How the international system hinders the consolidation of developmental regimes in Africa

Working and discussion papers
January 2014

The international system may not play a primary role in shaping the destinies of countries, but there are sound practical reasons for examining how global forces help to shape political and economic incentives in developing nations. While recent studies have tackled this issue for states that are already failing, there has been little discussion of how it affects countries with regimes that are struggling to sustain successful processes of national development. This paper addresses that gap with reference to two types of regime, represented respectively by Rwanda and Kenya.

It begins with the question of what should count as a developmental regime in the contemporary African context. It then argues that previous discussion of international constraints has placed too much emphasis on the limited ‘policy space’ for developing countries afforded by international trade agreements and the conditionalities of the big concessional lenders. More important are hindrances to the kind of political settlement that favours a learning-oriented approach to policy making and delivery. A common theme across the two types of regime is the negative influence of what the paper calls naïve liberalism.