ICTs, mobile telephony and politics in Africa: the end of the “communication for development” paradigm?

Christian Agbobli, Magda Fusaro

Abstract


The mobile telephone has become an established research subject in many regions of the world. Government officials and business leaders work equally to devise the best way to take advantage of what mobile telephony has to offer in Africa. The growing interest in mobile telephony in this part of the world inspires us to reflect upon the manner in which theory can contribute to better understanding the growth, use and impact of mobile telephony in Africa according to its relationship with politics.[1] In this sense, our goal here is two-fold: identify the social and theoretical context in which issues related to mobile telephony and politics in Africa insert themselves; and to analyze the traditional theories regarding information and communication technologies (ICTs) in Africa in relation to politics. New theoreticalapproaches for thinking about mobile telephony in Africa are also proposed in order to understand the new paradigms that are at stake in the continent’s development.

Keywords: ICTs – Mobile telephony – Politics – Africa – Development - Communication


[1]      The Global Media Journal “Call for Papers”asked that authors engage with the notion of collective action in Africa. From our perspective, politics is the concern of collective action in the sense that Chantal Mouffe, in 1993's The Return of the Political, insists that politics cannot be limited to a certain type of institution but is instead conceived of as an inherent dimension of human societies, thus determining our ontological condition (1993, p. 3). Politics is marked by power and antagonism and is rooted in a form of political participation. “By political participation we refer to those legal acts by private citizens that are more or less directly aimed at influencing the selection of government personnel and/or the actions that they take”(Verba, 1978, p. 46). Whereas for Mouffe (1993, p. 6), “(w)hen there is a lack of democratic political struggles with which to identify, their place is taken by other forms of identification, of ethnic, nationalist or religious nature.”In our analysis, political participation may occur in an illegal manner, in the sense that no official authorization has been granted to the actions and that politics is not limited to the democratic or non-democratic character of a given country.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5789/9-1-193

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