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Democratic Politics and State Capacity Building: Ministries of Agriculture in Malawi and Kenya

October 2009

Although fluctuating in intensity, debates about the role of the state remain fundamental to strategies for rural development and poverty reduction. Under structural adjustment African states were scaled back to play a minimalist public goods provider role, motivated in large part by the weakness and over-extension of the state prior to that. Whilst there is now broad recognition that a more activist, coordinating role is required to stimulate market development (World Bank, 1997, Dorward 2004), this places extra demands on the capacity of the state. Meanwhile, most African states are almost two decades into a transition to democracy. Whilst the median voter in most of these states is rural and poor, it remains unclear as to whether democratic politics can generate the incentives for the creation of “developmental” states that will serve the needs of such voters.