A ‘fateful compromise’? Transnational religious organizations and regional governance in Africa

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This article uses the activities of the Catholic and mainline Protestant churches in West Africa to explore how transnational theologically inspired actors are co-constructing a ‘new regionalism’ in Africa. It contends that through a strategy of ‘fateful compromise’ with states, rather than co-optation, mainline churches have evolved well-developed institutional platforms and coordination mechanisms capable of ‘re-scaling’ the governance of transboundary ‘peace–democracy–development nexus’ issues to the regional level. The empirical evidence is derived from the activities of the Regional Catholic Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA) and the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCCIWA). Pivoting to regional spaces is a strategic response to inter-religious hegemonic competition, especially with Pentecostalism and revivalist Islam; shrinking domestic space for civil society organizations (CSOs); and de-secularization that diminished the historic churches’ erstwhile political influence in national policy. Furthermore, limited access to regional policy process granted to selected CSOs, particularly in Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), turned regional spaces into complementary or alternative sites of citizenship. The West African experience enriches the ‘new regionalism’ scholarship by introducing the concept of ‘fateful compromise’, which suggests multiple trajectories in church–state relations rather than presumption of ‘elite co-optation’ as the only option for inclusive or collaborative governance in regressive democracies in Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTerritory, Politics, Governance
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Africa
  • Catholic Church
  • Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
  • church–state relations
  • civil society organizations
  • new regionalism
  • protestant churches
  • re-scaling governance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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