SR article

Civil society Analysis

In this article four problems are described that may occur when we are in Kenya. These problems are found in literature of three different authors, Sardan, Hayden and Hansen

  1. Public Domain

In Sardan’s article (1999) is described that in a big part of Africa there’s no village property. Even if the village seems to have a “public space” they are owned by a representative of an eminent local group or by the state. This is a part of why there are a lot of NGO’s in Kenya, but it is hard for these organizations to really ingrain in the society. Most of the space is private, which makes that families or tribes are responsible for this space. This keeps the ‘refined’ culture of Kenya alive, because the private property makes that the Africans still communicate very refined with each other by sending al orts of subtle messages in sub-sentences, because they really care about the trust they have in each other. Trust is one of the most important things by keeping this private space alive. Therefore, the public domain in Kenya is still undeveloped, but more and more developing in the last years. The NGO’s which grow in Kenya can help by creating a public domain with responsibility beyond family or relations.

Our project is about creating public feeling by opening a resource centre in a small village in Kenya, Okana. This resource centre stands for a public space where everyone of the community should feel welcome and it is about creating knowledge in the village by opening as example a library and cybercafé in the centre. We should be aware of the struggles which we can encounter by opening a public space. The community will be unknown by this type of public space, and may be thinking that the centre is just for the relations of the NGO, and not for the whole community. The resource centre should work on commitment beyond family lines.

2.Expanding in local market

Hansen’s article (2015) is written about Tanzania, but the problems that are addressed are also present in our area in Kenya. Hansen describes that product markets are a hard thing to work with, because there is no communication between buyers and sellers. Sellers don’t have access to consumer-information, because there are no organizations that retrieve this information. Buyers cannot use a judicial mechanism when products or services are not what they expected, because this mechanism doesn’t exist or functions. This doesn’t enhance the relationship between sellers and buyers. Besides this bad communication, there is also a non-equal playing field on the markets. There is a lot about relations between each other, nepotism is a characteristic in the Kenyan local markets. This is contributory for the expand of local markets. As well as this non-equal playing field, also the diversify of the buyers is not stimulating expand of the markets. There are a lot of players who plays on more than one market, which is not fair for the competition.

Because we’re going to try to put a product on the market, the BamGoo as you can read in our project plan, the expand of local markets is a possible relevant problem for us. We need to do a comprehensive market analysis and we need to look into the communication network. But we have to be careful how to interpret the answers given by the local community. We are aware that African people are really good in playing the rhetorical game. They talk about what you want to hear from them, instead of telling the real truth. It is possible that for example African sellers at local markets tell us that they do not have any relations with their buyers, but we can assume that this will be the case. In our project, we should listen very carefully to what the community exactly says, and interpret this in the way that they mean it. The subtle messages in the sub sentences are again a key point, because African people are not really direct communicators because of the fear of losing trust.

 3.Working with the grain

In Hyden’s article (2008) the phenomenon “working with the grain” is explained as a way to make things in Africa work. The system in Africa is not as we know it in the Western world. When you want to start for example a business and you need to work with stakeholders, everything consist of personal connections. There is no overall body that makes sure the relations follow rules or regulations. The person that you started the relation with is also in a personal relation with somebody else in business and also depends on him or her. So you also depend on that person. You can see it as tug-of-war. When you need something to work, you have to make these people depended of you. When this happens you have the power and the biggest chance that you will succeed.

For our project this is important because we need to find out how the inhabitants of Okana can be successful in business, to do this we need to understand how the system works and we need to make sure that they get a position with power. Creating trust by ‘working with the grain’ is one of needed things in our project, we should work at how the community is used to work, so that we will gain the trust of the community.


In most African countries there are various types of law. These are inherited over the ages. The problem is that most of the time they don’t introduce one absolute law system, but they let the various systems exist next to each other. When two people are negotiating they almost never find a consensus, because there is no equal access. Often one is in a power position and uses the different law systems to his likings. Because of this, corruption is an easy additional phenomenon. For the Kenyan culture, as Sardan (1999) mentions, it is important that the people see corruption as corruption, where now they still think corruption is a part of the ethics of the country and not always a bad thing. With this general thought about corruption, the non-equal access will still persist in the country.

In our project, creating trust again is the key point by this negotiation. If we find some local people who we can trust, this will lead to less manipulation against us, because the local people can tell us or help us with the standard values of the Kenyan culture. The lack of law enforcement can still be have consequences for our project, but we are aware of this and we should try to sink into the society differences that Kenya has, so that our project will be as successful as possible.



J.P. Olivier de Sardan. A Moral Economy of Corruption in Africa? In: The Journal of Modern African Studies 37 (1999) 1: 25-52.

M.W. Hansen, T. Langevang, L. Rutashobya& G. Urassa, 2015. Coping with the African Business Environment: Strategic Response under Market and Institutional Uncertainty in the Tanzanian Food Processing Industry. CBDS Working Paper Series, No. 24.

Hyden, 2008. Institutions, Power and Policy Outcomes in Africa. Discussion Paper