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Citizens' Support for Economic Reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa

Journal article
Authors Heather Congdon Fors
Published in South African Journal of Economics
Volume 84
Issue 3
Pages 343-363
ISSN 0038-2280
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Economics
Pages 343-363
Language en
Keywords Economic reform, policy, democracy, trust, Afrobarometer
Subject categories Economics


The objective of this paper is to investigate the factors that influence citizens' support for costly economic reforms in sub-Saharan Africa. This is relevant for several reasons, but the most obvious perhaps is that economic reform will be difficult if faced by strong resistance from citizens. In this paper, individual data from Round 4 of the Afrobarometer surveys is used to investigate how support for economic reforms is influenced by factors falling under the following broad categories: (i) Economic variables; (ii) group identity and fairness variables; (iii) Institutional and state/government variables; (iv) Demographic and control variables. An individual's trust in the president and the belief that the government manages the economy well are two of the most significant and robust factors. This is in keeping with the results found in Williamson (The Political Economy of Policy Reform, Institute for International Economics, Washington, DC, 1994). Another robustly significant variable is satisfaction with how democracy works in the country. Variables related to ethnic identity and community membership also play a significant role in support for costly economic reforms, which is in line with the theories put forward by van de Walle (African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis, 1979–1999. Cambridge University Press, New York, 2001). Females are less likely to support economic reforms, while individuals with higher levels of education are more likely to support economic reforms.

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