Development as a collective action problem: Addressing the real challenges of African governance

Research reports and studies
October 2012

Africa is far closer than it was 20 years ago to realising its considerable potential for economic development and social progress. But, as of today, few countries enjoy the quality of governance required to maximise that potential, and the guidance that the international community is able to offer on the subject needs renewal. Experts now agree that the concept of good governance that was formulated at the end of the Cold War is insufficient and questionable. For some years, there have been calls for governance reforms to be based not on Northern ‘best practices’ but on case-by-case diagnostics, so that the priorities and modalities attain a ‘good fit’ with the particular needs and possibilities of specific countries. Yet at the moment – this report argues – this alternative agenda remains dangerously content-free.

There is an urgent need to go beyond the mantra that the institutional challenges of development are complex and that every country is special. In particular, there is a need to spell out what country reformers, and the development agencies that support them, should be doing differently. The findings of the Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP) – synthesised here for the first time – begin to fill this gap.