2018 Africa Conference at The University of Texas at Austin - CFP extended to January 20, 2018

Kenneth E. Kalu's picture
Call for Papers
January 20, 2018
Texas, United States
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Area Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Political Science, Public Policy


Closing date for submission of abstracts, and conference registration extended to January 20, 2018

18th Annual Africa Conference at the University of Texas at Austin

(March 30 – April 1, 2018)

Convened by: Prof. Toyin Falola, Department of History, UT Austin

Leadership and Institutions in Africa


Purposeful leadership and inclusive political and economic institutions have been identified as necessities for Africa and all Africa-related peoples and regions to begin to address past failures, confront present predicaments and chart a credible course for the future. Africa’s leaders have largely failed to transform the African state and its institutions into agents of development for the benefit of the citizens. Several explanations have been adduced for the observed leadership deficiencies that have become almost permanent narratives of Africa. Such explanations have often included, but not limited to, externalist arguments that point to the legacies of colonial exploitation and its neocolonial challenges, as well as contemporary global events that systemically constrain Africa’s opportunities for growth and development. There are also internalist explanations that attribute Africa’s leadership conundrum and institutional failures to the rapacity and irresponsible choices of successive African leaders. Whatever these explanations may be, there is an emerging consensus that real progress cannot happen until Africa addresses its leadership questions and transforms its weak and predatory institutions to inclusive ones. 


The 2018 Africa Conference will critically examine Africa’s political leadership and extant institutions vis-à-vis the continent’s history of underdevelopment, present challenges, and future trajectories within the global political economy. Scholars are invited to interrogate the nature and evolution of leadership and institutions in Africa from the pre-colonial era to contemporary times. Institutions in this context are broadly defined to include formal and informal institutions, including history, traditions and culture of the people. Is it leadership that shapes institutions or do institutions determine the quality of leaders that emerge? How can African states achieve the leadership and institutional transformation necessary to address the perennial development challenges of the continent? Are there lessons that could be drawn from the experiences of the pre-colonial era to inform contemporary issues of leadership? We invite proposals for papers, panel presentations, roundtables and artistic works/performances that would critically examine these and other related issues on Africa’s leadership and institutions.


As in years past, participants will be drawn from around the world. Graduate students are encouraged to attend and present papers. The conference will provide time for scholars from various disciplines and geographical locations to interact, exchange ideas, and receive feedback. Additionally, selected papers will be published in a series of book volumes. Submitted papers will be assigned to particular panels according to similarities in theme, topic, discipline, or geographical focus. Panel proposals (of 3-5 presenters) are especially encouraged.


We invite submissions that include but are not limited to the following sub-themes and topics:


Institutions Conceptualized

  • The nature and role of formal and informal institutions
  • Institutional path dependency
  • Institutional change and transformation
  • Incentive structures and the choices of agents
  • Institutions and Economic Performance
  • Policy institutions
  • Institutions and enforcement mechanisms
  • The state, its institutions and the citizens


Leadership and Institutions in Pre-colonial Africa

  • The nature of leadership in pre-colonial Africa
  • The role of chiefs, kings, monarchs and other authority figures
  • The interface between culture and leadership in pre-colonial Africa
  • The evolution of culture from the pre-colonial era to the present
  • The society and the citizen in the pre-colonial era
  • Traditional institutions versus contemporary systems


Leadership and Institutions in the Colonial Era

  • State formation in Africa
  • The nature of colonial institutions
  • Interactions of colonial institutions and pre-colonial systems
  • The rise of new elites
  • Dislocations, transformations, and modernity
  • Nationalism and new trajectories


Colonial Legacies

  • Colonial exploitation and the emergence of predatory state-society relations
  • Neocolonialism
  • Colonial economic models
  • Western democracy and the conflict of culture
  • Dependence on former colonial masters
  • Rural-urban divide and the challenge of active citizenship
  • Education, culture and the leadership question


The Nature of Political Leadership in Postcolonial Africa

  • The role of Africa’s independence leaders in setting leadership standards
  • Leadership recruitment processes
  • The role of culture in determining the type of leaders that emerge
  • Religion and leadership
  • Foreign interventions in domestic policies
  • Education, training and leadership
  • Ethnicity and the leadership question
  • Democracy and accountability
  • Citizenship, expectations, and civic engagements
  • The role of civil society in holding leaders accountable
  • Class and the political economy of leadership recruitment
  • Africa’s Big Men
  • Patriarchy, gender and the leadership question



