Development as a collective action problem: Addressing the real challenges of African governance

    Is the current model of African democracy bad for growth/good public services?

    Conclusion from 5yr African governance study

    The Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP) set out to tackle one of the most important and challenging development questions of the early 21st century – what sort of governance does Africa really need and how is it going to get it? It aimed to do so by generating a new body of comparative research findings and empirically-grounded theory.

    Governance for development in Africa: building on what works

    The starting point was the realization that the concept of good governance is insufficient and questionable in the face of African realities and the continent´s challenges for economic transformation. Solutions need to be realistic about material and social constraints and build on local arrangements that are known to work.The currently emerging “good fit” approach is seen as a useful step forward, but much of the new context-sensitive governance programming continues to look much like the old kind. Confined by principal-agent thinking, governance reforms continue to be perceived in terms of an unhelpful demand and supply metaphor.The real challenges for governance in Africa lie, according to the APPP, in overcoming institutional blockages underpinned by collective action problems. Against the background of the identified shortcomings, what would an alternative reform agenda look like and what does that mean for African reformers and the global agenda?The report is available online:

    This report disagrees with this framing of the choices facing governance reformers. It argues that governance challenges in Africa are not fundamentally about one set of people getting another set of people to behave better. They are fundamentally about both sets of people finding ways to act collectively in their own best interests.The report appeals for more recognition of the coordination challenges and collective action problems that prevent both governments and groups of citizens from acting consistently as ‘principals’ in dynamic development processes. Domestic reformers and external actors alike have something useful to contribute to improving governance in Africa, but only if they appreciate better the nature of the challenge.The main elements of this argument are strongly supported by a significant body of existing research evidence and practical learning, including the experience of many practitioners who consciously or otherwise remain within the principal-agent straitjacket. The APPP research assembled here organises, complements and elaborates this evidence. The argument is developed over seven chapters that show its relevance to each of the particular topics in the bullet list above.Ministers, parliaments and voting publics at both ends of the development assistance relationship need to be convinced that development progress is about overcoming institutional blockages, usually underpinned by collective action problems. It is not, for the most part, about resource shortages or funding gaps. Indeed, under certain quite common conditions, direct funding of development initiatives is harmful. On the other hand, institutional blockages can be overcome, and external actors may be able to make a positive contribution. But this is difficult work, especially for staff of official agencies with diplomatic or quasi-diplomatic responsibilities. It requires the intensive use of skilled labour and calls for exceptional local knowledge and learning capabilities. It may well call for greater use of ‘arm’s length’ forms of development cooperation, delivered by organisations that can work in ways that are more embedded and adaptive.Ministers, parliaments and voting publics … need to be convinced that development progress is about overcoming institutional blockages, usually underpinned by collective action problems.Presentation of the APPP Synthesis Report in Berlin

    Expert Discussion with Dr. David Booth (former Director of the Africa Power and Politics Programme 2007-2012)The main findings of the APPP research programme will be presented and discussed, including the question of necessary new modalities for aid in African governance reforms and respective implications for the aid industry.Discussant: Dr. Julia Leininger (German Development Institute, DIE)Chair: René Gradwohl (INISA e.V.)Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 14.30-17.00at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (Hiroshimastr. 17, 10785 Berlin)