Explaining economic growth and structural transformation in Kenya: a political settlements and deals approach

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Environment, Education and Development

Abstract

There has been an increasing acceptance since the late-2000s that economic processes in developing countries are closely shaped by political dynamics. Initially, attempts by academics and policymakers to understand the role of politics in determining economic outcomes were confined to thinking about what institutions were required for growth. More recently, research has argued it is not institutions per se that determine such outcomes, but the underlying power relations that shape their performance. These claims are even starting to be recognised by major donors like DFID and the World Bank, the latter in its 2017 World Development report.

The aim of this fellowship is to further these debates on the politics of development. To do so, the researcher will draw on his PhD thesis, which contained an innovative framework for understanding the political drivers of economic development in developing countries, applied to the case of Kenya. Utilising a mixed methods approach combining quantitative analysis, archival research and 128 interviews with politicians, state officials and businesses, the researcher constructed a more convincing account of Kenya's economic trajectory than that offered by the literature to date, as well as new accounts for the development of five key industries (horticulture, garments, banking, telecommunications, oil). The researcher will now make use of the resources and support offered by this fellowship to maximise the academic and non-academic impact of his research.

A central focus of activities will be at least three articles for submission to high impact journals. These will explore the political dynamics that have shaped Kenya's horticulture, banking and oil industries, building on two papers the researcher has respectively already published and got under review in African Affairs and World Development, top ranking journals by impact factor, on Kenya's garments and mobile money industries.

The researcher will visit John Hopkins University in Washington DC, where he has been invited to present his research by Peter Lewis, the Africa Program Director in its prestigious School of Advanced International Studies. Not only will this increase the academic impact of the researcher's PhD thesis, but it will allow him to network with academics working in similar areas and identify collaborative opportunities. While in the US, the researcher will make use of his mentor's contacts at USAID, World Bank, Carnegie Institute and Centre for Global Development, all of which are also based in Washington, to present to relevant policy audiences.

The researcher will also visit the Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE, German Development Institute), where he has an open invite to present from Tilman Altenburg, the head of DIE's Sustainable Econmic and Social Development department, who is keen to integrate more political analysis into DIE's programming. This offers a significant opportunity to increase the policy impact of the researcher's PhD thesis, given DIE is one of the most influential development agencies in the world.

A third trip will be undertaken to Kenya to disseminate research findings to, and exchange knowledge with, various academic and non academic audiences. These will include events at academic institutions like Nairobi University and British Institute for Eastern Africa as well as influential business associations like the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, Kenya Bankers Association and Fresh Produce Exporters Assocation, all of whom have expressed an interest in hearing the researcher's findings.

Finally, whenever in the UK, the researcher will engage with academic and non-academic audiences there. The researcher will attend prestigious academic conferences and workshops and engage with policy-oriented audiences at DFID, Overseas Development Institute, Chatham House, and the Africa/Kenya all-party parliamentary groups, where his mentor has strong connections.
 
Description This one year fellowship allowed me to increase the academic and non-academic impact of my PhD thesis on the political drivers of economic growth in Kenya.

In terms of academic impact, the fellowship allowed me to publish three solo authored papers, based on my PhD research, in high quality journals within the fields of development studies, political science and natural resource governance. I also recently had a book chapter in an edited volume, to be published by Oxford University Press, accepted (the book is slated for publication in late 2022). I also published five working papers for the Effective States and Inclusive Development (ESID) research centre at the University of Manchester, which are now all in varying stages of being translated into journal papers and special issues.

In terms of impact with non academic audiences, I produced two 'policy briefs' summarising particular aspects of my research that I believed would have a particular salience for policymakers and practitioners. I also spent a month visiting the Deutsches Institut fur Entwichlungspolitik (DIE, German Development Insitute) in Germany in January 2020. DIE is one of the largest development institutes in the world and, while visiting, I presented different aspects of my research to different teams and departments and took part in workshops with DIE officials to help them think about how they could integrate political analysis into their own thinking, programming and research. In the process, I agreed to co author two working papers with two different DIE researchers, which are collaborative efforts that are currently ongoing. While visiting DIE, I also agreed to collaborate with Dr Tilman Altenburg, the head of DIE's Sustainable Economic and Social Transformation department, in designing a conference for academics, researchers and practitioners on the political economy of transformation in Africa. Unfortunately, soon after my visit to DIE ended, the coronavirus pandemic hit, so these plans are currently on hold. However, they serve as promising lines of activity and collaboration for the future.

