Between a Rock and a Hard Place examines Africa's NGO boom of the late 1990s. In spite of the high expectations placed on African NGOs during this period, these organizations remain poorly understood. Today, Africa's NGO boom has been followed by a bust—as the fickle development industry moves its money to other types of institutions. In spite of this funding bust, the explosion of NGOs in Africa during the 1990s transformed African societies and economies in fundamental ways. In the wake of Africa's NGO boom, it is imperative that these transformations be understood and placed in historical context. Such an understanding will help us to learn from the mistakes of this brief historical period—as well as to build on its opportunities. The case studies presented in the body of this work provide the missing details of this historical moment.
Through these case studies, this book examines two questions that are fundamental to development and governance in Africa—and around the world:
The book begins with a comprehensive introduction, which outlines the theoretical debates surrounding Africa's NGO boom—and the question of civil society in Africa. This section is followed by detailed ethnographic accounts of the NGO boom from Zimbabwe to Mali and the types of social tranformations these organizations were part. Most importantly, these accounts reveal the ways in which African elites and community organizers have worked to position themselves within the global networks of development and governance institutions, and the impacts of their strategies on life in African communities. They reveal the ways in which African NGOs have had to negotiate the different and often contradictory demands on their own constituencies, donors, and African states—the ways in which they have succeeded and the ways in which they have come unglued.
“Igoe and Kelsall provide useful suggestions on how to understand historical and cultural contexts of NGOs.” — Development and Change
“The volume consists of eleven chapters, which provide rich ethnographic studies covering the entire continent… [T]he chapters interact and engage with one another, creating an excellent collection of essays that together provides a rich, multilayered, and thought provoking introduction to the dramatic growth of NGOs in Africa since 1990.” — The International Journal of African Historical Studies