The Nordic Africa Institute


Political trends and economic change in Southern Africa since the 1990s

Time • 7 Jun 2018 09:00 - 17:30
Place • Medelhavsmuseet, Fredsgatan 2, Stockholm, Sweden.
The deadline for abstracts/papers was 31 May 2018

In southern Africa, there has been growing concern on the tendency
towards authoritarian leadership. This is occurring within a context
where debates about economic redistribution have been gathering
pace. However, recent political changes indicate a shift towards
a decidedly neoliberal orientation that favours international financial
markets over local concerns. It begs the question, what does it mean to
focus on electoral procedural democracy in a situation of stark economic inequalities and exclusions? When the orthodoxy of financial markets is sold as the only possible model for development, what implication does that have for democracy and freedom?

Keynote speaker: Moeletsi Mbeki, Deputy Chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs.

This seminar is arranged by Nordiska Afrikainstitutet (the Nordic Africa Institute), in collaboration with Utrikesdepartementet (the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs)

RSVP: Please register to Anette Wengelin, email, by 31 May

This workshop, departing from contemporary global discussions on the quality of democracy, will focus on the complex relations between politics and economics in Southern Africa. It brings together knowledge from expert circles including academics, political activists and analysts, media and popular debates to consider how certain political economic models and options are legitimised and others delegitimised – and how certain discourses are used by various interest groups to influence political outcomes. Overall, it considers the emerging trends arising within Southern Africa from practicing politics amidst socio-economic insecurity.

Arrival and registration/coffee
Venue: Medelhavsmuseet (The Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities), Fredsgatan 2, Stockholm

Welcoming words
Introduction to the theme of the workshop by Iina Soiri, Director of The Nordic Africa Institute

Opening remarks
A representative of the Swedish Government

Keynote speech
Moeletsi Mbeki, deputy chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs
Chair: Victor Adetula, Head of research Nordic Africa


Session 1: Political mobilisation on issues of poverty and inequality since the 1990s
How have governing and key opposition parties in the region responded to the need address poverty, inequality and economic redistribution since the 1990s? How are they mobilising politically around these issues, if at all? What role do civil
society actors play?
Discussants: Job Amupanda, Fernandes Wanda, Rudo Mungofa, Chris Mwikisa, Sandra Manuel
Chair: Patience Mususa

At the conference venue, Medelhavsmuseet

Session 2: Media, electoral consensus and democracy
What is the role of the media in your country in creating electoral consensus? What kinds of narratives are being pursued by the various media in your country? And in whose interests? How do we build a healthy free media sector that provides
for objective reporting? How do we regulate social media to stop fake news and undemocratic interferences?
Discussants: Nuno Vidal, David Sebudubudu, Pauline Dodgeson-Katiyo
Chair: Cristina Rodrigues Udelsmann

Short break

Session 3: A tendency towards populist authoritarianism?
A trend towards authoritarian leadership styles and increased populism has been noted in the region. Has there been a shift towards authoritarianism in your country? If yes, what is driving this trend? While much emphasis has been put
on authoritarian tendencies of leaders in power, the external interests supporting them and/or influencing the dynamics and directions of popular protests are often ignored. Is this an issue of concern in your country? If yes, how do we address it?
Discussants: Knox Chitiyo, Moeletsi Mbeki, Chambi Chachage, Fernandes Wanda
Chair: Patience Mususa

Short break

Roundtable: Media freedom, democratic rights and economic redistribution
Prospects for Southern Africa.
Roundtable participants: David Sebudubudu, Chris Mwikisa, Job Amupanda, Chambi Chachage, Sandra Manuel
Chair: Henning Melber

Closing remarks


While a transfer of power took place in several countries in the region more recently engineered within governing parties, political instability and conflict around elections are increasing. Protests and grassroots activism are spurred by deepening inequalities and economic crisis. The independence and freedom of media are under threat, while the proliferation of fake news and unregulated social
media are sometimes linked directly to political violence. There is a concern that obscure internal and external interests driven by big business and state apparatuses manipulate tensions and instabilities to pursue undemocratic goals. We explore these themes in the following sessions.

Patience Mususa, senior researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), has together with a team of colleagues, and in close collaboration with NAI’s co-organising partner, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, set up this programme.