The Politics of African Industrial Policy A Comparative Perspective – Whitfield et al., (2015)


This book engages in the debate on growth versus economic transformation and the importance of industrial policy, presenting a comprehensive framework for explaining the politics of industrial policy. Using comparative research to theorize about the politics of industrial policy in countries in the early stages of capitalist transformation that also experience the pressures of elections due to democratization, the book provides four in-depth African country studies that illustrate the challenges to economic transformation and the politics of implementing industrial policies.

The book offers a two-level theoretical framework, which offers important insights for political economy analysis. First, the authors identify three requirements for industrial policy: (1) mutual interest between politicians and capitalists; (2) “pockets of efficiency” within the bureaucracy, which are shielded from political interference; and (3) “learning for productivity,” which occurs when there is productive cooperation between a supportive bureaucracy and capitalist/investor elite. In addition to these three requirements, the authors present a second level of analysis. Building on Khan (2010), they present an elaborated political settlement approach, which outlines the structural conditions necessary in order for the three requirements of industrial policy to be met. These structural conditions are defined in terms of the distribution of power within the ruling coalition, whether it is more centralized or fragmented, as well as between the ruling coalition and a rival elite. The ruling elite forms a “developmental coalition” where power is centralized internally and there is no immediate threat from an external elite. This distribution of power creates structural conditions compatible with a productive profit-driven form of rent-seeking as opposed to an unproductive form of rent-seeking more narrowly informed by the need to secure political survival.