What is the “Rwanda Model” of development?

Here’s Nic Cheeseman’s summary:

Instead of sitting back and waiting for foreign investors and the “market” to inspire growth, the new administration intervened directly in a process of state directed development. Most notably, his government kick started economic activity in areas that had previously been stagnating by investing heavily in key sectors. It has done so through party-owned holding companies such as Tri-Star Investments.

Combined with the careful management of agriculture, these policies generated economic growth of around 8% between 2001 and 2013. Partly as a result, the percentage of people living below the poverty line fell from 57% in 2005 to 45% in 2010. Other indicators of human development, such as life expectancy and literacy, have also improved.

Cheeseman rightfully cautions against copying the Rwanda model:

Shorn of the internal and external political control required to make it work, the application of the Rwandan model elsewhere would generate very different results.

Extending the control of the ruling party over the economy is more likely to increase graft and waste than to spur economic activity. And efforts to neutralise opposition parties are likely to be strongly resisted, leading to political instability and economic uncertainty.

What this means is that if other countries on the continent try to implement the Rwandan model, the chances are that they will experience all of its costs while realising few of its benefits.

Read the whole thing here.

Cheeseman argues that the RPF’s total political monopoly is a necessary condition for the observed bureaucratic discipline in Rwanda. While this might be true, I am curious about what conclusions we might arrive at if we drop the assumption that Rwanda’s is a system of “developmental patrimonialism”.

What if we were to see it as just bureaucratic developmentalism (infused with good old crony capitalism)? Are there lessons on the industrial organization of the Rwandese state that are transferable to Malawi or Sierra Leone?

For more on neopatrimonialism and development in Africa check out this important paper by Thandika Mkandawire.


Thandika Mkandawire on the “Kenya Debate”

The ‘Kenya debate’ was a debate not among Kenyans but about Kenya by a group of expatriates, most of whom were temporarily resident in Kenya. This may partly explain its abrupt end. Kitching (1985) also suggests that the fact that all the protagonists viewed themselves as progressives precluded the further pursuit of the debate on how a capitalist accumulation process could be promoted.

Ouch. Kenyanists (Kenyan or not) will appreciate the zinger (please bring back economic history!) The quote is from a footnote on page 198.

Mkandawire’s paper on “Thinking About Developmental States in Africa” (not on Kenya) is a must read in any PE class on African development.

Neopatrimonialism & Political Economy in Africa

[t]he monotonic mapping of some aspects of neopatrimonialism into a definite economic policy, let alone an outcome, is based more on a leap of faith than on the existence of a tightly knit algorithm or, as advocates of the neopatriomonial approach suggest, on the impeccable logic of neopatrimonialism. The claim that neopatrimonialism provides the microeconomic foundations with which to understand the macroprocesses of Africa is unwarranted. As John Maynard Keynes argued, macroeconomy is not reducible to microfoundations. There are simply no nontrivial algorithms that will establish a one-to-one correlation between microeconomic behavior and macroeconomic outcomes. Similarly, there is simply no way that the logic accounting for the macroeconomic problems in Africa and their possible solutions can be derived from the myriad communities in the region, regardless of claims about the logic of neopatrimonialism.

…. The analytical template forged by the neopatrimonialism school has had the effect of flattening the African political and economic landscape—often rendering monochromatic the many colorful and varied characters who have taken the African political stage over the last half century. This flattening extends beyond space to time as well. There is simply no sense of conjuncture or periodization within the analysis. By neglecting the cross-sectional and longitudinal variance of the African experience, the neopatrimonialist view provides an impoverished understanding of the complexities of the continent. It also oversimplifies the many contradictions of the continent. Adverbial caveats do not diminish the essentially leveling effect of the term “neopatrimonial.” What ultimately results is not a rich tapestry of case studies but rather reportages of one damned country after another.

That is Thandika Mkandawire of LSE writing on the concept of neopatrimonialism as applied to research on Africa over the last half-century. The paper is forthcoming in World Politcs. It is destined to be required reading in Comparative Politics and Comparative Political Economy classes. I highly recommend adding it to your summer reading list.