Are Non-state Actors Better Innovators? The Ambiguous Role of Non-state Actors in the Transition Process: The Case of Benin and Madagascar
The focusing on new rules and institutional innovations by the international donor community corresponds to current academic analyses on “weak” or “failing states” in Africa and elsewhere. However, the concentration on externally induced institutional innovations and on the formal sector of the society tackles only half of the problem. Frequently it even undermines indigenous development capacities. Innovators in the informal sector and the agency of the civil society, embedded in the local socio-cultural setting, but closely linked to transnational social spaces, do often outperform the state's development efforts and international aid. African culture is not inherently good or bad, but under certain conditions its propensity to change and to influence perceptions of power and values can induce important improvements in well-being. Even seemingly static cultural factors as custom, tradition or ethnicity, often said to be barriers to economic growth in Africa, have been invented or adapted to changing requirements of societies. Rather than blaming the failure of development efforts in Africa over the past decades on cultural barriers or traditional minded actors, we should investigate the propensity of African societies to create indigenous innovations, notably within the realm of the informal sector.
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