STREAM: The Political Economy of Development in Africa: The politics of economic and social transformation

STREAM: The Political Economy of Development in Africa: The politics of economic and social transformation

The stream would invite papers and panels studying the political economy of African countries. At the ASAUK 2016, Lindsay Whitfield organised a stream including a number of scholars working on the Political economy of development in Africa.  This stream would build on the platform established at ASAUK 2016 and hope to cement a space for discussion on the political economy of development in Africa at future ASAs. The ASAUK 2016 stream included panels such as the politics of growth and the new productivism, the political economy of natural resource investments, the political economy of large-scale energy investments, industrial policies for industrialization, African-owned firms in new export sectors, state and party capitalism, the politics of financial regulation, the political economy of investment and transition in African agriculture and agrarian capitalists in Africa.

The stream would invite panels on any of those topics or others including:

  1. Political Settlements and their impact on economic/social outcomes
  2. State-Business Relations
  3. The politics of value-addition in African countries and the politics of global value chains, production networks, commodity chains
  4. The political economy of banking sectors in Africa
  5. The Political economy of urban transformation
  6. The political economy of renewable energy transformations in Africa




Rebecca Engebretsen, University of Oxford, Department of Politics and International Relations,

Florence Dafe, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of International Relations,

Since the 1990s, a large research programme has emerged around the topic of financial development. The majority of these studies agree that a well-functioning financial sector is pivotal for economic development. There is also an emerging consensus that political economy factors are key to explaining how financial sectors evolve. Yet only recently have scholars started to apply political economy approaches to understanding the factors shaping financial development in the developing country context. Even less scholarly attention has been paid to the political economy of financial development in the African context and addressed the question of how political and economic factors combine to shape the variation in financial policies and outcomes across the continent.  This panel examines the political economy of financial development in Africa. It is guided by the overarching question:

To what extent and in what ways can ideas, interests and institutions account for the variation in financial sector characteristics and financial sector development policy across the continent?

More specific questions that the panel seeks to address include:

  • Are there special political features of African economies that make models of financial sector development elsewhere less applicable here?
  • To what extent and in what ways do international financial regulations and global policy frameworks shape financial sector outcomes?
  • To what extent are international financial standards compatible with promoting financial inclusion across the continent?

The political economy of financial development in Africa: Part i

  • Concept ambiguity and banking sector structure: Explaining the translation of the global financial inclusion agenda to Kenya and Nigeria, Florence Dafe (London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom)
  • Central Banking and Sustainable Development in Africa, Simon Dikau (SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom)
  • The political economy of adoption of global capital standards in Kenya, Radha Upadhyaya (University of Nairobi, Kenya)

The political economy of financial development in Africa: Part ii

  • Financial sector change and the case of resource-rich authoritarian countries, Rebecca Engebretsen (University of Oxford, United Kingdom)
  • Post-conflict banking sector development and ruling elite control over access to capital: Angola and Mozambique in comparative perspective, Jakob Hensing (University of Oxford, United Kindgom)
  • The political economy anti-money laundering standards. Nigeria’s experience since 2002, Thomas Shipley (University of Sussex, United Kingdom)

PANEL 3: The Politics of Agricultural and Industrial Policy in Africa

Agricultural and industrial policy are experiencing a renaissance on the African continent. After three decades of attempts to promote economic transformation by “getting the prices and institutions right”, an increasing number of scholars, research institutions, donor organisations, and politicians within and outside of Africa have been coming out in favour of more active and selective state support in both sectors.

Particularly the Global Value Chain literature has been crucial in uncovering the techno-economic opportunities and obstacles to value-addition and upgrading, and highlighting the importance of active government facilitation to reap and overcome them. A frequent blind spot of this literature, however, has been neglecting the role politics play in explaining why governments appear to show diverse levels of motivation and capacity to tackle similar problems or even why similar policies can diverge significantly in implementation and outcome within and across countries.

This panel invites both theoretical and empirical papers that analyse how politics shape agricultural and industrial policy in Africa. These papers could explore how different institutional or interest group configurations, varying threats to rulers’ political survival, or significant institutional change such as democratisation influenced how African governments pursue agricultural and industrial policy. Papers that shed more light on how foreign actors and transnational politics shape the motivation and capacity of African policy makers to promote value addition are most welcome as well.

CONVENOR:       Nicolai Schulz, London School of Economics,


  • The Politics of Contract Farming in the Tanzanian Cotton Industry , Colin Poulton,( School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom)
  • The Politics of Processing Primary Commodities: The Case of Rwanda, Pritish Behuria, (University of Manchester, United Kingdom)
  • The Politics of Productive Sector Promotion in Mozambique’s Agro-Processing Industry, Christina Saulich ( HTW Berlin, Germany)
  • The Politics of Commodity Processing Promotion: A Comparison of Export Restrictions on Raw Materials”, Nicolai Schulz (London School of Economics and Political Science,United Kingdom)

