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25 November 2019
ESID recently hosted the final lecture in The Adrian Leftwich Memorial Lecture series. Set up to honour the memory of key contributor to the politics of development, Adrian Leftwich, this was the seventh lecture in a series that has included world-leading speakers, such as Yuen Yuen Ang and Thomas Carothers. The series finished on a high in Manchester with a lecture on Spatial Inequality in African Political Economy, given by leading scholar on the politics of development Professor of Comparative Politics at LSE, Catherine Boone.
Following the lecture, the series was handed over to the Politics Department at the University of York, where Adrian Leftwich was based for a number of years. Friend and colleague of Adrian, Professor Neil Carter – pictured below – gave a speech on Adrian’s legacy and the future of the series at York.
Watch a video on Adrian Leftwich and the lecture series
Watch the final lecture in the series by Professor Catherine Boone
21 November 2019
New, open access book on The Politics of Social Protection in Eastern and Southern Africa has been edited by ESID’s Sam Hickey, Tom Lavers, together with UNU-WIDER’S Miguel Niño-Zarazúa, and Jeremy Seekings of the University of Cape Town. The book challenges existing accounts of how social protection has spread in Africa. The common assumption is that the popularity of social protection programmes in African countries has been entirely driven by international development agencies. But this book instead focuses on the role of political dynamics within specific African countries.
This extract from from the book’s introduction sets out how the driving force for reform has been where social assistance is incorporated as an element of the political survival strategies employed by domestic political elites to build regime legitimacy, secure political allegiance, or win electoral support:
While transnational actors have exercised some influence on the expansion of social assistance within Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the case studies here emphasise that the timing of scheme adoption, the types of programmes adopted or rejected, and the degree of programme expansion are all fundamentally driven by domestic political dynamics. Cases as diverse as Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda all highlight how donor pressure for policy reform and the expansion of social assistance have been resisted over extended periods, only resulting in programme adoption and expansion when domestic political factors shift or where donors realign their advocacy efforts to fit with dominant ideas and incentives within national-level politics. Here, we focus on how these political dynamics, particularly in terms of political settlements, ideas and electoral politics, have shaped the adoption and expansion of cash transfer programmes in our eight case study countries.
Social assistance and the politics of elite survival in east and southern Africa
In stark contrast to research on the politics of welfare states and social protection in Latin America, and also in the South Asian context, the case studies in this book suggest that popular political mobilisation has played a minimal role in the expansion of social assistance in east and southern Africa. Instead, the driving force for reform has been where social assistance is incorporated as an element of the political survival strategies employed by domestic political elites to build regime legitimacy, secure political allegiance, or win over electoral support. These survival strategies differ according to both the nature of the political settlement within each country, with reference to the balance of power relations among elites and between elites and subjects, and the dynamics that flow from these shifting power relations. Of the case studies that employ the political settlements framework, a clear divergence exists between those countries where political power is concentrated among a handful of political elites within a dominant ruling party (Ethiopia and Rwanda) and those in which power is more dispersed among elite groups (Uganda and Zambia). In the former, electoral politics are a mere façade, offering little to no possibility of regime change. In contrast, in the latter, some degree of dispersal of political power in Uganda and Zambia requires that politicians prioritise building broad political coalitions through alliances and the distribution of rents in order to win elections. Continue Reading →
21 November 2019
We catch up with newly qualified Dr Kate Pruce for a unique insight into her chapter on the politics of promoting social cash transfers in Zambia in new open access book, The Politics of Social Protection in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Looking beyond existing themes, this book looks in detail at the political dynamics in Zambia, the balance of power, how this effects redistribution decisions, and the extent to which social protection is important for the political settlement.
Find out more about ESID’s work on social protection
14 November 2019
“This book, with its admirable combination of empirical substance and analytical clarity, is a landmark contribution that will guide discussion for many years to come.”
James Ferguson, Stanford University.
We are delighted to announce the publication of our new book, The Politics of Social Protection in Eastern and Southern Africa, which is available free to download here. The book is part of the UNU-WIDER series in Development Economics and goes beyond previous accounts, to focus on the politics of social protection. Watch Sam Hickey on what makes it different:
12 November 2019
A few decades ago, conventional wisdom held that socio-economic inequality was low in Africa. Recent data overturn this view by revealing the dramatic extent of both interpersonal and regional economic disparities in most African countries. Not only are some of the world’s highest levels of income inequality found in sub-Saharan African countries, but levels of spatial inequality in most African countries are also extremely high. Dramatic variation in levels of economic development and wellbeing are visible not only across the urban-rural distinction (as expected), but also across the predominant rural regions of most African countries. These high levels of both interpersonal and spatial inequality are actually persistent features of African economies, going back as far as the existing econometric data can reach. Given these high levels of inequalities, which economic cleavages are likely to become salient in national politics? Will latent forms of distributional conflict structure national politics?
