Accepted paper:

Bureaucratic 'pockets of effectiveness' as windows onto the politics of state formation in Africa: comparative insights from a political settlements perspective


Sam Hickey (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

Is the commitment and capacity of elites to promote government performance shaped by different types of political settlement?. This paper advances the current literature on PoEs by reframing them as windows onto deeper processes of state-building and regime survival in Africa.

Paper long abstract:

It remains a puzzle that certain parts of the state function remarkably effectively in developing countries, despite being located in governance contexts that many characterize as dysfunctional. Known as 'pockets of effectiveness' (PoEs), such high-performing agencies are increasingly seen as critical to development prospects in developing countries. This comparative paper shows that investigating the pattern of public sector performance over time through PoEs can offer an important window onto how deeper processes of state-building are playing out within Africa, particularly in relation to the politics of regime survival. It draws on case-studies in five countries (Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia) to show how public sector performance is directly shaped by the ideas and incentives that characterize different types of political settlement. We also draw attention to the transnational and ideational aspects of state-building in the global south, including the role of international development agencies in determining the shape of the state and what form of development it has the capacity to promote.

panel H4
State capacity and the politics of development in Africa [paper]