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Abstract

The potential role of transnational organisations in fostering effective governance goes unexplored despite the increasing positive role that these organisations are playing today. In Senegal, a whole range of non-state actors have always played a substantial socio-economic role, even before the rise of the post-colonial state. The Murid brotherhood can be regarded as part of this category of customary non-state actors. In the 1980s, young Murids started to organize themselves in what can be viewed as self-help community-based organisations whose functions included the provision of social safety nets to their adherents. By the late 1980s, the scope of these youth organisations, or dahiras, expanded beyond the national boundaries. Mention of these dahiras in the vast development literature has so far been confined to the socio-economic importance of the money they remit.

This paper offers to transcend this focus on financial remittances, to explore the potential political role of international dahiras in their home country. By playing the role of alternative providers of social services, dahiras have propelled themselves to a position of legitimate non-state actors with political clout. Today, some of them are starting to hold government to account for their actions. Their political power is not only derived from their affiliation with customary centres of authority, but it is also the resultant of their increased financial autonomy.

Because transnational dahira interventions in Senegal are mostly associated with the role of remittances, their relations with the state are analysed through the lens of revenue generation and other processes of state formation such as internal bargaining between the state and societal forces. The paper is an examination of the potential role of transnational dahiras in demands for responsive governance. Its analytical orientation is placed within the theoretical premises of the “drivers of change” approach, fiscal sociology of state making and governance.