NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa

Potentials, constraints and diverging experiences

Authored by: Hans Holmén

Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations

Print publication date:  April  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138285507
eBook ISBN: 9781315268927
Adobe ISBN:


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Since the 1980s, sub-Saharan Africa has seen a veritable boom of NGOs 1 and their numbers are still increasing. In many camps – especially in the West – this has been accompanied by great enthusiasm about their abilities to speed up development and, particularly, to reach the poor and vulnerable groups in society and, hence, to include more people in the development process. 2 NGOs were seen as closer to the grassroots, as more democratic, effective and empowering than state-led projects or bilateral aid programs. With hindsight, it is clear that this enthusiasm was often naïve and founded on assumptions rather than on experience. NGOs were largely unknown at the time and their advantages were merely potential, not yet realized advantages. After more than 30 years of NGO activities, it is still often the case that more is believed than known about NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa.

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