Working with the grain? Rethinking African governance

Journal articles or issues
March 2011

At the heart of current policy thinking about Africa there is a significant knowledge gap concerning governance and development. This IDS Bulletin is concerned with what can be done about that, drawing on the initial experience of the Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP). The APPP is committed to discovering forms of governance that work better for development than those prescribed by the ‘good governance’ orthodoxy. It aims to do so chiefly by examining the range of post-colonial experience in sub-Saharan Africa focusing especially on under-appreciated patterns of difference in institutions and outcomes. A central challenge has been operationalising the working hypothesis that institutions function better when they ‘work with the grain’ of the society which hosts them.

As well as overview articles and conclusions by the editors, the issue includes initial findings on local governance and service delivery in Niger (Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan), Malawi (Diana Cammack) and Sierra Leone (Anna Workman). Other contributions report early results on local justice in Ghana (Richard Crook, Kojo Asante and Victor Brobbey) and on the relationship between neo-patrimonialism and economic development (Tim Kelsall and Diana Cammack).