Coalition-Building and Distributive Politics in Africa
How does ethnicity shape distributive politics in Africa? While previous studies show considerable variation in ethnic favoritism across African countries, it is unclear which factors moderate rulers’ resource allocation strategies. In this paper, I propose a game-theoretic account of leaders’ coalition-building to explain the conditions under which top leaders choose ethnic favoritism rather than an ethnic balancing strategy. By doing so, I identify four key variables and review past studies in light of the model’s predictions. I argue that explaining heterogeneity in ethnic favoritism can be done best by examining leader-level variables and that previous studies yield mixed results due to their focus on country-level factors, such as economic development. This paper calls for more attention to the role of political elites in ethnic politics.
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