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Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Research Unit | The Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden

Citizenship is a universal legal concept and norm. But its meaning and impact differ. Its codification and implementation are shaped by historical trajectories, political systems and state/government relations with members of society. State policy affects perceptions of citizenship and civic behaviour by those governed. This paper engages with current challenges relating to citizenship in Africa South of the Sahara. It centres on academic and policy discussions on citizenship but also draws on media reports and secondary literature to explore whether promoting and embracing a positive notion of citizenship can be an opportunity for states and governments as well as citizens. Could civic education be considered a worthwhile investment in social stability and a shared identification with the common good? We conclude by making a case for a social contract, which reconciles particularistic identities (such as ethnicity) with citizenship and governance under the rule of law as an investment into enhanced trust in a citizen-state relationship.


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