Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Hans Peter Schmitz


Africa, Development, Patronage, Political Economy, Political Parties, State Capacity

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Both Benin and Ghana are amongst Africa's most celebrated examples of democratic success, but there is growing divergence in the capacity of their state institutions to act as effective agents of development. Why? This dissertation argues that modes of party financing are integral to understanding patterns of patronage-based recruitment to public office, and that these patronage practices have consequences for the broader developmental capacities of the state.

The first part of the dissertation shows that leaders use political patronage not only as a means of "buying" votes, but more fundamentally as a means of exerting control over the state's resources. How leaders choose to access and control these resources depends on the size of the private sector and the strength of party organizations, both of which vary considerably across African countries. Where party organizations are strong and the private sector large, patronage is likely to be concentrated primarily at the elite level to facilitate the exchange of contracts for financial support to the party. Conversely, where private capital is more scarce, leaders will concentrate patronage at the public service level, enabling political supporters to access state revenue and rents for their party.

These varying patronage practices have consequences for the broader developmental capacities of the state. Elite level patronage leads to more stability and cohesion in the executive which, among other things, strengthens commitment to development programs over time even in the face of serious implementation challenges. High levels of public service patronage, by contrast, heighten organizational problems including technical deficiencies amongst public personnel, the frequent disappearance of state resources for political use and excessive control over bureaucratic agencies. This latter environment is particularly challenging for the implementation of development programs.

The argument is developed by combining comparative case analysis of Benin and Ghana with medium-N cross national analysis on a broader set of African countries. The case analysis draws on three principal sources of data collected in both countries, including 1) a comprehensive database containing appointment and biographical information on all cabinet ministers from the early 1990s through 2013, 2) an original survey of over 500 civil servants in each country and 3) interviews with approximately 60 political and state actors. Together, the data allow for a novel empirical strategy that considers patronage across both elite and public service levels of the executive apparatus, and lends considerable support to a party-financing based explanation of the relationship between multi-party politics, patronage and state institutional capacity.

Although the neopatrimonial perspective in African politics often leads us to believe that patronage is both ubiquitous and uniformly detrimental to African states, this project shows otherwise. Instead the dissertation's findings suggest the need to consider not only how much patronage, but which jobs are distributed and to whom. In so doing, the project moves away from monotonic conceptions of the relationship between democracy and state capacity, asking instead how multi-party politics interact with neopatrimonial forms of authority to produce variation in state institutional capacity.


Open Access