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Global South Elites, Civil Society and the Democratization of International Development Institutions: A Gramscian Analysis of Leslye Obiora and the World Bank

  • Author(s): Warner, Jason
  • et al.

Discussions of the interactions between African governments and global IGOs (inter-governmental organizations) are often based on the premise that despite their historical marginalization, states on the continent inherently posses some degree of agency in determining their development trajectory. While politically correct, is such an assertion true? Are players within African governments able to formulate development policy independently of global development IGOS (like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund) or are decisions made by African governments still largely underpinned by the wishes of hegemonic development institutions? This essay argues for the latter interpretation.

Using a Gramscian framework, I offer a case study of the World Bank's reaction to Leslye Obiora, the former Minister of Mines and Steel Development for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, when she rejected a $120 million World Bank loan that she deemed to be usurious. My thesis is that because of her rejection of the World Bank loans on behalf of Nigerian civil society, Obiora was thus viewed as a threat to the propagation of the World Bank’s hegemonic development ideology. A Gramscian organic crisis ensued, and, unable to ideologically co-opt her through the process of “transformismo,” the World Bank “rejected” Obiora in favor of a Minister more sympathetic to its pre-established development ideology. Due to their tendency to “reject” African elites who espouse alternative modalities of development for their nascent communities, I argue that the undemocratic nature of the International Financial Institutions leads African civil society to suffer an exclusion from the global development processes that are ostensibly intended for their benefit.

This essay begins by introducing Leslye Obiora and offers a brief explanation of the conditions surrounding her resignation from her post as Nigeria’s Minister of Mining and Steel Development. It next proceeds by introducing various Gramscian concepts and relating them to the sundry players in the contemporary political-economy relevant to an investigation of Dr. Obiora’s interactions with the World Bank. In conclusion, it explicitly explains how a Gramscian, neo-Marxist vision of African governments’ relationships with the World Bank and IMF may be said to have ultimately led to Dr. Obiora’s resignation from her Ministerial post. Throughout, it emphasizes that although this is one interpretation of her experience, it should not be viewed as exclusively explanatory.

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