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The failure of the post-colonial state to institutionalise democracy and regulate development for the benefit of the poor has given prominence to private actors, including development NGOs. With case studies from Malawi, this paper shows how NGOs may inadvertently facilitate the enrolment of the poor into development agendas that do not benefit them. Images (as world views) that social actors form of different aspects of the development process may undermine empowerment intentions. It is argued that an analysis of various actors images in managing development assistance should inform the pro-poor agenda of development NGOs.

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