There is growing recognition that in low-income Africa the way power is exercised needs to change if widespread poverty reduction is to be achieved. This is supported by a well established general analysis of African states. But existing knowledge is of limited practical use. It does not tell us which types of hybrid formal-informal power structures may be capable of providing “good enough governance” and which are irremediably anti-developmental. This knowledge is essential because developmental states have invariably emerged out of neopatrimonial ones, and within contemporary Africa there is significant variation in outcomes across places, times and institutional spheres.
We hypothesise that there is scope for reforms that work “with the grain” of the prevailing (often corrupt) practices to mitigate their most negative consequences and harness any unexpected strengths. We propose a systematic study of this issue, based on intensive case studies and linked survey work in a range of African countries. This is proposed as part of an integrated programme, combining research, research training, organisational capacity strengthening, and policy influence and policy development. The research will be carried out in a way that helps to create constituencies for the needed changes in thinking and practice.
Synthesis report - Development as a collective action problem: adressing the real challenges of African governance
Working with the grain and swimming against the tide: Barriers to uptake of research findings on governance and public services in low-income Africa
Should the governance of poor developing countries be based on mimicking what works in advanced capitalist democracies? Of course not. Yet for 20 years ‘good governance’ has meant exactly that.