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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: October 2009

2 - Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? The evolution of political clientelism in Africa


Clientelism exists in all polities. The forms it takes, its extent, and its political functions vary enormously, however, across time and place. This chapter analyzes the persistence and evolution of political clientelism in sub-Saharan Africa since independence. Pervasive clientelism was a hallmark of the region's non-democratic states until their transition to multiparty politics in the 1990s. To what extent will these practices persist, now that democratic politics, however imperfect, has become the norm in the region? The second half of this chapter examines the likely evolution of political clientelism in the new multiparty electoral regimes of sub-Saharan Africa.

A comparison of this region with the regions examined by the other contributions to this book confirms an argument made by Kitschelt and Wilkinson in their introduction, that the structural characteristics of the country determine the nature of the clientelistic politics. The African cases discussed in this chapter have a lower level of economic development and smaller, poorer state structures than those discussed in the other chapters. This impacts the nature of clientelism in the region. The rest of this book uses the terms patronage and clientelism interchangeably, perhaps because most of the case material comes from middle-income countries with relatively wealthy states and extensive experience of electoral politics. It is important to note that in sub-Saharan Africa a pervasive form of elite clientelism, prebendalism, actually involves relatively little patronage.

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