Curing the Curse: Revenue, Representation, and Regime in Africa

Publication Date: 
29 Nov 2008

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Does African dependence on foreign aid undermine the evolution of representative institutions? Using cross-national data and public opinion data, Olufunmbi M. Elemo, a PhD candidate in political science at Michigan State University and a Manatt fellow, shows that as government aid dependence increases, perceptions of political efficacy and access to public services diminishes across Africa. The findings in Elemo’s paper, "Curing the Curse: Revenue, Representation, and Regime in Africa," assert the importance of revenue to the study and practice of democracy and the role that enhanced tax capacity and civic education can play in sustaining representative and accountable governments across Africa.

Abstract  

Building upon Western European experience with taxation and representation, does African dependence on foreign aid (as an external source of revenue) undermine the evolution of representative institutions? Using cross-national data from the World Bank African Development Indicators and public opinion data (Afrobarometer, IFES), I find, especially at the individual level, as government aid dependence increases, perceptions of political efficacy and access to public services diminishes across Africa. These findings assert the importance of revenue to the study and practice of democracy and the role that enhanced tax capacity and civic education can play in sustaining representative and accountable governments across Africa.

“The advanced countries with high incomes have an obligation to assist in the process [of development] by providing aid…However, foreign aid is likely to be fruitful only when it is a complement to domestic effort, not when it is treated as a substitute for it.”

Nicholas Kaldor, ―Will Underdeveloped Countries Learn to Tax?‖ Foreign Affairs, 1963

The Charles and Kathleen Manatt Democracy Studies Fellowship awards $5,000 annually to a graduate student or democracy specialist to conduct research in democracy development, election administration and civic participation in the political process. Charles Manatt, the former U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic and former chair of IFES' board of directors, and his wife Kathleen founded the fellowship program in 1998.