Explaining Ethno-Regional Favouritism in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay and Elliott Green


A burgeoning literature on ethno-regional favouritism in Sub-Saharan Africa has largely found that Presidents favour their co-ethnic kin in the provision of public and private goods. However, this literature has largely remained empirically narrow in focus. To fill this gap, Bandyopadhyay and Green conducted the largest examination to date of ethno-regional favouritism in Sub-Saharan Africa across both public and private goods. Strikingly, they failed to find evidence of a positive effect of living in an area inhabited by the President’s co-ethnics. However, they did document the existence of a “co-ethnic bonus,” whereby individuals in co-ethnic areas had higher opinions of the government, viewed themselves as subjectively better off, and rated government performance on service delivery higher, even after controlling for the services in question. This argument is consistent with evidence from previous literature on how having co-ethnics in power generates positive psychological or “psychic” benefits separate from material.

Keywords: African Development; Co-Ethnicity; Ethnic Politics; Clientelism; Public Goods