Used in an analytical and non-normative way, the concept of governance may be taken to refer to any organised method of delivering public or collective services and goods according to specific logics and norms, and to specific forms of authority. This article applies the concept to analysis of local arenas in which public goods and services are delivered or co-delivered in Niger and other countries of West Africa. The analysis proposes eight ‘modes of local governance’ and describes their main characteristics drawing on fieldwork evidence collected over an extended period. Chiefly, associational, municipal (municipal council), project-based, bureaucratic, sponsorship-based, religious and merchant modes of governance are distinguished. The article concludes by defining and delimiting a concept of local political culture, referring to a set of shared modern practices and representations relating to the practical operation of modes of local governance in specific local arenas.