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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Marcus Power

Power, M. (2009). 'The Commonwealth, ‘development’ and post-colonial responsibility'. Geoforum 40(1): 14-24.

Author(s) from Durham


One important (though often neglected) part of the ‘development business’ committed to principles of partnership is the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 independent countries, almost all of which were formerly under British rule. This paper focuses on the Commonwealth’s contemporary sense of ‘responsibility’ for shaping African development through ‘partnership’ and by promoting ‘good governance’ and examines the particular example of Mozambique, which joined the Commonwealth in 1995. In exploring exactly what membership of this post-colonial ‘family’ has meant for Mozambique the paper explores the neocolonial paternalism and sense of trusteeship that the Commonwealth has articulated in its often very apolitical vision of African development which seems to lock the continent into a permanent stage of tutelage and to repetitively reduce Africa to a set of core deficiencies for which externally generated ‘solutions’ must be devised. More generally, the paper also examines the wider context of the Commonwealth’s involvement in Africa by looking at the connections it has made to British industry, British charities and the British Department for International Development (DFID). The paper concludes with an assessment of the ‘showcase’ potential of Mozambique and its importance to Commonwealth and DFID narrations of an African ‘success’ story of peace, stability and growth since the end of the country’s devastating civil war in 1992.