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From Palaver Tree to State House: Reflection on the Tension between Dialogue & Governance in Africa

Published in the Journal of Dialogue studies Vol 11.

Dialogue & Governance in Africa

Research and debate on endogenous systems of governance and their potential to responding to the democratic crisis in Global Africa is one of the focus of AFROSPECTIVES. In May 2022 we organised an international seminar on “Revisiting Theories and practices of Endogenous Governance” (see report on our website). In partnership with the Journal of Dialogue Studies and with the Global Humanity of Peace Institute, AFROSPECTIVES participated in the publication this month of an open-access special issue on “Governance for the Human Future: The Centrality of Dialogue”. This issue includes a contribution on one of the great stakes of Global Africa.


This paper proposes a reflective approach to exploring the complex relationship between dialogue and governance. It first recalls the different dimensions of dialogue and its centrality in governance and discusses the fundamental tension between these two practices that constantly challenges power dynamics in decision making. Through analyses of how different governance systems tend to domesticate, shape, and regulate dialogue in responding to this tension, this paper further identifies three types of dialogue that come into play in three different contexts:

(1) ‘open-ended’ dialogue practised by the African endogenous systems of governance,

(2) ‘locked dialogue’ imposed by the African Nation States, and

(3) ‘biased dialogue’ promoted by international and transnational organisations.

Such analyses are particularly meaningful in enabling us to draw lessons from these three cases of interaction between dialogue and governance. Ultimately, this paper seeks to reconcile the requirements for multidimensional and relational practices of dialogue with the rational processes of governance in an increasingly globalised and interdependent world.

Dialogue & Governance in Africa article Ali Moussa Iye

Journal of dialogue studies Vol 11



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