Accepted paper:

Can the poor exit from corruption? The metonymy of corrupt civic networks in the demand for public services in Africa


Davina Osei (UNU-MERIT)

Paper short abstract:

We focus on how religious and civic networks impact on access to public services for the poor and non-poor in Africa. We find that, the poor are likely to benefit from their networks only through its appropriation for corrupt gains. Likely reason is the presence of network subversion and homophily.

Paper long abstract:

The study focuses on how religious and other civic networks impact on access to public services for the poor and non-poor in Africa. The findings indicate that, despite the pro-social nature of religious and civic networks, they are more likely to increase access to public services for the rich more than the poor. The poor are only able to appropriate their civic networks to access non-monopoly life threatening basic services such as healthcare. Even in accessing healthcare, the poor are only able to appropriate their networks through corrupt exchanges. Two reasons could account for these findings. First, value (i.e. social capital) within networks play a crucial role. Some studies have shown that, individuals are likely to associate themselves with others similar to themselves in characteristics such as gender, social class, race, among others - otherwise referred to as homophily. Due to this tendency for homophily, the poor are less likely to generate any capital from their networks, which could enable them access services easier. Second, it might be problematic to assume that because certain networks have a pro-social agenda, they will translate into pro-social norms and behaviours among their members. This is because, norms of reciprocity and conformity is likely to thrive in such networks, which may create opportunities for network subversion. The danger of network subversion then arises as some individuals will have the opportunity to demand reciprocal exchanges that serve their personal gains rather than the network's interests.

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