African Grantmakers Network – Governing the public sphere in Africa

TrustAfrica and the Southern Africa Trust, leading members of the African Grantmakers Network, have just published a collection of country profiles assessing the climate for participatory governance and the relationships between the state and civil society in 18 African countries. (Dis) Enabling the Public Sphere: Civil society regulation in Africa, edited by Bhekinkosi Moyo, was published in November and launched in Dakar on 28 January. It opens with a foreword by Graça Machel, who urges closer collaboration among states and citizens in building a prosperous Africa.

TrustAfrica_bookThe book discusses how the public sphere is being governed today, 50 years after Africa’s independence. It forms part of TrustAfrica’s Democracy and Civil Society programme and Southern Africa Trust’s Knowing Civil Society Organizations focus area.

Although many African countries have adopted multi-party elections and put in place democratic institutions that help entrench democratic practice and equitable development, thereby shifting some negative characterizations of Africa, this volume argues that the continent’s Achilles heel remains its treatment of its citizens. As these country profiles show, African governments have joined other authoritarian regimes in enacting restrictive legislative, regulatory, administrative and political instruments to govern the nature and functions of citizens’ mobilization efforts. Beyond understanding the legislative instruments that have been enacted to regulate the space for citizens and their formations, these profiles unpack the political, legal and administrative justifications for regulating the public sphere by the post-colonial African state.

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