The International Labor Organization and African States: Internationalizing States and Dispersed Foreign Policy

  • Nick Bernards
Part of the Contemporary African Political Economy book series (CONTAPE)


This chapter examines the puzzling persistence of the ILO programming in postcolonial Africa. The ILO’s approaches to labour issues have often seemed well out of step with those of African governments, and engagement with the ILO would seem to do little to advance the broader strategic goals of many African states. Yet, the ILO’s role in the region has persisted and even expanded. The chapter draws on Robert Cox’s concept of ‘the internationalizing state’, and advances the concept of ‘dispersed foreign policy’, in order to offer an explanation. Interactions with the ILO have often taken place through line ministries and been shaped by domestic political concerns, particularly driven by issues around labour politics and unemployment. The chapter draws on examples from a pair of high-profile engagements, the World Employment Programme in Kenya in the 1970s and the Decent Work Agenda in present-day South Africa, to support this argument.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nick Bernards
    • 1
  1. 1.Queen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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