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Thomas Smucker, Maingi Solomon, and Benjamin Wisner

A growing number of civil society actors across the African continent are in the forefront of disaster risk reduction (DRR) engagements that span service delivery, humanitarian response, community mobilization, capacity building, and policy advocacy. Their roles include valorization of local knowledge and harnessing pressure for transformative change. All of this contributes to natural hazard governance. In contrast to early post-colonial dominance by central governments, natural hazard governance across the continent has gradually been dispersed downward to local institutions and outward to civil society. A series of factors has shaped African civil society and its engagement with DRR-related activities since the 2000s, including heavy debt burdens, neoliberal market reforms, the formation of substantial national NGO sectors out of diverse social movements, and the growth of international humanitarian networks with substantial African presence. Although country- and region-specific political dynamics have created different pathways for civil society engagement with DRR, macro forces have produced strong overarching similarities in state–civil society interaction, particularly with regard to the shrinking of the state and a movement toward technical approaches in DRR. Common pressures of debt, violent conflict, mega-project investment, corruption, and the “natural resource curse” have inflected state–non-state relations because some civil society organizations in all regions have had to become advocates of “another development” and critics of business-as-usual. Within such limitations, practitioners have much to learn from best practices of a diverse set of organizations that span the continent.