Governance and politics

RESEARCH BRIEF - Unravelling Public Authority: Paths of Hybrid Governance in Africa

IS Academy Human Security in Fragile States

Widespread disillusionment with ‘failed state’ perspectives on African governance has drawn attention to new forms of order emerging on the ground in areas where the presence of the state is weak. The term ‘hybrid governance’ has emerged to refer to these new organizational arrangements, incorporating local institutions and popular organizations, which fill gaps in state capacity. Related concepts such as ‘governance without government’, ‘twilight institutions’, ‘real governance’ or ‘negotiated statehood’ view governance as the outcome of complex negotiations between a number of actors, groups and forces. Instead of focusing on fixing failed states, development practitioners and academics are asking new questions about whether more appropriate forms of order can be constructed by ‘working with the grain’ of local institutions. Given the burgeoning popularity of hybrid governance in current development thinking, it is worth asking if it is just new development jargon or does it provide a useful conceptual tool for facilitating more grounded and sustainable systems of organization in fragile parts of Africa?

This question was examined in the context of a recent workshop on hybrid governance organized in collaboration between the London School of Economics and the University of Antwerp, and attended by academics and practitioners from Europe and Africa. Drawing on current, empirically grounded research, participants explored the realities of hybrid governance in a range of fragile and more resilient African states, including Somalia, the DR Congo, and South Sudan, as well as Uganda, Niger, Somaliland, Rwanda and Senegal. Discussion focused on the social basis, development objectives, and performance of hybrid institutional arrangements in specific governance activities, such as market regulation, and the provision of healthcare, security, justice and electricity. The core objective was to clarify what hybrid governance involves, how it reshapes regulatory arrangements, and its implications for state capacity, political legitimacy, and accountability in contemporary Africa.

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