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Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa



2023 Democratic Governance and Gender Institutes: Communication in Lieu of a Call for Applications

The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. Over its 50 year history, the Council has focused on its mandate of supporting African researchers to produce knowledge and elevating African voices in global discourses on issues that affect Africa and Africans around the world. The Council has done this by diligently studying global trends, their implications, and impact on Africa, and initiating programmes and interventions that help academics and intellectuals, broadly defined, to share their expertise and ideas on how to address or make these trends intelligible to Africans and others with a genuine interest in Africa and Africa’s future.

One such set of interventions was the establishment and convening of annual thematic Institutes targeting the younger generation of academics in African universities. Designed as critical  interventions to upscale the capacities of African academics to engage with and intervene in thematic areas where the Council identified a gap, the Institutes have been convened for a period ranging between two weeks to one and a half months. Under the guidance of a senior academic, the Institutes have brought together laureates annually in a series of engagements ranging from lectures, policy forums, and debate sessions that conclude with the development of academic papers or policy briefs by the laureates, whose works are then published and disseminated through CODESRIA’s various publication outlets such the CODESRIA Bulletin, CODESRIA’s journal – African Development, or CODESRIA Book Series.

Though the number of thematic Institutes that the Council convenes annually has continued to grow in response to the needs of scholars and new themes of interest that have emerged, two institutes have remained constant in the Council’s calendar. These are the Democratic Governance Institute, first convened in 1992 and the Gender Institute, first convened in 1994. Both Institutes were initiated following extensive debates and consultations within the Council’s community of scholarship. The debates focused on the promises and pitfalls of (liberal) democracy and on the demands of engendering the social sciences in Africa. As the debates ensued, it became clear that there were major intellectual gaps that made it difficult for African academics and policy actors to effectively participate in debates around democracy and to address the question of gender. One such gap was how vacuous the notion of governance as deployed by, among others, western Africanists and the Bretton Woods Institution was. This was because governance was used to blunt the historical contexts within which the struggles for democracy were conducted and subsequently led numerous western actors to deploy a technocratic and depoliticized notion of governance whose value was largely measured through a glib addition of the qualifier “good” or “bad” to the word governance without any nuances or context to it. Instead, CODESRIA argued that a notion of governance made more sense if it was understood in its historical context and interrogated as a political reality made relevant precisely because of the struggles waged by ordinary peoples of the continent. This propelled the Council to establish the Democratic Governance Institute and underscore the fact that, independent of the democratic struggle, the notion of governance was simply hollow.

A similar set of concerns surrounded CODESRIA’s engagement with gender.  The Council had been hesitant to embrace gender as an analytical category, an area that was emerging as critical to social science scholarship. Perhaps the Council was blinded by the assumption that as an analytical category, gender had not developed sufficient tools to render its deployment to social science scholarship. Besides, there was an argument that the focus of scholarship within CODESRIA hardly operationalized the study of society in ways that paid adequate attention to every day gendered realities in society. It was not until 1994 that CODESRIA supported the hosting of a major conference on engendering social sciences that the Council, in response to persuasive arguments from scholars at this conference and within the community, formally adopted and began to systematically operationalise gender as an analytical category.

These contexts explain the establishment of the Democratic Governance Institute in 1992 and of the Gender Institute in 1994. Since their initial convenings, the Council has every year held both institutes except in 2020 for the Democratic Governance Institute and in 2000, 2017 and 2020 for the Gender Institute. To date, the Democratic Governance Institute has had approximately 548 laureates while the Gender Institute has had approximately 492 laureates. The shifting contexts within which the Institutes were conceptualized, the growing numbers of laureates and the fact that 2023 is CODESRIA’s 50th Anniversary suggests that now is a suitable time for a serious stocktaking and reflection on the future of the Institutes. Further, 2023 marks the onset of the new 2023-2027 Strategic Planning cycle, a suitable moment to infuse into the plan new thinking about these two thematic areas.

The Council therefore wishes to inform members that the annual Democratic Governance and Gender Institutes will not be convened in 2023 in the format that they have been previously convened.  Rather, the Council would like to invite reflections on how these two flagship activities have contributed to the strengthening of the Council’s scientific agenda through the production of knowledge and subsequent nurturing of African scholars in the social science and humanities. As part of the commemoration of CODESRIA’s 50th Anniversary, we are sending out this communique to notify those that have participated as laureates of the Institutes, resource persons and directors of the various institutes that CODESRIA will be inviting a select representative of former directors, resource persons and laureates to a reflection session focusing on their experiences and learnings from the CODESRIA Institute, including an assessment of the benefits of the Institute to the intellectual growth of laureates and their contribution to the study of democracy and gender in Africa. The selection of participants will be done internally and will aim towards identifying diverse participants whose presence will help address different themes intrinsically linked to the celebration of 50 years of knowledge production in Africa. Selection of laureates will be limited to those who fully met their obligations to the Council as set out in the contracts for their respective Institute. Priority will also be accorded to those laureates who are paid up members of CODESRIA in good standing.

The Gender Institute will be held from 07th to 09th June, 2023 in Kampala, Uganda and the Democratic Governance Institute will be held from 05th to 07th July, 2023 in Lome, Togo Notifications of selection will be sent to participants by 14th April 2023.

The Council will also be happy to receive and disseminate any thoughts, comments or reflections from the community and especially past participants in the Institutes relating to their experiences with the Institutes. This can be shared through this address commentsforDGGInstitutes@codesria.org specially created for this purpose. A select number of the responses will be shared with the community through the website and via some of our publications.

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