Developmental Regimes in Africa: Initiating and sustaining developmental regimes in Africa

David Booth, ed.
Overseas Development Institute
Year of publication: 

Over the past 20 years, many African countries have experienced sustained economic growth. Few, however, have embarked on the kind of structural change, driven by rising productivity in key sectors, that has been responsible for transforming mass living standards in parts of Asia. The Developmental Regimes in Africa (DRA) project has been investigating the causes and implications of this worrying scenario, building on the findings of previous research by the Tracking Development project (TD) and the Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP). Exploiting further the systematic comparative methods used by TD and APPP, DRA research has shed new light on how developmental regimes might emerge and be sustained in Africa in the 21st century.

TD found that policy differences – especially different priorities with respect to agriculture and rural development – lie behind the strikingly different development outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia over the last half-century. TD and APPP converged in showing that differences in outcomes across countries are not related to different levels of compliance with standard criteria of good governance – contradicting an assumption that is still widely promoted by international development agencies. The differences among regimes that are relevant to explaining development performance are to be found at a deeper level. They cut across conventional distinctions between democratic and non-democratic, or more and less ‘patrimonial’, types.

The DRA findings as a whole provide additional reasons for raising the quality of development policy debate in Africa, making use of the compelling evidence provided by TD. They add force to recent calls for both governments and international agencies to ‘do development differently’ by embracing policy methods based on problem-solving and learning by trial and error. Finally, they suggest the need to join up evidence on better ways of working for development with a systematic approach to varieties of country context, using the concept of political settlement. Further efforts are needed to carry these three conclusions into the most influential policy communities.