Party Systems and Decentralization in Africa

Rachel Beatty Riedl, J. Tyler Dickovick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


What explains when and to what extent central governments implement decentralization? By centering on the strategic incentives that follow from the particular configuration of competitiveness and party system coherence, we propose a theory that can begin to explain the divergent outcomes in the many forms of decentralization initiated across Africa. This explanation for the extent to which robust decentralization is implemented over time suggests two counter-intuitive findings. First, authoritarian regimes may decentralize further than democratic ones, given the incentives to the hegemonic party where such reforms are initiated. Second, highly fragmented and deeply localized polities may decentralize most minimally, even where there is a broad consensus about the desirability of such reforms. We provide a first test of the theory through a comparative analysis of over a dozen countries, focusing on process tracing for Ethiopia, Botswana, Ghana, and Benin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-342
Number of pages22
JournalStudies in Comparative International Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Africa
  • Decentralization
  • Political parties
  • Public policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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