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Centre of African Studies: Research


Accountability through Practical Norms: Civil Service Reform in Africa from Below

'Accountability through practical norms: Civil service reform in Africa from below' (2016-2017) was part of the Anti-Corruption Evidence Programme funded by the British Academy and DfID. The study was led by Gerhard Anders as principal investigator and Giorgio Blundo (EHESS, IRD) and Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan (EHESS, LASDEL) as co-investigators.

The project explored ways to improve service delivery and levels of integrity by drawing on empirical evidence on practical informal norms in key government departments (health and education) in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Togo, Niger, Tanzania and Malawi. It is the first comparative, cross-country study employing anthropological and socio-legal methods at a large scale to generate systematic empirical evidence on practical norms covering francophone and Anglophone countries in two regions, West and East Africa.

Practical informal norms at shop-floor level play an important role in regulating bureaucratic practices in African countries where there is a wide discrepancy between official rules and lived realities. This might be negative, justifying or facilitating corrupt practices, but it might also be positive, resulting in hubs of integrity. Adopting a novel approach to create incentives for behavioural change the project contributes to a shift in focus from naming and shaming to develop a more positive approach emphasising integrity and public service delivery.


British Academy

DHO Lilongwe