Models, Developments, and Effects of Transborder Youth Volunteer Exchange Programs in Eastern and Southern Africa

Jacob Mwathi Mati


The people of eastern and southern African are connected by a shared socioeconomic and political history. Yet, a dichotomy resulting from arbitrary colonial chiseling continues to be reproduced through parochial nationalism and feeble integration efforts of the African Union and the various regional integration initiatives such as Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC). While SADC and EAC invoke shared history in their respective regional integration efforts and have clear political frameworks for the same (cf. EAC, 1999; SADC, 2008), a sense of regional identity is shared more by political leaders than by the average person (Kasaija, 2004; Kornegay, 2006). This is partly because ‘leaders have not carried the people along with them on the integration journey’ (Kasaija, 2004, p. 21). Further, shared social, political, economic experiences and ecological challenges have not been sufficiently mobilized in creating an African identity (Appiah, 1993). As such, instead of progress toward integration, pervasive incidences of xenophobia such as in South Africa suggest degeneration and African integration remains a dream yet to be meaningful to everyday lives and perspectives of ordinary citizens (Okoth, 2013; Southern Africa Trust & AFS Interculture, n.d.).

But an identity that fosters integration, as Brubaker and Cooper (2000) argue, can be socially constructed and used politically to get people to understand themselves, see themselves as similar to one another, and to pursue shared interests. Studies using social constructivist perspectives show that social identities can be

J.M. Mati (*)

School of Social Sciences, The University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji

Society, Work and Development Institute, The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg , South Africa e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

J. Butcher, C.J. Einolf (eds.), Perspectives on Volunteering, Nonprofit and Civil Society Studies, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-39899-0_7

‘embedded and constructed in actions’ such as transnational or cross-border volunteering (Sanchez-Mazas & Klein, 2003, p. 4; Sturmer & Kampmeier, 2003). The people-to-people interactions inherent in volunteer programs can aid formation of bridging social capital1 (Lough, Sherraden, & McBride, 2014); development of value consensus, mutual understanding and purpose, accommodation of difference (Caprara, Mati, Obadare, & Perold, 2012; Kimenyi & Kimenyi, 2011; Lough & Mati, 2012 ; Ouma & Dimaras, 2013); and creation of a regional identity that could foster regional integration efforts (Mati & Perold, 2012; Sturmer & Kampmeier, 2003).

Despite this evidence, volunteer programs remain largely untapped for African integration purposes. The 2011 introduction of African Union Youth Volunteer Corps by the African Union in addition to a few other South-South African volunteer programs in the last decade are therefore welcome developments. However, such nascent programs are still of limited scope. Moreover, there is still a dearth of literature on the contributions of intra-African transborder volunteering (especially youth) to Africa’s integration and development goals. Even where it exists, such literature is mainly practitioner oriented .

This chapter draws from a comparative evaluation of two transborder youth volunteers exchange programs in eastern and southern Africa.[1] [2] The programs are Canada World Youth South-South Young Leaders in Action (CWY YLA) and Southern Africa Trust (SAT) SayXchange in South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Kenya. The principal research questions addressed are as follows: (1) what are some of the models for youth volunteer exchange programs active in eastern and southern Africa?; (2) to what extent do experiences of volunteers, host communities, and organization’s participants corroborate the predetermined impacts of some of these programs?; (3) what are the contributions of these programs to African regional integration and development imperatives?

The chapter has four sections. The first section provides an overview of existing volunteer exchange models in eastern and southern Africa. For the purposes of this chapter, existing models are categorized on a North/South binary of volunteers’ origin in relation to where they serve. The second section gives a brief description of Social Analysis System (SAS[2]) methodology used in evaluating impacts of the two programs. Evidence and analysis in the third section suggest that in addition to their empowerment potential, interactive social action processes inherent in these programs are viable for inciting shared identity consciousness and social capital formation that aids Africa’s development and integration efforts. On the basis of this evidence, the chapter concludes that efforts to integrate Africans should explore the utilization of such initiatives.

  • [1] Social capital is defined as ‘norms and networks that enable people to act collectively’ (Woolcock& Narayan, 2000, p. 225).
  • [2] The chapter draws from a study led by this author through a VOSESA and Canada World Youthpartnership, funded by IDRC available at
  • [3] The chapter draws from a study led by this author through a VOSESA and Canada World Youthpartnership, funded by IDRC available at
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >