07 September 2011

Article: Governance for development in Africa: building on what works

Article: Governance for development in Africa: building on what works

A five-year international multi-institutional multi-million research programme has come to the conclusion that democracy is not the "best fit" for development in most African countries.

The Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP), carried out by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), and partner organizations in the US and Africa, is funded by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and Irish Aid. Few findings have been communicated thus far, but those that have go head on against the pro-democracy bias to be found in development studies departments, NGOs, think tanks, and among western donor nations.

More remarkable than the findings, though (which aren't really news to any unprejudiced observer), is that this kind of thought, finally, seems to have arrived in the intellectual powerhouses of development thinking.

The programmatic "Policy Brief 01" by the programme's director, David Booth (ODI), titled "Governance for development in Africa: building on what works", was released in April 2011.

Excerpts: "Should the governance of poor developing countries mimic what works in advanced capitalist democracies? Of course not. Yet for 20 years 'good governance' has meant exactly that. ... Democracy ... depends on social and economic conditions that are not yet enjoyed in most developing countries. ... Many young democracies are not particularly developmental ... In many settings, clientelism (vote-buying in its various forms) is cheaper and more reliable ... What poor developing countries really need are leaders who ... are able to show that they can ‘get things done’. ... It is important, therefore, that external actors such as donors are capable of: recognising developmental leadership when they see it, by becoming more attuned to the variety of types of regimes and how they work".

More publications are to be found on the programme's website: http://www.institutions-africa.org/page/publications

All discussion and working papers (unlike the policy briefs) come with the disclaimer that "[t]he views expressed in them are those of the authors, and are not to be attributed to the programme as a whole, or to our funders". As far as I can see, most of these papers are however linked to key areas highlighted in Booth's policy brief, including developmental patrimonialism, modes of local governance, variations among parliamentarians, and hybrid institutions. Some publications are available in French, too.

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