Governance of local economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa: Who are the dancers and do they act 'in concert'?

Research output: Working paperAcademic


This paper is a critical reflection on recent theories of local and regional
economic development.* One of the central messages of this growing literature
concerns a positive sum game of the governance of local economic development. That
is to say, that actors such as entrepreneurs and their associations, communities and
their organisations and local government agencies have an interest and an ability to
work together, to undertake public, collective and joint action, to generate synergies
and to commit resources through partnerships in order to promote local economic
In this paper we will argue that the local governance problem in Sub Saharan
Africa may be more complicated that this literature suggests. If we present the
governance problem as a dance, then not all dancers may be present on the dance
floor and the ones who are there may not be dancing the same dance.
The paper examines i) the position and strengths of local governments which
received important impulses through decentralisation policies, ii) the roles of business
associations which in Africa have been growing in recent years, and, iii) community
associational activity which is widespread in Sub Saharan Africa.
The paper concludes that there are relatively few actors ‘on the dance floor’ and
that they are dancing according to their own scripts or rhythms. There is as yet little
‘acting in concert’. Growth coalitions between local governments and private sector
or between government and community associations, as they have been found
elsewhere, may not yet exist in Africa. The paper calls for more empirical work on
case studies of the governance of local economic development in Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages54
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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