Institutions in Postcolonial Africa

  • The nature of political and economic institutions
  • Evolution of institutions in postcolonial Africa
  • Colonialism and the legacies of exploitation and expropriation
  • Examination of critical institutions of the state – public service, the Police Force, etc.
  • Property rights institutions
  • Anti-corruption crusades and institutional reforms
  • Law enforcement and the judiciary
  • Economic systems, financial institutions and systems
  • Law enforcement and anti-corruption institutions
  • Institutions and informal politics and spaces
  • The future of traditional institutions in Africa



The Cold War and Africa’s Postcolonial Leadership

  • Africa’s decolonization and the Cold War
  • The impact of the Cold War on Africa’s independence leaders
  • The nature of foreign interventions during the Cold War
  • The Cold War and the emergence of violent political culture
  • International legitimacy versus domestic popularity for African leaders
  • The Cold War and Africa’s political institutions
  • Post-Cold War transformations of African leadership


Multilateral Institutions in Africa

  • The role of the World Bank and IMF in Africa’s economic systems
  • Public debt and the choices of African leaders
  • Foreign interests and interventions in leadership selection
  • Economic development ideologies versus local realities
  • The futility of universal recipes in economic policies
  • Foreign aid and leaders’ responsibilities
  • The usefulness of foreign aid in Africa
  • Conditionalities and citizens’ welfare
  • The future of development assistance to Africa
  • The effect of foreign aid on institutions 


Information Technology and Social Media

  • Social media and citizens’ demand for leadership accountability
  • Dissemination of government programs
  • Social media and government transparency
  • Information technology and the election process
  • Leadership recruitment, retention and removal
  • Citizenship participation in the governance process
  • Public engagements and institutional change



  • Education and citizenship rights
  • The relationship between education, industry and bureaucracy
  • State involvement in education
  • Quality and availability of basic and compulsory leadership education
  • History, leadership and the African state
  • The role of the media in institutions building

Creativity and Performance of Leadership/Institutional deficits

  • Creative governance
  • Leadership Accountability
  • Models of institutional checks and balances
  • Governance peer review mechanism


Each individual proposal must include: 1) title of the work, and an abstract of 200 words, 2) name of the presenter (with the surname underlined). 3) mailing address, 4) number phone, 5) email, 6) institutional affiliation, and 7) three to five keywords that best characterize the themes and topics relevant to your submission. Participants are encouraged to abide by these guidelines.


Proposals for panels (3-5 presenters) must include: 1) title of the panel and a collective summary of 250 words on the panel’s theme, including the title of each individual work 2) a 200-word abstract for the presentation of each speaker 3) mailing address 4) phone number 5) email and 6) institutional affiliation of each presenter. Panels with four presenters or less may be completed with other relevant presentations.


Proposals will be accepted on the official conference website from mid-August 2017 to January 20, 2018 (http://www.utexas.edu/cola/africa-conference/). A mandatory non-refundable registration fee of $150 for scholars and $100 for graduate students must be paid immediately upon the acceptance of the abstract. This conference fee includes conference t-shirt and bag, admission to the panels, workshops, and special events, as well as transportation to and from the hotel and conference events. Registration also includes breakfast for all three days, dinner on Friday night, lunch on Saturday, a banquet with DJ and open bar Saturday evening, and a closing celebration at Dr. Falola’s house including dinner and DJ. All participants must raise the funding to attend the conference, including registration fee, transportation and accommodation. The conference and the University of Texas at Austin does not provide any form of sponsorship or financial support. However, the Holiday Inn Austin Town Lake will have a special rate for conference participants, and transportation between the hotel and the university is included.

Contact conference coordinators Toyin Falola and Ken Kalu at toyinfalola@austin.utexas.edu and africaconference2018@gmail.com, if you have questions, or if you need more information.  


Contact Info: 

 Toyin Falola and Benjamin Nutor; The University of Texas at Austin, TX, USA