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Kelsall T. (2008) Going with the Grain in African Development?, Development Policy Review, Volume 29, Issue Supplement s1, pages s223–s251


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Summary:

This article examines what — in contrast to development through the good governance agenda informed by Western practices — development processes based on shared habits and widely understood practices in Africa means, i.e. development “going with the grain of African ways of doing things”. In Africa, the extended family remains the primary locus of political obligation and moral imperative, according to the author. The other effective development institutions are religious (churches, mosques etc.) and community and ethnically based forms of organization. Such organizations are based on some constant socio-political variables: face-to-face accountability, “big men”, clientelism (patronage), and (in the case of larger structures) political largesse. Going with the grain at a local level implies utilizing the authority of leaders who already enjoy local legitimacy even if it is based on ‘Father-Family-Food’ neo-patrimonialism. Thus, “the question for developers wanting to work with the grain of African society — is not how to transform neo-patrimonialism, since that is an impossible or at least very long-term project, but rather how to restrain or mitigate its worst effects: how to ensure that despotism is always enlightened”.