Toward ‘Re-Humanizing’ Projects

and Project Management in Africa


By Isaac Odhiambo-Abuya

Nairobi, Kenya


This paper is an attempt toward ‘re-humanizing’ projects and project management in Africa and ‘saving’ development projects in the continent from the shackles of ‘market fundamentalism’ inexorably driven by shareholder capitalism focused on profit maximization. As in other developing countries, projects and project management in Africa have largely been at the service of shareholder capitalists evidenced through their heightened focus on production of market and profit oriented ‘unique products and services’ that are hardly responsive to the needs and challenges that confront millions of Africa’s poorest. We maintain that projects and project management in Africa (and also in other developing countries) have historically served and continue to serve the interest of shareholder capitalists, who design, plan and finance and implement ‘development’ projects in the continent through corporatist project-based organizations. We argue that development projects can only be relevant and responsive in addressing the ‘roaming black elephants’ and the ‘wicked problems’ in Africa, namely dehumanization, marginalization and destitution, when the needs and the conditions of the historically marginalized populations and communities in the continent are placed at the center of development programming. To save projects from the shackles of market fundamentalism, projects and project management in the continent should be grounded on a philosophy of pragmatic humanism that places people and not shareholder capitalists and markets at the center of projects and project management. Africa’s development projects must be designed and managed to serve the historically marginalized millions in the continent. This calls for a new and radical project development and implementation paradigm grounded on a re-humanizing orientation. Invariably, Africa governments and their development policy elites, sponsors and managers of development projects have a responsibility to re-design and re-orientate development programming around the needs and lived experiences of millions in the continent who have historically been marginalized and made destitute by shareholder capitalism through their neoliberal development projects.


Development projects are the center of the so called “African Renaissance’- a ‘new’ Africa. All over Africa, massive infrastructure development projects are being implemented to open up the continent for new investments. The African Union, for instances, places innovative flagship development projects at the center of its ambitious Agenda 2063 development blue print for the continent. Development projects are shaping not only the politics in Africa, but are also being used as a strategy for marketing and repositioning individual countries in the continent as new investment hubs. Development projects are routinely being deployed to re-image the continent and used as evidence of a continent on the journey to economic and cultural rebirth (the ‘African Renaissance’). Flagship development projects, specifically massive infrastructure development projects, are at the center of the so-called renaissance. However, behind these massive infrastructure development projects are millions of historically destitute and marginalized populations and communities in the continent who are routinely forcibly relocated with paltry compensation or no compensations at all to give room for the ‘re-birth of the continent’ through infrastructure led development. In the face of the massive development taking place in Africa through infrastructure led development projects, the growing statistics on poverty, unemployment, marginalization and suffering of millions of people in Africa are shocking but not surprising. The 2006 World Bank summarized the deplorable and pathetic development conditions in Africa:

Making headway against African poverty and meeting the Millennium Development Goals are raising difficult challenges in most African countries. Despite pockets of success, nearly half the region’s population still lives in extreme poverty, and Africa still houses about three-fourths of the world’s poorest countries.

While trillions are annually sunk into development projects in the continent, millions of people in Africa go to bed without food, die from curable diseases, with skyrocketing unemployment among millions of fairly well educated and qualified young people. Whereas some development policy experts argue that the massive infrastructure-led development taking place in Africa will take time for its positive effects to be felt by the poor in the continent, there is legitimate concern about the relevance of these output-based development projects in the face of destitution, marginalization and peasantization.


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How to cite this paper: Odhiambo-Abuya, I. (2021). Toward Re-Humanizing Projects and Project Management in Africa; PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue II, February. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/pmwj102-Feb2021-Abuya-toward-re-humanizing-projects-and-project-management-in-africa.pdf

About the Author

Dr. Isaac Odhiambo-Abuya

Nairobi, Kenya


Isaac Odhiambo-Abuya teaches Project Management at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He has a combined 25-years of experience in managing development projects and teaching in basic and higher institutions of learning in Kenya. Odhiambo-Abuya has an earned PhD in Project Planning and Management from the University of Nairobi. His research interests include the integration of equity principles in the design, planning, implementation and evaluation of development projects. He can be reached through: isaac.abuya@uonbi.ac.ke