Alternatives to Development in Africa

  • Sally Matthews


Africa’s place in the world has been closely linked to the idea of development. Building on post-development theory’s critique of development, Matthews’ chapter asks whether and how we can move beyond development in Africa. She argues that contrary to the wishes of some post-development theorists, we cannot retrieve, discover, or create something that is purely not-development, entirely non-Western, and fully outside of coloniality. However, this does not mean that we ought to acquiesce in the face of the powerful discourses that have come to dominate the way in which we talk about Africa. The chapter tentatively explores some possible ways in which development can be both resisted and reappropriated in creative ways.


Development Post-development theory (De)coloniality Colonial library Epistemological vigilance Alternatives to development Border knowledge Border epistemologies 


  1. Anzaldua, G. E. (2007). Borderlands: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.Google Scholar
  2. Cowen, M., & Shenton, R. W. (1995). The Invention of Development. In J. Crush (Ed.), Power of Development (pp. 27–43). London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Cowen, M., & Shenton, R. W. (1996). Doctrines of Development. London and New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cooper, F. (1997). Modernizing Bureaucrats, Backwards Africans, and the Development Concept. In F. Cooper & R. M. Packard (Eds.), International Development and the Social Sciences: Essays on the History and Politics of Knowledge (pp. 64–92). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. The Economist. (2011, December 3). Africa Rising: The Hopeful Continent. The Economist.Google Scholar
  6. Escobar, A. (1995). Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Esteva, G. (1992). Development. In W. Sachs (Ed.), The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power (pp. 6–25). London: Zed.Google Scholar
  8. Ferguson, J. (1990). The Anti-Politics Machine: “Development,” Depoliticization and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho. Cape Town: David Philip.Google Scholar
  9. Gidwani, V. K. (2002). The Unbearable Modernity of ‘Development’? Canal Irrigation and Development Planning in Western India. Progress in Planning, 58, 1–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Grosfoguel, R. (1996). From Cepalismo to Neoliberalism: A World-System Approach to Conceptual Shifts in Latin America. Review, 19(2), 131–154.Google Scholar
  11. Grosfoguel, R. (2011). Decolonizing Post-Colonial Studies and Paradigms of Political-Economy: Transmodernity, Decolonial Thinking, and Global Coloniality. Transmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, 1(1), 1–37.Google Scholar
  12. Guo, J. (2010, March 1). How Africa Is Becoming the New Asia. Newsweek.Google Scholar
  13. Janz, B. (2002, March). Review of Achille Mbembe’s On the Postcolony. Published by H-Africa.
  14. Janz, B. (2012). Forget Deleuze. In L. Burns & B. M. Kaiser (Eds.), Postcolonial Literatures and Deleuze: Colonial Pasts, Differential Futures (pp. 21–36). London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Janz, B. (2015). Instrumentalisation in Universities and the Creative Potential of Race. In P. A. Tabensky & S. Matthews (Eds.), Being at Home: Race, Institutional Culture and Transformation at South African Higher Education Institutions. Durban: UKZN Press.Google Scholar
  16. Kiely, R. (1999). The Last Refuge of the Noble Savage: A Critical Assessment of Post-Development Theory. The European Journal of Development Research, 11(1), 30–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Latouche, S. (1993). In the Wake of the Affluent Society: An Exploration of Post-Development (M. O’Connor & R. Arnoux, Trans.). London and New Jersey: Zed.Google Scholar
  18. Mahajan, V. (2009). Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  19. Matthews, S. (2004). Post-development Theory and the Question of Alternatives: A View from Africa. Third World Quarterly, 25(2), 373–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mbembe, A. (2001). On the Postcolony. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  21. Mbembe, A. (2002). African Modes of Self-Writing. Public Culture, 14(1), 239–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mbembe, A. (2014). Interview by Mikaela Erskog. Retrieved from
  23. Mitchell, T. (1991). America’s Egypt: Discourse of the Development Industry. Middle East Report, 169, 18–34+36.Google Scholar
  24. Moore, D. S. (1999). The Crucible of Cultural Politics: Reworking ‘Development’ in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands. American Ethnologist, 26(3), 654–689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mudimbe, V. Y. (1988). The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Mudimbe, V. Y. (1994). The Idea of Africa, African Systems of Thought. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Nanda, M. (1999). Who Needs Post-Development? Discourses of Difference, Green Revolution and Agrarian Populism in India. Journal of Developing Societies, 15(1), 1–31.Google Scholar
  28. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, S. (2013). Empire, Global Coloniality and African Subjectivity. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  29. Olukoshi, A. (2006). African Scholars and African Studies. Development in Practice, 16(6), 533–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Quayson, A. (2002). Obverse Denominations: Africa. Public Culture, 14(3), 585–588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rahnema, M. (1997). Towards Post-Development: Searching for Signposts, a New Language and New Paradigms. In M. Rahnema & V. Bawntree (Eds.), The Post-Development Reader (pp. 377–403). Cape Town: David Philip.Google Scholar
  32. Rist, G. (1997). The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith (P. Camiller, Trans.). London: Zed.Google Scholar
  33. Sachs, W. (Ed.). (1992). The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  34. Sylla, N. S. (2014). From a Marginalized to an Emerging Africa? A Critical Analysis. Review of African Political Economy, 41(Supp 1), S7–S25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Taylor, I. (2014). Africa Rising? BRICS – Diversifying Dependency. Woodbridge: James Currey.Google Scholar
  36. Wai, Z. (2015). On the Predicament of Africanist Knowledge: Mudimbe, Gnosis and the Challenge of the Colonial Library. International Journal of Francophone Studies, 18(2&3), 263–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Yancy, G. (2008). Black Bodies, White Gazes: The Continuing Significance of Race. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  38. Yancy, G. (Ed.). (2015). White Self-Criticality Beyond Anti-Racism: How Does It Feel to Be a White Problem? Lanham: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  39. Ziai, A. (2016). Development Discourse and Global History: From Colonialism to the Sustainable Development Goals. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sally Matthews
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political and International StudiesRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations