Human Resource Development International Call for Papers

Special Issue: Critical Perspectives of HRD and Social Transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Human Resource Development International

The extant literature has highlighted the importance of assessing the cultural and political dynamics of HRD to appreciate the social construction of HRD in diverse geographic regions (for example, Kuchinke, 2011; Poell et al, 2015). There is a growing body of work that has assessed the nature of HRD in South and East Asian contexts (Mclean, and McLean 2001), transitional states (Cunningham et al 2006), and the Arab Gulf for example (Metcalfe, 2011). There is little substantive research however, that brings together critical understandings of HRD in Sub-Saharan African (SSA) states. Much of the scholarship is written from a Western and colonialist perspective, and is positioned within an HRM frame and does not capture the dynamics of ‘development’ (see for example Said, 2005; Zoogah et al, 2015). Specifically, a Western, or Global North perspectives positions HRD as embracing a range of organization development issues, whereas in SSA and developing states, HRD is understood as an activity that incorporates social, economic and community development (See Dike, 2012; Metcalfe, 2011; Pillay, 2006; Said, 2005; Sydhagen & Cunningham, 2007; Utting, 2006).

HRD agendas comprise a complex dynamic of socio-cultural and geo-political intersections that require a genuine interdisciplinary lenz (Jacobs, 1990). The challenges in SSA are entwined with education rights and underdeveloped education systems (Arthur-Mensa & Shuck, 2014; Assie-Lumumba, 2006; Okujagu, 2013; Saint, 2015), governance regimes (Dike, 2012; Gehbremesse, 2015; Uhmeh, 2008), poverty and engrained inequalities (see Omotola, 2008; Walby, 2009), and more broadly, a range of sustainable development needs (Lawanson, 2009; Newenham-Kahindi, 2015; Vertigans et al, 2016). Moreover, writings have often universalized management, HRD and SSA ideas, when literatures in political economy and sociology highlight the dominance of masculinist colonialist discourses (see Butler, 1995; Fondas, 1997; Metcalfe, 2011),

The aim of this special issue therefore will be to advance HRD theorizing by reviewing the complexity of HRD systems and social processes in SSA economies. This will unravel the nuances of policy development and incorporate the marginalized voices of African scholars not often cited in Western journals (see for example Dike, 2012; Ghembremuse, 2015; Gyang, 2011; Mureitha & Wasikama, 2012; Okuago, 2013).

This is a timely undertaking, as there are a growing number of scholars examining HRD, leadership and capacity development in BRIC economies, but few are considering the social and economic transformations in Africa as part of the BRICs advancement (exception, Kolachi & Shah, 2013). This is a key knowledge gap, as foreign investment in Africa has been led by Russia, China, India and also Middle East states, which have greatly impacted HRD processes (Metcalfe, 2011). There has been a growth in Africa of specialist Ministries’ of HRD in government, and a greater commitment by African states to nurturing lifelong learning policies, and education policies to enhance knowledge and skills upgrading.

The creation of specialist HRD government Ministries are closely aligned with the new sustainable development goals (SDGs), and are part of broader efforts to support education attainment, job creation and advance human capabilities’ (see Mureithi & Wasikama, 2012). A central thread running through the new 17 SDGs focuses on education and skill upgrading. However, the politics and decision making processes concerning SDGs, and the involvement of BRIC economies especially, is challenging power relations between the Global South and Global North.  There is agreement that human capabilities need to be enhanced, but which states are involved, and who leads social transformation is premised on newly emerging global alliances and networks not countenanced before (UNDP, 2015).

What then are the implications for state leaders in SSA, especially those states that have an abundance of natural resources and have already begun revolutionizing education systems? How, and in what ways are colonial philosophies of governance and human development being adopted, challenged and resisted in SSA? How are SSA leaders/states devising strategies for accumulating human capital and taking on board initiatives formulated by colonial international organizations? These questions highlight a number of concerns for evaluating HRD strategy in contemporary society.

There have been a number of policy initiatives to support skills development promoted by the World Bank, including Knowledge 4 Development (K4D) and Learning for All, which highlights how national HRD strategies’ can support lifelong learning and build knowledge economies. The World Bank have also outlined blueprints for African Leadership development, which addresses the complexities that African states face, including inter alia: peace-building, post conflict resolution; political corruption; growing inequalities and poverty. SSA has a large number of countries that have fragile governance systems and part of the HR development endeavour is to support democratization processes.

