Accepted paper:

Informal governance and subnational actors: comparative perspectives on co-optation, control and camouflage in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.


Claudia Baez Camargo (Basel Institute on Governance)
Lucy Koechlin (University of Basel)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper we present evidence from four East African countries on how informal practices of cooptation, control and camouflage shape attitudes and behaviours of local government officials and public service providers.

Paper long abstract:

In our ongoing research (, we have developed a novel conceptual framework to characterize and assess informal governance norms. We have argued (Baez Camargo and Ledeneva, 2017) that informal practices of co-optation, control and camouflage are instrumentally used by informal networks of political and business elites to redistribute power and access to resources. Co-optation involves recruitment into the network and access to resources, often through appointments to positions of power. Control is about ensuring discipline amongst network members, frequently involving selective enforcement of the law against undisciplined members of the group. Camouflage refers to the formal facades behind which informality hides and is about protecting and legitimizing the network. Emerging findings from our comparative research in four East African countries suggest that similar informal practices are also relevant to understand the choices and attitudes of government officials and public service providers at the local level. We highlight the ambivalent character of informality as a critical step towards unraveling its complexity. Thus, local officials co-opt grassroots constituencies but are also co-opted by their social networks; local government agents apply informal controls to demobilize local opposition during elections but are also controlled by the perspective of shame and social condemnation should they not fulfill obligations towards their groups; bribery and influence peddling are camouflaged as honouring traditional values. We use evidence from Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda to illustrate common patterns as well as distinct national and sub-national practices through which informality impacts performance of state institutions at the subnational level.

panel P202
Taking rules seriously: Between formality and informality in African bureaucracies