Existing work on politics in other world regions argues that institutional structure is critical in shaping inequality’s political expression and effects. As political scientist, Melissa Rogers, argues convincingly, where strong regional inequalities are overlaid by strongly territorial political institutions, including electoral institutions, geographic inequalities will be accentuated. Political competition is likely to play out as a distribution game across geographic regions. My ongoing research suggests this insight, which combines analysis of economic geographic with an understanding of state institutions, goes far in unlocking puzzles of inequality politics in African countries. The territorial structure of the state helps explain why spatial inequalities so often trump income or class inequalities in politics.
Most African countries are marked by strong geographic disparities and territorially fragmented institutions of political representation and policy implementation. By some measures, economic disparities across regions in most African countries are much higher than they are in textbook cases of high spatial inequality featured in the comparative political economy literature – including Spain, USA, Mexico and Argentina. In most African countries, spatial economic inequalities are also much higher than they are in today’s UK, where regional economic disparities and resulting policy tensions between England’s southeast (including London) and the north, and between England, Scotland and Wales, are potent drivers of national debates over Brexit and internal splits within the leading political parties.
In most African countries, local land tenure and property institutions reinforce localism and political territoriality, contributing to great economic disparities across the large national majorities (over 60 per cent of national populations, on average) that live in predominantly-rural regions. Geographically fragmented rights of access to land, pasture, forest, fisheries and other resources may protect local collectivities, but they constrain the inter-regional mobility of labour and capital. The magnitude of spatial inequalities can be dramatic, as they are in Kenya, for example. Estimated incomes in the better-off rural regions are almost three times higher than they are in the poorest rural districts.
Political dynamics at work in territorially divided countries in other parts of the world are starkly visible in many African countries. Regional logics often structure political coalition-building; regional cleavages inform competition around economic policy; there is strong localism in distributive politics; and levels of inter-regional redistribution are low. These effects are visible at the level of provinces, and thus transcend the local ethnic concentrations that one finds at the district and constituency levels. In many countries, regional cleavages that first surfaced in the nationalist era of the 1950s are still major fault-lines in national politics. As historians, Paul Nugent and John Lonsdale, and political scientists, Eun Kyung Kim, Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai and Colin Poulton and Karuti Kanyinga, have shown for Ghana and Kenya, conflicts of interest around the scope of markets (particularly land markets), the extent of national redistributive policies, and sectoral economic policies are sources of political debates that cleave national polities along regional lines. In Zambia, the spatial arrangement of partisan alignments juxtaposes Southern province with its commercial agricultural vocation to the Copper belt, long dominated by mining unions and conjoined with the poor, labour-sending regions of the North and Northeast. This maps onto a provincial and socio-economic cleavage that dates to the 1950s. In Ghana, Kenya and Zambia, this is much as scholars of sectional and socio-economic cleavage in Europe would have predicted for societies wherein levels of industrialisation are low and agrarian interests play a powerful role.
These arguments can also help explain variations in how economic inequalities drive politics across African countries, and over time. Zambia is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most urbanised countries (43 per cent of the population was urban in 2017), and the strong pull of the cities is clearly reflected in the rise of urban-based populism in national politics and the salience of urban-rural policy cleavages. In South Africa, strongly territorial institutions and strong spatial inequalities co-exist with sub-Saharan Africa’s highest rates of urbanisation (64 percent), and with what are some of the highest levels of income inequality in the world. Here, class politics and programmatic social policy demands are front and centre in national politics, with spatial inequalities and the politics of interregional redistribution playing as secondary themes.
I argue that economic geography and institutional explanations thus combine, to generate insight into phenomena that much of Africa-focused political science has attributed to the strength of ethnic identity alone. One implication is that good governance and inclusive ethnic representation in national governments is unlikely, in itself, to mitigate tensions that are fuelled by economic inequalities that that find expression in regional tensions. Economic growth strategies that build regional coalitions are required as both cohesion policy and industrial policy. Where inter-regional redistribution and infrastructural development promotes investment and new forms of accumulation in lagging provinces and districts, the interests of nation-building are served. Demographic change, climate change, trade openness and open-door investment policies, and deeper structural economic changes in coming decades are likely to exacerbate uneven development. In the absence of deliberate measures to mitigate territorial inequalities, the political sustainability of national projects may be at risk.