From the Outside In: How the Rise of Politicians from NGOs is Disrupting African Politics and Development

Keith Weghorst (Vanderbilt University)

September 14, 2021, 12:15–13:15


Room Auditorium 4


While its dramatic growth has propelled an incredible surge in socioeconomic development across SSA, the non-governmental organization (NGO) sector has been criticized for stagnating political development by circumventing underperforming governments and sustaining their inefficacy. In this book, we investigate a previously overlooked channel through which the NGO sector shapes political development: by providing a vocational pipeline for political “outsiders” to run for office, thereby disrupting the dominance of “super elites” (e.g., family dynasties; wealthy private and public sector employees; men). Using administrative records scraped from eGovernment platforms in 13 African countries, we document the incredible rise of these “NGO outsiders” to enter elected office, showing some twenty percent of contemporary legislators across Africa have worked in the NGO sector. We further investigate the case of Kenya, drawing from a survey of over 500 aspirants for office in the 2017 elections. Using sequence analysis to study vocational career backgrounds, we show that these NGO candidates differ substantially from the “super elite” in every stage of the candidacy process (e.g., when/why they decide to run, intraparty nomination contests, campaign strategies), and ultimately, in their economic and political priorities in office. By entering and transforming government to better promote development and accountability, the NGO sector may be one key mechanism through which development and democratization mutually-reinforce in the African context. Our book offers insight on the impact of personal and vocational histories on the pursuit of political power, situating our work among the multidisciplinary scholarship on leadership


Keith Weghorst (Vanderbilt University), From the Outside In: How the Rise of Politicians from NGOs is Disrupting African Politics and Development, IAST Lunch Seminar, Toulouse: IAST, September 14, 2021, 12:15–13:15, room Auditorium 4.