Rather than simply summarizing the state of play in African countries and elsewhere, this book attempts to identify and to make explicit the assumptions about the citizen's relationship to the state that lie beneath Freedom of Information (FoI) discourse, and then to test them against the reality of the pervasive politics of patronage that characterize much of African practice. The two sides of the equation are the willingness and capacity of a state bureaucracy to comply with legislation, and the growth of a demand for accountability on the part of the citizenry. This second aspect is complicated in many countries by a discourse/language problem. Finally, the book asks whether, for tactical and strategic reasons, FoI should be treated as a technical 'delivery problem' or linked to wider human rights and transparency issues. The conclusion discusses whether FoI really helps to build democratic practices, or whether it is better considered to be an outcome of them.
Dr Colin Darch is based at the African Studies Library at the University of Cape Town as a researcher, and his current research interests include the role of intellectual property laws in relation to development issues in less developed countries, the functioning of such research quality controls as peer review in the LIS environment, and FoI issues in Africa. Professor Peter G. Underwood is Director of the University of Cape Town Centre for Information Literacy and Professor of Librarianship at the University of Cape Town, having occupied this position since 1992. Prior to this he spent twenty years as Lecturer in the Department of Information and Library Studies, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. He is the author of many books and articles.