I found this to be a highly analytical and empirical book, partly because it is based on a Ph.D. thesis received from Trinity College, University of Cambridge (2001). Her first book, it powerfully explores how the absence of power structures among local African non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has undermined development in sub-Saharan Africa. None of the local African NGOs she examined were ‘powerful’, in a way similar to ‘powerful’ local NGOs in Asia and Latin America. By ‘power’ she means the ability of an NGO to set its own agenda and to exert influence over others to achieve it. The central thesis is that the more powerful NGOs tend to more sustainable, the less powerful tend to be less sustainable. The book’s overall objective was therefore to demonstrate exactly how local NGOs have been denied power and exactly how more balanced power relations would benefit development in the South, and in Africa specifically. My major criticism is that Michael’s theorization of ‘local NGO power’ did not pay adequate attention to the role of the mass media. As she herself noted towards the end of the book, it is the media that in many ways control the size of the development space in a (African) country and crucially, the citizens’ exposure to local NGOs’ work. The media can create or destroy the power of local NGOs in Africa and that was not fully recognized in the book.
How to Cite:
Mano W., (2017) “Book Review: Sarah Michael (2004) Undermining Development: The Absence of Power Among Local NGOs in Africa, Oxford and Bloomington: James Currey and Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-85255-439-7 (Oxford: James Currey) & ISBN 0-253-21772-5 (Bloomington & In”, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture 2(1). p.119-121. doi: https://doi.org/10.16997/wpcc.11