This article studies philanthropy as a way to decipher the transformations of an economic ethos in Africa for the past two decades. It shows how new patterns of civic giving are related to the formation of private sector elites – professionals, managers and businessmen – as a distinct, self-identified social group, aware of its own interests and organized to defend them, especially against politicians, whose clientelist practices are increasingly criticized. It eventually demonstrates how these elites tend to promote, as proofs of respectability and self-worthiness rather than as a political strategy, new standards of governance, inspired by private sector practices, which are both unquestionable and unaccountable. This advocates for studying African states not only as a set of institutions and policies, but also as the work of a certain type of men, with their own peculiar ethos and political imagination.
Charity and the Moral Constitution of an African Economic EliteBy Dominique Connan