Developmental patrimonialism? The case of Rwanda

Working and discussion papers
March 2011

In the modal pattern of governance for development in sub-Saharan Africa, political competition fuels unbridled corruption which undermines the interest and ability of the state to provide the public goods necessary for transformative, poverty-reducing development. Research in the Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP) has identified a type of deviation from the modal pattern which is more realistic than the standard ‘good governance’ alternative, which we are calling developmental (neo)patrimonialism. This paper – a later version of which was published in African Affairs – considers whether Rwanda since 2000 is a current example of this type of regime, and argues that in several but not all respects it is.

A defining feature of developmental patrimonialism is the interest and ability of the ruling elite to impose a centralised management of the rents which are an unavoidable feature of early capitalism, and to deploy these with a view to the long term. The relevance of this to the Rwanda case hinges on an interpretation of the role of the private holding company owned by the ruling party, known successively as Tri-Star Investments and Crystal Ventures. We maintain that these arrangements, which are controversial with donors, have provided Rwanda with the ‘early-stage venture capitalism’ it needed to achieve economic recovery post-1994 and to maintain respectable rates of investment and socio-economic progress under otherwise unfavourable conditions during the last decade.