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The contradictions of the authoritarian developmental state: energy boom and bureaucratic autonomy in Rwanda

When Oct 23, 2019
from 01:00 PM to 02:00 PM
Where Combination Room, Wolfson College.
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Speaker: Dr Benjamin Chemouni, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge


Scholars have typically explained variations of the developmental performance of authoritarian states by focussing on state-society and state-business relations, devoting relatively limited attention to the regime’s internal decision-making dynamics.

This article contributes to addressing this gap. It demonstrates the significance of internal regime dynamics between politicians and bureaucrats as a factor explaining states’ ability to create functioning economic development. Through the case of the electricity sector of an aspiring developmental state, Rwanda, it shows that, while a strongly centralised developmental state, backed by pyramidally-focused power, can deliver rapid implementation, it also inherently produces economically-wasteful, even developmentally-detrimental, outcomes. By hindering critical thinking, it created an electricity production system poorly attuned to Rwanda’s energy demand profile and made Rwanda’s energy generation prohibitively costly, even in the African context.

We thus argue that a more accurate understanding of bureaucratic capacity should clearly include power relations between the rulers and the state.



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