Researching the politics of development



The politics of governing oil effectively: A comparative study of two new oil-rich states in Africa

Working paper 54

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Sam Hickey, Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai, Angelo Izama and Giles Mohan
The challenges facing developing countries with new-found natural resource wealth are generally understood in terms of whether they have the institutions of ‘good governance’ required to avoid the resource curse. New insights from a political settlements perspective show how deeper forms of politics and power relations play a more significant role than such institutions, and help explain some counter-intuitive findings regarding how ‘semi-authoritarian’ Uganda seems to be governing oil somewhat more in line with its national interest as compared to ‘democratic’ Ghana. We find that bureaucratic ‘pockets of effectiveness’ play a critical role, with outcomes shaped by the nature of their embedded autonomy vis-à-vis different kinds of ruling coalition. Efforts to promote ‘best-practice’ governance reforms in such contexts might be misplaced, and could be replaced with a stronger focus on building specific forms of state capacity and a greater acceptance that ‘developmental collusion’ between political and bureaucratic actors may offer more appropriate or ‘best-fit’ solutions.