ethnic clientelism Essay

Existing Empirical studies of clientelism and ethnicity

In finding out the link between ethnicity and clientelism, ANN-SOFIE and ARNE (2017) investigated the link between ethnic divisions and clientelism in Africa politics by taking a close examination on the roles of contextual ethnic divisions and specific ethnic affiliations in shaping attitudes towards clientelism. They investigated the hypothesis that individuals who belongs to the same ethnic group as their country?s top political leader are more inclined to supporting clientelist policies. They went further to compare the attitudes to clientelism among the president?s co-ethnic to those individuals living in the president’s region and among people residing in areas populated by various shares of the president’s co-ethnicities.

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They did this by using a detailed individual survey data for 38293 respondents from 25 African countries coupled with quantitative interview materials from Kenya. They obtained their data from Afrobarometer, which is all inclusive multi-country survey project collecting data on political and economic attitudes of African citizens.

The result of their empirical findings shows that a single country experience with ethnic clientelism cannot be taken as a representation of other Africa countries. Africa is a huge continent with different countries having different ethnic situations which also impact on their politics in different ways.

Frank and Rainer (2012) carried out a study on ethnic favouritism, education and health in sub Saharan Africa; They employed data from 18 African countries and studied how primary education and infant mortality of ethnic groups were affected by changes in the ethnicity of the countrys leader during the last fifty years. They relied on two types of data; One was data that gives information on which ethnic group held political power and at what point since independence. Secondly, data that showed the systematic changes in economic well-being of every ethnic group over the same period. They found out that ethnic favouritism has a statistically significant impact on primary education and infant mortality in sub-saharan Africa. The respondents whose primary school years fully coincides with the rule of a co-ethic leader were on average more likely to attend primary school and more likely to complete it than respondents who grew up under a leader from another ethnic group. They also found out the children born when their mother?s co-ethnic leader was in power were less likely to die during their first year of life than the children born when their countries leader belonged to another ethnic group. It means that having ones co-ethnicity in power increased the chances the primary school attendance of their ethnicity and reduced their infant mortality rate. Their research showed that ethnic favouritism is evident in Africa politics.

Leonard Wantchekon (2003) in his work provided and evidence that clientelism reinforces ethnic voting. He carried out a field experiment in one of the west African country ??Benin Republic??. His findings showed that public policy appeals worked better in regions that are richer, better in terms of education and have healthier inhabitants while clientelist appeals worked for candidates that were of the predominant ethnicity, had regional voter bases and were incumbents. Similarly, Henry Hale (2006) argued that electoral clientelism is much more on the high side in Russian regions that officially designated as homelands for ethnic minorities. His findings showed that government from such areas are most likely to provide targeted preferential goods such as jobs, education for ethnic minorities that constitute the given region.

Some other empirical work also exists on distributive politics which tries to explain how politician tend to distribute resources to gain electoral votes. Dixit and Lodregan (1996) examined what determine if an ethnicity or interest group will receive favours in pork-barrel politics using a majority voting with two competing parties. They noted that what determines the amount of transfers an ethnicity receives is the distance between the desired position of that ethnicity and the party in power. Their work pointed out clearly which ethnicity will be targeted for more transfers in a vote-maximizing transfer scheme. They explained that different types of results are possible depending on the interaction of various characteristics. Swing voters are likely to be targeted for more transfers if the political parties involved are identical in their ability to subsidize or tax different groups who differ in their distribution of preferred position. When political parties are different in their abilities to transfer resources to specific ethnicities, then they are more likely to target their co-ethnicity (core supporters); It means they will tend to form a clientelist relationship with their co-ethnics whom they are very much familiar with and can target most effectively. Dixit and Lodgregan also made and interesting argument which is one of the major stands I have taken to form the bases of my argument in this paper. They pointed out that co-ethnics of the politician, whom are ideologically committed to the party’s position, will be targeted for negative transfers. This is so because co-ethnics with strong ideological preference for their party are likely to remain faithful to their party.

