Researching the politics of development



Rethinking the politics of development in Africa? How the ‘political settlement’ shapes resource allocation in Ghana

Working Paper 38

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Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai and Sam Hickey
Debates over whether democratic or neopatrimonial forms of politics are driving the politics of development in Africa have increasingly given way to more nuanced readings which seek to capture the dynamic interplay of these forms of politics. However, most current analyses fail to identify the specific causal mechanisms through which this politics shapes the actual distribution of resources. A political settlements approach which emphasises the distribution of ‘holding power’ within ruling coalitions and how this shapes institutional functioning can bring greater clarity to these debates. Our analysis shows that patterns of resource allocation within Ghana’s education sector during 1993-2008 were closely shaped by the incentives and norms generated by Ghana’s competitive ‘clientelistic political settlement’, which overrode rhetorical concerns with national unity and inclusive development. This had particularly negative implications for the poorest Northern regions, which have lacked holding power within successive ruling coalitions.