The Logic of African Neopatrimonialism: What Role for Donors?

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Today a number of sub-Saharan African countries display the outward signs of modern, democratic states. International aid agencies often treat them as though power and decision-making reside within government institutions and that they function as designed. When they do not they are labelled dysfunctional though their action is actually quite logical when viewed through a ‘neopatrimonial lens’. This article outlines a number of neopatrimonial practices observed in Africa in the past two decades and attempts to explain the ‘logic’ that underpins them. It provides several recommendations about the way donors should assist states where deeply rooted anti-democratic and non-developmental behaviour dominates.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Research Fellow, Politics and Governance, Poverty and Public Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute, 111 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7JD ( )., Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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