State Bureaucracies

Forest, livestock and water service officials - a comparative study

Led by: Dr Giorgio Blundo, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Marseille, in collaboration with J.-P. Olivier de Sardan and M. Tidjani Alou, LASDEL, Niamey.

Countries: Niger and Senegal

Theme: Typically, policy discussions about how to reform Africa's civil services, strongly embedded in the good governance agenda, limit themselves to deploring the various ways in which the practices of state officials deviate from the formal norms that are supposed to govern them. Such discussions are grounded in quite a thin body of research-based knowledge about how such bureaucracies actually function. The starting assumption of this research is that the ‘real governance' of public services in Africa has a hybrid character, with strong elements of informality operating alongside formal bureaucratic rules and procedures.

The study examines the behaviour of forest, livestock and water service officials in Senegal and Niger, getting to know their professional cultures, and the different logics of accountability to which they are subject. We then identify the conditions under which it may be possible for hybrid, informalised, forms of service delivery and organisation by the members of these bureaucracies to have positive effects in terms of natural-resource management, protection and access.

Research aim: We are not convinced by the conventional view in which informality is assumed automatically to imply dysfunctionality. Our research investigates the different ways ‘real governance' works out in practice, paying particular attention to instances where the results are relatively positive from the perspective of economic and social development.

The Africa Power and Politics Programme was a Research Programme Consortium funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Irish Aid for the benefit of developing countries.
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