Two papers that I published during this fellowship also attracted interest from the World Bank, who recently hired me as a consultant for an assessment that they are doing in collaboration with the Kenyan government on how to enhance taxation of, and tax compliance amongst, informal enterprises in the country.
Exploitation Route In total (taking journal papers, working papers, forthcoming book chapters and policy briefs into account) I produced 11 publications during my year long fellowship, detailing different aspects of the political economy of development in Kenya as well as the inner workings of different industries, sectors and government organisations in the country. This serves as a significant knowledge base - presented in a variety of forms and writing styles - that will be of use to any scholars, researchers, practitioners, policymakers and civil society actors who are interested in knowing more about the political factors that shape development, both in Kenya and beyond. Indeed, as my research has started to gain traction, I have been invited to a number of workshops and seminars, as detailed in other sections of my submission, to present (and expand) on my research. I have also struck up some collaborative engagements with researchers and policymakers at the German Development Institute and World Bank to pursue new lines of investigation and enquiry in the future.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description Politics and governance course
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Between September 2020 and January 2021, I convened a 15 credit MSc unit on 'The Politics and Governance of Development' at the University of Manchester's Global Development Institute, as part of its International Development degree programme. The course had 98 students, including domestic and international students.
 
Description Politics and governance course, 2
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Between September 2021 and January 2022, I convened a 15 credit MSc unit on 'The Politics and Governance of Development' at the University of Manchester's Global Development Institute, as part of its International Development degree programme. The course had 87 students, including domestic and international students.
 
Description British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship
Amount £354,000 (GBP)
Funding ID PF20\100105 
Organisation The British Academy 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2021 
End 06/2024
 
Description DIE 
Organisation German Development Institute
Country Germany 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I am collaborating with Tilman Altenburg, who heads the German Development Institute's Sustainable Economic and Social Transformation department, to organise a policy workshop on The Political Economy of Economic Transformation in Africa. This will bring together policymakers, practitioners and researchers working in this area. The workshop was originally supposed to be held in late 2020, but the COVID pandemic has put these plans on hold. There are hopes to finally hold the conference in late 2022.
Collaborator Contribution I am a member of the organising committee, which also includes individuals from the German Development Institute and SOAS, University of London
Impact No outputs yet, as the conference is 'on hold' until COVID has lifted
Start Year 2020
 
Description ESID 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I lead ESID's Kenya-specific research across two of its research projects - namely (1) natural resource governance; and (2) the politics of state capacity and bureaucratic 'pockets of effectiveness' in Africa. Overall, I produced five working papers for ESID, as part of this collaboration, which are now accessible on ESID's website. I am also now turning these working papers into journal submissions of my own.
Collaborator Contribution For both projects that I contributed to, I was part of a much broader, multi country comparative research effort that involved a number of other researchers affiliated to ESID. I conducted the Kenya specific research, but other ESID researchers conducted research on a number of other countries. For the project on natural resource governance, the case study countries were Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Uganda and Tanzania. For the second project, on state capacity and 'pockets of effectiveness', the case study countries were Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. So, across both projects, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a range of researchers, based in the countries themselves as well as outside of them
Impact 5 working papers, as listed in the publications section Disciplines: economics, political economy, political science, sociology, history, public administration
Start Year 2019
 
Description World Bank 
Organisation World Bank Group
Department World Bank Institute
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Based on some of the papers that I published during my ESRC postdoctoral fellowship, I was brought on as a consultant by the World Bank for an assessment that it is doing for the Kenyan Government on how to enhance tax revenues from, and tax compliance amongst, informal enterprises. Specifically, I was brought on as a "political economy expert" to advise on some of the political obstacles to efforts to tax informal enterprises in Kenya.
Collaborator Contribution The World Bank has conducted a technical assessment to sit alongside my political economy analysis. It has also commissioned a large scale survey of informal enterprises in Kenya.
Impact No outcomes yet, as the final assessment report is still in drafting stage.
Start Year 2022
 
Description Institute visit (German Development Institute) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Visited the German Development Institute (GDI) in Bonn, Germany, to present my research to the Institute's Sustainable Economic and Social Transformation department. I was invited by Dr Tilman Altenburg, the head of the department, who felt that his colleagues could learn about how to integrate political analysis into their own thinking and planning. I gave an hour long presentation and Q&A to an audience of about 50 GDI officials, as well as a separate, more intimate workshop with GDI officials whose work focuses specifically on East Africa (which is the focus of my own research)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Workshop (Gatsby Foundation) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited by Gatsby Africa (a charitable foundation set up by Lord Sainsbury of Turville) to offer comments on a report that they had written on Kenyan politics and future employment trends.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Workshop (Institute of Development Studies, Nairobi) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited to present some of my research on Kenya's garment manufacturing industry at a virtual workshop hosted by the University of Nairobi's Institute of Development Studies. The seminar was attended by industry representatives, academic researchers, practitioners, PhD and Masters students at the University of Nairobi, and members of the general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020