The politics of state capacity and development in Africa - Reframing and researching ‘pockets of effectiveness’
Global Development Institute Working Paper Series from GDI, The University of Manchester
The role of bureaucratic ‘pockets of effectiveness’ (PoEs) in driving development is generating renewed interest within development studies and, to an extent, development policy. Existing research on PoEs emphasises that politics plays a leading role in shaping the emergence and sustainability of high-performing public sector organisations. However, the field as yet lacks a clear sense of the conditions under which this happens. This paper sets out the conceptual and methodological underpinnings of a new project that seeks to address this problem within the context of sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing on an alignment of political settlements analysis with critical theories of state power and African politics, the paper argues that PoEs are both shaped by, and help to reproduce, particular forms of politics and institutions in sub-Saharan Africa. This means that PoEs can reveal a good deal about how the competing logics of regime survival, state-building and democratisation are playing out in Africa, and the implications for development. The paper proposes a methodological approach for identifying and exploring PoEs and summarises the results of expert surveys undertaken in Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. These surveys resulted in our project focusing mainly on the economic technocracy as the key domain within which PoEs have flourished, particularly in terms of ministries of finance, central banks and revenue authorities, along with some other interesting outliers and underlying processes of state-building. Further papers from this project will include in-depth case studies of these specific PoEs and processes in each country, synthesised country analyses and comparative overviews.
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