Civil Society and Public–Private Partnerships: Case Study of the Agri-Food Bank in South Africa

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In recent decades, civil society organizations (CSOs) have joined public–private partnerships (PPPs) to reduce poverty and promote local development. In what follows, I analyze the development of the Agri-FoodBank (AFB) CSO in South Africa in order to critically examine PPPs. As part of the FoodBank South Africa (FBSA) network of food banks, the AFB has emerged to reduce rural and urban food insecurities. Building on the national system of food banks, the AFB aims to train small-scale rural farmers to sell their crops to the food bank’s network of local food organizations which then feed the urban poor. In the case of the AFB, findings suggest that the PPP emerged as a mutually beneficial collaboration between the state and FBSA, as the state needed political power and FBSA needed money. However, for this PPP to form, FBSA completely transformed its mission and structure to fit the state’s preference for rural development projects. Thus, although the AFB formed to empower FBSA, data findings indicate that the AFB has increased state control over FBSA. In this way, PPPs need to be understood within the context of local state-civil society relations, as methods of state control reflect South Africa’s unique version of neoliberalism.



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