James Gathii ~ ‘Africa and the Radical Origins of the Right to Development’

(2020) 1 TWAIL Review 28-50
ISSN 2563-6693
Published under a Creative Commons licence

This article builds on my earlier scholarship on African approaches to international law through examining the evolution of the right to development. Previously, I identified two approaches to international law in Africa – a contributionist (or weak) approach and a critical (or strong) approach. Through analysis of the right to development in the work of two eminent Senegalist jurists, Doudou Thiam and Keba Mbaye, I show that while Thiam adopts a radical stance that falls within the realm of critical approaches, Mbaye charts a third way: One that shares aspects of both approaches but has distinct characteristics of its own. These distinct elements show diverse and nuanced African perspectives, many of which are neither narrowly universalist in a Eurocentric sense nor parochially ethnocentric because they take too seriously Africanity. Acknowledging disparate and often competing strands of Third Worldism is important in a moment of declining United States unipolarity. This decline opens an entry point for assessing third world visions of regional and global order from the past and their continued vitality and relevance today.