Relatedly, there are concerns about the politics of inclusion in the polity and economy. There is limited literature about gender and diversity HRD systems, or how women’s leadership in Africa is conceptualized and supported. President Sirleaf of Liberia for example, is a role model for many women in Africa as she is the only woman who has been democratically elected twice (2011, 2015) in a SSA state. She has established quotas for women in all public administration roles, including education institution systems, and also established specialist women’s leadership programmes to develop capacity in government. These initiatives for empowering women challenge the neo-liberal ethics which associate Western states with greater rights, and opportunities for women (See McGovern, 2007; Elliot and Stead, 2009). Issues of gender, race and diversity and HRD in a SSA environment need to be radically re-imagined, as, who are defining social progress measures, the agendas, and the how and why, of gendered geographies of power (see Metcalfe and Woodhams, 2012)? Moreover, how do transnational hegemonic masculinities intersect with globalization processes and shape HRD in SSA (see Elliot & Beasley, 2009; Metcalfe, 2011;)?

Through this SI we seek to synthesise research themes and provide a foundational base for HRD and SSA scholarship which will help inform future research. This will not homogenise ‘SSA states’ but unveil commonalities and differences. This perspective also acknowledges we need to consider SSA states in the global political economy and BRIC advances (see Stiglitz, 2002; McClean and McClean, 2001; Elias, 2008).

We invite papers that address new insights of HRD in an SSA context which may comprise empirical studies, or theory based scholarship. Research may be based on studies of the private sector, international organizations, NGOs, the public sector or education institutions. We especially invite papers that are underpinned by social theory and critical perspectives, recognizing that HRD is becoming (Lee, 2012), and conceptualizations’ of HRD need to be evaluated through a socio-historical and geo-political lens (see Callahan et al, 2015; Sambrook, 2011; Sambrook and Poell, 2014). In engaging a critical lens, we want to investigate the organizing logic, heritage and contemporary knowledge of SSA voices, not merely reflect the ‘narrative’ of past colonial masters.

Papers may focus on one country, or provide comparative critiques. Contributions are welcomed from scholars in education, HRD, international development, leadership studies, gender studies, organization theory, international management. Other topics of interest are listed below (non-exhaustive list).

  • National HRD
  • Governance and HRD
  • Development Leadership
  • African Leadership 
  • HRD in public institutions’
  • Transnationalism and HRD
  • Gender, diversity and HRD
  • Masculinities and HRD
  • The role of international organizations (e.g., World Bank, International Labour Organization, United Nations) in supporting HRD policy formation
  • Politics, power, and HRD
  • Critiques’ of Knowledge 4 Development and Knowledge management 
  • SDGs, education and social change
  • Human capability theorizing and HRD
  • Lifelong learning, Critical pedagogy, HRD and social change

Geographic Focus

The area of SSA includes all states in the African Continent which are not included in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region as defined by the World Bank. The North Africa states not covered in this SI are Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia. These states are often referred to as the Maghreb.

Submission instructions

Submissions should be made via Human Resource Development International's Editorial Manager system: 

Further information for authors can be found here: 

Potential Timescales 

  • Paper submission: 15 April 2017 (submit via journal’s web site by following all format requirements and clearly mentioning / selecting this SI)
  • Reviews to be completed by: 15 July 2017
  • Resubmissions: 15 September 2017
  • Paper Selection: 15 January 2018

Indicative References

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Assie-Lumumba, N. (2006). Higher education in Africa: Crisis, Reforms and Transformation. Darkar: CODESRIA

Butler, J. (1995) ‘Contingent foundations’, in Benhabib, S., Butler, J., Cornell, D., Fraser, N. (eds) Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange, Routledge, Yew York.

Callahan J, Stewart J, Sambrook S, Rigg C & Trehan K (Eds) (2015) Realising Critical HRD: Stories of Reflecting, Voicing, and Enacting Critical Practice. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Chalofsky, N.E, Tonette S. Rocco & Lane, M. (2014) ‘A Social Justice Paradigm for HRD’, in Handbook of HRD, Wiley.

Cunningham, P.W., Lynham, S., Weatherly, G. (2006) ‘National Human Resource Development in Transitioning Societies in the Developing World: South Africa’, Advances in Developing Human Resources  Vol. 8 no. 162-83.

Dike, V. (2012). ‘Human capital development, technological capabilities and national development: The Nigerian experience’. African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development, 4(2), pp.11--28.

Elias, J. (2008), ‘Hegemonic masculinities, the multinational corporation, and the developmental state: constructing gender in ‘progressive’ firms’, Men and Masculinities, Vol. 10 (4), 405-421.

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Editorial information

  • Guest Editor: Beverly Dawn Metcalfe, American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon, and Visiting Professor University of HRD University of Lagos, Nigeria ( )
  • Guest Editor: Jawad Syed, Suleman Dawood School of Business, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Lahore, Pakistan (
  • Guest Editor: Faiza Ali, Suleman Dawood School of Business, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Lahore, Pakistan (
  • Guest Editor: Kelechi Ekuma, University of Manchester, Professor of HRD, University of Lagos, Nigeria (