Horowitz, Jeremy (2017) in their paper ?? Ethnicity and the Swing Vote in Africa’s Emerging Democracies?? argues that in situations where ethnicity is politically most noticeable, core and swing voters are defined by weather ethnic groups have a co-ethnic leader in the election race. They pointed out that for ethnicities who do not have a candidate in an electoral race are more likely to form a clientelist relationship and are more receptive to campaign persuasion; These kinds of voters are most likely to change their preference during election and vote for candidate who offer more transfers.


The quality of life of the citizens of any Nation strongly depends on the quality of institutions put in place by that nation. Institutions are humanly devised constraints (Douglas; 1995) and as such there is a need for the citizens of a nation to put the right people in power who will implement the right institutions for a better future.

Over the years, voters have continued to make irrational choices when it comes to electing people to represent their interest in political offices. One would wonder why voters are fooled by politicians in every election year. There are so many reasons why voter?s rationality during elections is not so rational and one of such reasons as identified by different scholars is ethnicity and clientelism.

Ethnic Clientelism is a key determinant in any election, especially in Africa countries where most of the countries are typically constituted by several ethnicities. Isaksson and Bigsten (2017) noted that, African politics is massively affected by ethnically based clientelism. This have led to several scholars researching on ethnic clientelism (Kolev, Kiril Wang, Yi-ting; 2010, Chandra, Kanchan; 2004, Bardhan, Pranab Mookherjee, Dilip;2012). Politicians especially in non-democratic or counties where democracy is still growing can manipulate electoral outcomes because they are more in control of the state resources. Most times this is done through engaging in clientelist relationship with voters. In sharing this resource, they do not distribute it in a way that favours the national interest; rather they prefer to use the State?s resources strategically to benefit areas where they can accumulate electoral vote during elections. Some papers have argued that politicians are most likely to form a clientelist relationship with their ethnic groups. Franck and Rainer (2012) find out that, co-ethnicity with the country’s top political leader has widespread effects on educational outcomes and infant mortality.

Different writers have written on different topics relating to ethnic clientelism, but so much attention have not been giving to finding out if politicians are ethnic clientelist. Understanding how politicians use the state resources to win vote for themselves during election is very important. This would help to bring awareness to voters, so they will not be fooled during elections.

In this paper, I argue that politicians or an incumbent office holder is most likely to be non-ethnic clientelist when trying to win elections but there is a possibility that he becomes more ethnically biased after winning elections and as such may not keep the client-patron relationship not until another election year. He is able continuously fool voters due to the assumption that voters have short memories and are most likely not to remember the actions of the politicians in the election year (Svensson;2006). I suggest that politicians would rather prefer to transfer more resources to members of other ethnic group as members of his own ethnic group are likely to be ideologically biased towards him. (Lindbeck and Weibull; 1987) emphasized that politicians sometimes take their core supporters (ethnic clientelist) for granted and prefer to capture swing voters (non-ethnic clientelist) with transfers.

Getting to understand the behaviour of politicians during elections is very important in reducing their clientelist tendencies and reducing clientelism would yield better electoral outcomes which could bring about better governance and good economic and political institutions.

In the other part of this paper, I will look at the history of clientelism; I intend to give a brief history of clientelism and how it has evolved over the years. In section III, I would be looking at the impact of colonisation on ethnic clientelism. I argue that colonisation is the major reason for the high levels of ethnic clientelism in most African countries. I believe and hope to show from existing literatures that the various forms of colonisation experienced by different countries in the past yield’s different outcomes on the level of ethnic clientelism in those countries. I argue that countries which experienced exploitative colonisation are more ethnically fractionalised today and countries which experienced settlement colonisation are less ethnically fractionalised. The more ethnically diverse a nation is the more the tendencies of having high levels of ethnic clientelism. In section IV, I will be reviewing the works of other scholars relating to the subject matter. In section V, I intend to build some fundamental assumptions and use Ferejohn?s model of electoral control to justify why an incumbent political office holder is most likely to be non-ethnic clientelist. In the last next sections, I would further discuss

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