P158 – Africa’s “New” Asian Development Partners: What Consequences for Emerging African “Civil Societies”?
8 July, 14:00-15:30

Fourie Elsje / University of Maastricht
Nauta Wiebe / University of Maastricht


In an age when Asian development partners are increasing their presence in Africa, this panel explores the challenges and opportunities created for emerging ‘civil societies’ on the continent. Similarly, although the involvement of Asian actors in Africa builds on various historical trajectories, their growing presence and evolving international identities create new and distinctive dynamics that impact not only African governments but also the collectivities that seek to challenge and contest the power of these governments. China’s support for newly-independent African governments in the 1960s and 1970s is, for example, very different from its current emphasis on political stability. Similarly, although South Korea has a rich history of protest movements and democratic struggle, the Korean government has done little to share this experience, instead seeking close cooperation with African governments of varying political orientation. At the same time, the entry of new non-state Asian actors further complicates the picture. What, then, is the impact of Asian governments, entrepreneurs, NGOs, corporations and other actors on the ways in which Africans organize contestation, resistance and revolt?

Les nouveaux partenaires au développement asiatiques de l’Afrique: quel impact pour l’émergence de sociétés civiles africaines ?
À une époque où les partenaires au développement asiatiques accroissent leur présence en Afrique, ce panel explore les défis et opportunités créés pour l’émergence de “sociétés civiles” sur le continent. Même si l’implication des acteurs asiatiques en Afrique s’appuie sur différentes trajectoires historiques, leur présence grandissante et leurs identités internationales en constante évolution crée de nouvelles et distinctives dynamiques qui impactent non seulement les gouvernements africains mais aussi les collectivités qui cherchent à défier et contester le pouvoir de ces gouvernements. Le soutien de la Chine pour les gouvernements africains nouvellement indépendants dans les années 1960 et 1970 est, par exemple très différent de son actuel accent mis sur la stabilité politique. Similairement, même si la Corée du Sud a une riche histoire en mouvements de protestation et en luttes démocratiques, le gouvernement coréen a fait peu pour partager cette expérience, cherchant plutôt une coopération plus étroite avec les gouvernements africains aux orientations politiques variées. Au même moment, l’entrée de nouveaux acteurs asiatiques non-étatiques complique davantage la situation. Quel est donc l’impact des gouvernements, entrepreneurs, ONGs, entreprises et autres acteurs sur les moyens dont les africains organisent contestations, résistances et révoltes?

Paper 1

Nauta Wiebe / University of Maastricht

Korean Aid to Emerging African Civil Societies: supporting critical collective mobilizations?

Korean development actors are active in Africa, particularly in the eight selected ODA partnership countries, where they are piloting the transfer of elements of the ‘Korean development miracle’, with an emphasis on ICT, Rural Development and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). In many of these development interventions Korean development actors –NGOs and government actors alike– claim to bolster ‘civil society’. In this paper I analyse whether this is a matter of paying lip service to a popular ‘development’ concept, or whether Korean actors are truly able to support African collective mobilizations that organize contestation, resistance and revolt. In order to do so I use Edwards’ (2014) framework that focuses on three dimensions of civil society: associational life; good society and the public sphere. Moreover, I explore whether Korean development actors bring distinct approaches to the table, for example, drawing on their own recent experiences in processes of democratization.

Paper 2

Fourie Elsje / University of Maastricht

African Emulation of East Asia as a Site of Domestic Contestation and Controversy

A growing number of studies have begun to examine the extent to which the development trajectories of China and other East Asian states may act as models for African policymakers wishing to achieve rapid industrialisation under conditions of so-called ‘soft authoritarianism’. Empirical studies on the feasibility of such policy transfer have been joined by a small constructivist literature that seeks to understand how the purported recipients of such ‘lessons’ themselves view the viability and desirability of such emulation. Despite the importance of such studies, few have thus far delved into the views of political agents that do not belong to—or at least are not allied with—the ruling elite. This paper draws on qualitative interviews conducted with 94 policymakers, civil society leaders, private sector representatives and politicians in Kenya and Ethiopia. Despite considerable differences in the overall popularity of concepts such as the “China Model” and the “East Asia Model” between the two country cases, in both settings civil society was most markedly opposed to governmental agendas to mimic East Asian developmentalism and most likely to propose alternative models. Agendas of emulation are therefore not limited to the policy documents of technocrats and ruling parties, but have become sites of contestation in which competing visions of the future and narratives of the past confront each other and struggle for national prominence.

Paper 3

Kraemer Diana / Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

Community Development as Arena of Contestations and Resistance? South Korea’s Saemaul Undong concept in the context of the Tanzanian experiences of Ujamaa

In Korea the so called Saemaul Undong (SUM) movement, which is always mentioned as the heart of South Korea’s development experience, was first implemented by President Park in 1970. It was characterized by the emphasis on community-driven development and its self-reliance philosophy. Whereas SUM was a strategy to connect rural areas to the process of modernization to move toward a capitalist-oriented economy, Tanzania’s Ujamaa village movement was a socialist experiment in the manner of Dependencia thinking and represented an approach to turn back to ‘traditional’ endogenous forms of livelihood.Yet, both approaches can be seen as top-down initiated community movements, which strongly concentrate on the mobilization of civil society.

Whereas there has always been a significant attempt to share the SUM experience with African countries in the history of South Korean-African engagement, currently, Saemaul village projects are implemented in Tanzanian rural areas. Concomitant with the introduction of Saemaul programs in Tanzania occurs a rekindling of Ujamaa.

This paper seeks to discuss current village movement projects in Tanzania within the frame of civil society as contesting usual institutional approaches to development. In what proportion can we see Korea’s community driven program in Tanzania to local processes of self-organization? How to understand (and differentiate) towards the historical Tanzanian background processes of contestation,resistance and adjustment?

Paper 4

Procopio Maddalena / London School of Economics (LSE)

Beyond “China-Africa” and the State: a sectoral analysis of Kenyan State-Society’s relations

While China’s state-centric pragmatism does not allow for significant challenges to its state apparatus, ie from civil society actors, in the past few years China has increasingly acknowledged the importance of enhancing relations beyond the state level when it comes to its engagement with African countries. This change was mainly a government-led re-action to the negative perceptions that rose among Africans especially as a consequence of trade and labour related issues, but, in some cases, also a behaviour-adjustment consequential to increased exposure and socialization to more open, participatory environments. This study adopts a state-society approach and compares how the interactive effects of state and social structures in Kenya impact the country’s relations with China across sectors (trade, healthcare, education), how such interactive relation is mobilized and can constitute a strength in building national capacity in domestic and foreign policy. The sectoral lens allows to test whether the issues at stake can produce varied negotiation processes and outcomes, while the state-society approach sheds light onto an area of Sino-African relations for long neglected, ie the role of the continent’s actors, contexts, processes in relation to external actors. Based on extensive fieldwork in Kenya, the study acknowledges that it is at the sectoral level that the process is re-negotiated and mediated, through consultation and implementation, by the local social environment.

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