologies, wider access to information, and new means of communication and organization encourage mutual transparency and strengthen the social contract between government and citizens.
Additional topics that addressed exogenous factors, including aid structures (Western vs. China and the emerging powers factor), political pressure, and economic pressure, were key focal points of discussion.
David and Andrzej also collaborated on a paper, which pulled on David’s experience with Amaterra and his time serving with the U.S. Peace Corps in Zambia between 2011 and 2014. Andrzej brought a wealth of experience and passion to the team with his focus on the political economy of hydrocarbon management and the constantly evolving political situation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Andrzej has conducted field research in Botswana, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
Together they wrote “Contention and Mutual suspicion: Civil Society in Zambian Politics.” At the conference
The principal aim of their research was to critically examine the relationship of local non-governmental
The NGOs were mainly employing a ‘name and shame’ strategy whilst engaging the government, which together with the government’s suspicious attitude towards NGOs created a specific ideational structure of mistrust and mutual suspicion. This dynamic has been extremely difficult to