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Neopatrimonialism and Democracy: An Empirical Investigation of Africa's Political Regimes

Working paper
Authors Rachel Sigman
Staffan I Lindberg
Publisher University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Working Paper No. 56. November 2017
Place of publication Gothenburg
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Political Science
V-Dem Institute
Language en
Subject categories Political Science


One of the most common adjectives used to describe democracy in sub-Saharan Africa is "neopatrimonial". Characterized by strong executives, pervasive clientelism and use of state resources for political legitimation (Bratton and van de Walle 1997), neopatrimonial democracy has been (controversially) associated with a range of (mostly undesirable) social, political and economic outcomes. This paper offers an empirical assessment of neopatrimonialism in Africa's political regimes. We show that, contrary to conventional wisdom, African regimes vary both quantitatively and qualitatively in their embodiment of neopatrimonial rule. Moreover, we find no clear evidence indicating that neopatrimonialism necessarily impedes the advancement or survival of democracy.

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