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Booth D. (2011) Introduction: Working with the Grain? The Africa Power and Politics Programme, IDS Bulletin 42.2

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This article introduces a new research venture, the Africa Power and Politics Programme. The APPP starts from the assumption that the “forms of governance that might work better for development under the specific conditions yielded by African history and geography are not known.” The research goal is to examine structures and institutions rooted in the African socio-cultural context that work better for development.

The focus is not only the apex of state power, but also on “the full range of functions performed more or less badly by organs of the central or local state”. Methodologically, the project uses systematic comparisons, steering a middle course between multivariate statistical analysis and single case studies.

The two basic hypotheses underpinning the research are:

  • Public goods are delivered better when institutions are shaped in such a way as to address the prevailing collective-action problems, and worse when they are imported from outside this local reality.
  • The institutions that will work best for public goods provision and development in the African context are ones that, by design or otherwise, have a local problem-solving character and build on relevant components of the available cultural repertoire.