The international environment for developmental regimes


A 2012 Joint Statement by five development research programmes stated that it is ‘time to open up the black box of weak political will' in developing African countries. In most of these countries, this ‘black box' contains incentives that reproduce competitive clientelism and policies geared to short-run advantage. Despite recent economic growth, genuinely developmental regimes are very much in the minority.

Several ways of addressing this issue are being explored by DRA, building on the findings of Tracking Development (TD) and Africa Power and Politics (APPP). An important remaining question, however, is how the international system might become more conducive to the emergence of developmental regimes.

It is well established that the non-aid policies of Northern countries in the fields of banking, taxation and armaments influence the incentives of African political elites for the worse. But recent research has also drawn attention to other ways in which the global environment is unfriendly to the emergence and sustainability of developmental regimes. They include:

  • the tendency to promote Northern models as the normal approach to institutional design; and
  • the role of aid in cushioning political leaders against the shocks and threats that have been the usual stimulus for developmental ambitions.

Research in this stream will draw together the evidence supporting these claims, using secondary analysis of relevant historical experiences. It will explore the feasibility of reversing recent trends or mitigating their effects.


Botswana, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Korea, Kenya, Malaysia, Rwanda, Taiwan, Uganda.

Stream leader:

Dr David Booth, Politics and Governance Programme, Overseas Development Institute, London.

Initiating and sustaining developmental regimes in Africa was funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The views expressed on this website and in material published by the Developmental Regimes in Africa project are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs or any of DRA's member organisations.