PANEL 4: The Economics of Export Diversification in Africa in the 21st Century

Export diversification is central to the development of more robust African economies that can survive the boom and bust cycle of commodity prices driven by external, to macroeconomic stability through foreign exchange generation, and to self-sustaining growth processes through creating linkages with the domestic economy. Export diversification in the 21st century means entering and remaining competitive in global value chains. This is equally true for agribusiness exports as it is for manufactured exports, although the global production networks for manufactured goods may be longer and more complex. This panel seeks to examine the successes and failures of African countries that have tried to build new export sectors in agribusiness and manufacturing over the past decade. It encourages papers that shed light on either successes or failures, as we can learn from both. Papers can take up various issues related to entering and remaining competitive in global value chains, such as the role of industrial policy; the role of foreign direct investment; state-business relations surrounding the take up and implementation of industrial policy, FDI, industrial parks, etc.; the role of different global buyers and end markets; the role of governance within particular GVCs; labor issues, the making of a working class and its implications for performance in global value chains; management experience, skilled labor and the implications for export development; and so on.

CONVENOR:       Nicolai Schulz, London School of Economics,

  • The apparel export industry in Ethiopia: successes and failures of industrial policy to promote local firms”, Lindsay Whitfield (Roskilde University, Denmark)
  • Polycentric public-private governance of global production networks: implications for decent work in South African fruit” , Matthew Alford (University of Manchester, United Kingdom); Co-Authors: Stephanie Barrientos (Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, United Kingdom), Margareet Visser (Institute of Development and Labour Law, University of Cape Town, South- Africa)
  • The Obstacles to Backward Linkage Promotion in the African Oil SectorAmir Lebdioui, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom)

PANEL 5: The political economy of mechanising African agriculture

This panel will focus on recent technology changes in African agriculture and specifically the emphasis on mechanisation as a vehicle for modernisation and structural transformation of the agricultural economy. The renewed interest in mechanisation echoes the rise of agriculture in the policy agenda since the early 2000s and the quest for an African Green Revolution. Several African governments have resurrected mechanisation programmes, largely abandoned since the times of Structural Adjustment in the 1990s, and have become once again directly involved in the procurement of machinery and setting up mechanisation services, albeit with new features, including the involvement of the private sector. The revival of agricultural mechanisation has been prompted by new aid and trade opportunities with countries like India, China and Brazil, who have been supplying subsidised farming machinery as part of South-South cooperation and associated export credits. Meanwhile, structural changes in some regions, including the consolidation of land holdings and the rise of middle farmers, have stimulated demand for mechanisation and created new business opportunities. Markets for second-hand machinery and machinery rental are thriving in countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. Individual farmers and farmer cooperatives owning machinery are themselves involved in the delivery of mechanisation services.

This panel seeks to explore the political economy of mechanisation – considering the actors involved, their roles and motivations and power dynamics – and how mechanisation is shaping social change in rural areas. The panel will bring together contributions from across agrarian settings and political economies in Africa that offer fresh empirical material on patterns of mechanisation, policy instruments, business models and changing social relations and agrarian structures.

  • Tractors, commercial agriculture and smallholders in northern Ghana: examining the historical linkages, Kojo Amanor (University of Ghana, Ghana)
  • Tractors, public-private partnerships and the making the modern farmer in Mozambique, Lídia Cabral, (Institute of Development Studies, United Kingdom)
  • Tractors and agrarian transformation in Zimbabwe: insights from Mvurwi farming area, Toendepi Shonhe (University of Cape Town, South Africa)

PANEL 6: The Politics of Value-Addition in African Countries and the Politics of Global Value Chains, Production Networks, and Commodity Chains

Convenor: Jesse Salah Ovadia, University of Windsor, Department of Political Science,

Restructuring of the global economy and emergence of global production networks offer new opportunities for Africa’s industrialisation alongside new mechanisms of inequality and uneven development. Global value chain analysis has raised important issues around industrial policy and upgrading strategies as well as governance along the value chain. However, as more recent analyses have argued, politics have been marginal in these analyses (Meyer & Phillips, 2017; IGLP Law and Global Production Working Group, 2016). This panel attempts to address the lacuna surrounding the developmental outcomes of increased global value chain participation and integration in African economies through case study analysis. We invite papers that offer new insights into the politics of value addition and impact of institutions, elite behaviour, state intervention, and struggle on the distribution of value and possibilities for global production and commodity extraction to foster industrialisation.

  • Domestic Value Chains: Dangote’s operations in Agriprocessing, Christina Wolf (Kingston University, UK)
  • Industrial Policy Through Participation in Global Value Chains: The Case of Ethiopia’s Textile and Leather Industries, Jostein Løhr Hauge (Cambridge University, UK)
  • Global Value Chains and Local Linkages in the Nigerian Petroleum Industry, Jesse Salah Ovadia (University of Windsor, Canada)
  • Re-environmentalization”: Integrating environmental dimensions into embeddedness and implications on upgrading in GPNs through the case of Kenyan horticulture farmers, Aarti Krishnan, (Overseas Development Institute and University of Manchester, United Kingdom)






If you have any queries or suggestions please contact Pritsh Behuria ( For panel and paper submissions please follow the instructions on the website 

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