Understanding why politicians in Africa sometimes go against the dominant strategy of using clientelism, and instead produce more collective and public goods, still evades us. This paper seeks to illuminate the question, drawing on a pre-election survey carried out in ten strategically selected constituencies in Ghana in August 2008. The analysis shows that to the extent politicians engage in supplying significant levels of clientelistic goods, they are rational actors in the sense of selecting efficient means to achieve their end (reelection). At the same time, it suggests an antidote to the reproduction of clientelism. While clientelism in all likelihood will not disappear completely under any circumstances in Africa or elsewhere, the much higher electoral pay-offs of economic – even if local – development indicated by voters in Ghana suggests that politicians in the era of free and fair elections gain many more votes by seeking to further constituency development (a collective good) than they lose by disengaging from clientelism.
London, UK, Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP), 23 pp.