Good Growth and Good Governance in Africa: An Experts Forum

By Jeffrey Herbst, Tim Kelsall, Goran Hyden, and Nicolas van de Walle

Richard Joseph

In 1993, IMF Director Michel Camdessus called sub-Saharan Africa “a sinking continent.” Just three years later, however, he said that the signs of an economic recovery were evident. 1 In his state visit to Ghana in July 2009, President Barack Obama saluted the striking turnaround in the political economies of Africa. He memorably gave the main reason for this historic advance “Development depends on good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. It is the change that can unlock Africa’s potential.”

In a decade and a half, Africa had gone from being a sinking to a “rising” continent, a change not deterred by the 2008-2010 global recession. Is this experience attributable to much improved governance in sub-Saharan Africa? If that is the case, what are the mechanisms by which better governance unlocked economic growth? Further, it can be asked, how good must this governance be? As major economists returned to the study of Africa, voices emerged among them questioning a new “orthodoxy”. It was difficult, they contended, to connect the “good governance agenda” of democratic institutions, civil society, and human rights with the East Asian models of rapid transformative growth. 2 Notable among the critics was Mushtaq Khan of the University of London. He rejected the notion that good governance, broadly understood, was a precondition for economic growth. Instead, Khan argued, what was needed were “growth-enhancing governance capabilities.”3 Continue reading

The Growth-Governance Paradox in Africa

By Pierre Englebert and Gailyn Portelance

The essential features of Africa’s Growth-Governance Paradox were delineated in 1990 by scholar Jeffrey Herbst. Economic reform programs prescribed by international financial institutions, often called structural adjustment, were premised on reducing the distributional role of the state and maximizing the play of market forces. Herbst noted a contradiction: governing regimes were being encouraged to alter the clientelistic political systems on which their power rested.1

A quarter-century later, sub-Saharan Africa has experienced the most continuous period of economic growth since the 1950s and 1960s. What explains this development: high commodity prices, economic liberalization, better governance and democratization? Some development economists, such as Mushtaq Khan, do not see the necessity of implementing the full “good governance agenda” to achieve a turnaround in economic performance. A theoretical framework, “developmental patrimonialism”, has also been advanced by a group of Africa experts to explain authoritarian modernization in a few countries.

Blending qualitative and quantitative analyses, Pierre Englebert and Gailyn Portelance move beyond competing analyses. They inquire why relatively small changes in governance in a group of African countries called “developers” (in contrast to “laggards”) has had such a disproportionate impact on economic performance, and notably in attracting foreign direct investment. Their preliminary report and key hypothesis warrant careful study by scholars, policy analysts, and domestic and external investors.2 It can precipitate a wave of incisive research and better understanding of the political economy of contemporary Africa. Continue reading

Bring Back Our State: Another Nigerian Plea

By Ayo Olukotun

“Democracy Day Blues” republished with the permission of The Punch, Nigeria

“The national protest, Bring Back Our Girls, should be complemented with Build Us a State. There are some missions, such as overcoming the Nigerian state crisis, that require more than advanced intelligence technologies”
– Prof. Richard Joseph, May 22, 2014

May 29 was Democracy Day in Nigeria, the 15th edition of the milestone which marked the formal inauguration of civilian rule on May 29, 1999. Political science professor Richard Joseph captures, in the opening quote of this essay published by The PUNCH on Thursday, May 22, the sombre, despairing mood in which this year’s Democracy Day was marked around the country. This writer quibbles mildly with Joseph’s refrain, “Build Us a State”, by suggesting that it should have read, “Bring Back our State”, without disagreeing with the agenda he proposes.

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Confronting Boko Haram and the Nigerian Predicament

By Richard Joseph

This post first appeared on the Brookings Institution’s ‘Africa in focus’ blog. The original text can be read here.

The mass kidnapping of girls has brought the Nigerian Predicament to global attention. The insistence by Nigerian authorities that these and other incidents reflect global terrorism is not the full story. For a long time, Boko Haram was portrayed as a local phenomenon. Now it is depicted, most recently in a UN Security Council resolution, as an al-Qaeda affiliate. There is more conjecture than hard knowledge about this elusive entity.

Photo credit: Brookings Institution

Photo credit: Brookings Institution

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Boko Haram and the Nigerian State Crisis

By Richard Joseph

This post first appeared on the Brookings Institution’s ‘Africa in focus’ blog. The original text can be read here.

“Africa will not make sustainable progress in building democratic systems and fostering economic development until the continent acquires coherent, legitimate, and effective states.”

I had Nigeria very much in mind when those words were written a decade ago.1 Today, the veil concealing the ever- deepening state crisis has been shredded. The federal government has turned to western nations for intelligence capacities to help locate the abducted school girls. France, long distrusted by Nigerian authorities, has been asked to craft a regional coalition to combat Boko Haram. However, beyond the security missions in the remote northeast, the broader aspects of the Nigerian predicament must be confronted.

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