Africa Power and Politics aims to identify ways of exercising power, doing politics and building states that might work better for development and poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa than the arrangements now in place.

APPP's starting point is that the global ‘good governance' agenda isn't working. One reason is that it does not draw sufficiently on directly relevant experience, especially evidence of what works well under the particular conditions of Africa today.

Our hypothesis is that there is scope for governance reforms that work "with the grain" of African societies. We aim to discover political institutions that provide a positive and distinctively African approach to governance for development. We are undertaking what we believe to be the first systematic study of these issue

See: Governance for development in Africa: building on what works, David Booth (APPP Policy Brief 1, April 2011)

Research methods

APPP research is based on comparative analysis across a number of Anglophone and Francophone African countries ., where we are currently conducting intensive field studies and surveys. These are designed to distinguish governance arrangements that are solving problems for poor people or removing barriers to general progress, and those that are failing to do so. We also draw on some non-African evidence, especially from low-income Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.

APPP's partners have a strong track-record in fieldwork-based research on key issues such as:

  • the everyday realities of public service delivery
  • low-level corruption
  • understanding accountability structures at national and local levels
  • the dynamics of different regime types and development.

Visit our archive for more about our methodology and the history of our research.

What do we mean by ‘governance'?

By ‘governance' we mean the exercise of power in the management of society's resources at all levels, from the offices of Presidents to the back yards of urban neighbourhoods.

Research streams

APPP's seven research streams are each devoted to gathering new evidence and insights in a particular field of governance for development in Africa:


Man and boy at demonstration, Ethiopia - ©ODI, Antony Robbins