Accountable Government in Africa

Perspectives from Public Law and Political Studies

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A number of leading experts in the fields of public law, political science and democratization studies contributed to this book to identify ways of making African governments accountable and describe the extent to which these mechanisms work in practice. It presents new knowledge about legal and political developments in a number of African countries that are relevant to the policy goal of developing and deepening democratic governance and accountable government on the continent. This book is of interest to academics, students and practitioners in the fields of public law, public administration, political studies and African studies.



Understanding local forms of accountability: Initial findings from Ghana and Malawi

Accountability — ensuring leadership compliance with expected standards of behaviour — is a central dimension of the essentially political processes that drive development outcomes in Africa. In the African context, accountability poses particular challenges going beyond the generic principal-agent problem. Generally, obedience is difficult to assure because of information asymmetries between leaders and service-providers on the one hand and their constituencies or clients on the other. In Africa, extremely large differentials in power often characterise accountability relationships, for example between officials and ordinary people, chiefs and villagers, and presidents and junior politicians. Moreover, when holding persons to account, actors apply norms or rules derived from a multitude of sources — legal, religious, cultural, professional and familial — in an often unsuccessful attempt to ensure that others perform as expected. The implications of these many different forms of accountability for development outcomes are a major topic of research in the Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP). This chapter outlines the debate which has taken place within the APPP about the concept of accountability and presents some findings from research undertaken in 2008–2010 which illustrate the developmental consequences of patterns of accountability in sub-Saharan Africa.


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