Undermining Development

The Absence of Power among Local NGOs in Africa

Sarah Michael



Why haven’t development programs sponsored by local NGOs been more effective in Africa? In this careful study of NGOs in three African countries—Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Senegal—Sarah Michael exposes reasons why successful, well-run, and powerful development programs are infrequent in Africa. Michael’s argument focuses on issues of power. NGOs in Africa do not command the financial resources, employ the professional staff, or have the same access to donors that NGOs in other parts of the world enjoy. Main topics covered in this probing book include: What does a powerful NGO look like? How does power affect sustainable development? What circumstances prevent local NGOs in Africa from wielding power? How can African NGOs remedy their absence of power? What relationship with donors and international NGOs should be cultivated? This book will interest readers concerned with issues pertaining to the organization, mission, and implementation of development NGOs in Africa and beyond.


This is a fascinating book for those interested in the tactics of how non-governmental organisations (NGOs) become powerful.... It can help African NGO leaders to analyse their relationship to governments, donors and other NGOs. - African Studies Review


Sarah Michael is a Research Associate at the Global Equity Initiative, Harvard University.