Southern African Institute for Policy and Research

Pockets of Effectiveness

Investigating ‘pockets of effectiveness’ in developing countries: a new route to building state capacity for development in Zambia, Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana.
The main objective of this research is to provide an understanding of how poverty-reducing forms of state capacity and elite commitment emerge in the form of ‘pockets of effectiveness’ (PoEs) in sub-Saharan Africa. This will involve examining a range of high-performing government agencies and tracing the institutional and political conditions through which they have
emerged and been sustained in four specific African countries.
Our second objective is to explore the ways and extent to which this differs systematically between different kinds of political context, so that more relevant policy findings can be generated. Drawing on a political settlements approach, which emphasises the ways in which politics and power relations shape the performance of public organisations, this will be achieved through a comparative case-study design involving two ‘dominant party’ (Rwanda, Uganda) and two ‘competitive clientelist’ (Ghana, Zambia) political settlements, which the recent literature suggests offer significantly different conditions through which effective forms of bureaucratic functioning are likely to emerge and be sustained. Changes within each type of political settlement will also be identified and their effects on PoEs traced, including the possibility that increased levels of political competition, especially where weakly institutionalised, will tend to undermine the performance of PoEs.
Our third objective is to understand whether or not these conditions differ across different sectors. This seems likely, given that different kinds of capacity are required to deliver different kinds of public goods and also the specific pressures and incentives that characterise difference sectors of government. To achieve this objective, in all four countries we will investigate one PoE from each of three sectors, namely economic growth (national banks and finance ministry departments), regulation (e.g. petroleum departments) and social provisioning (e.g. special delivery units).

Maano alazwa amukasumbwa

Translation: "Wisdom may be found through observation of even the simplest things"

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