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Developmental Regimes in Africa

In 2012, two large research initiatives reported results that cast new light on fundamental questions about the past and future development of Africa – the Tracking Development (TD) project and the Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP).

TD was led by Leiden University in the Netherlands. It compared the development experiences of matched pairs of sub-Saharan African and Southeast Asian countries over the 50 years from 1960 to 2010. Its final conclusions have been presented in, among other publications, David Henley’s Asia-Africa development divergence: A question of intent (Zed Books, 2015). The ODI-led APPP, on the other hand, was a large comparative enquiry into the political economy of economic performance and public goods’ delivery across sub-Saharan Africa.

The Developmental Regimes in Africa (DRA) project was a collaboration among leading researchers who had contributed to APPP and TD. It was funded over three years by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

From different angles, TD and APPP had both challenged the conventional view of Africa’s relatively weak long-term development record in terms of lack of ‘good governance’. For TD, the conventional view underestimates the role of fundamental policy choices by country elites. For APPP, it misdiagnoses the institutional issues that really matter for developmental policy making and implementation.

The two bodies of work agreed in suggesting the need to explore policy choices and institutional differences other than those emphasised in good-governance theory. However, this convergence left a number of questions unanswered and several policy puzzles to be resolved. DRA research therefore focused on five questions:

  • Based on Southeast Asian experience, where are developmental regimes most likely to come from in Africa?
  • What will ensure that in the future, unlike the past, high-growth regimes in Africa are able to be sustained beyond the term of a single political leader?
  • What are the prospects for creating ‘pockets of effectiveness’ in areas of public policy that matter to the crucial role of smallholder farmers?
  • What should be considered the distinguishing features of a developmental regime in Africa today?
  • In what ways does the international system influence the prospects for establishing and sustaining such regimes?

DRA produced a series of Working Papers and Policy Briefs, and a multi-authored Synthesis Report.

Read below the Synthesis Report and a selection of the other outputs authored by past or present ODI staff.


Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, Tim Kelsall