Economic growth and political succession: a study of two regions

Working and discussion papers
January 2013

In the 1960s and 1970s economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa was respectable, with a handful of economies growing extremely rapidly. Growth was not sustained, however, partly because of problems related to leadership succession.

Since Africa is again growing rapidly, this working paper explores how countries can avoid the succession trap. It does this by means of a qualitative comparative analysis of fast-growing countries in Southeast Asia and Africa.

Contrary to currently fashionable ideas about ‘inclusive institutions’ and ‘golden threads’, it finds that crucial to combining succession with growth is the embedding of policy-making in strong institutions of one of two types: 1) a dominant party with a tradition of consensual decision-making and leadership succession, or 2) a strong, organic bureaucracy, effectively insulated from changes in political leadership.