Business Interests and Clientelist Contracts: Evidence from Benin

22 March 2019, Grand-Popo; The African School of Economics (ASE), represented by its founder, Professor Leonard Wantchekon (Princeton University), participated actively in the EDI-RA Beninese Institutional Diagnostic’s papers series conference.

As one of the principal investigators on the project, Professor Wantchekon, in collaboration with Rafael Ch (New York University) and Mathias Hounkpe (OSIWA), discussed the first results of their research project titled “Business Interests and Clientelist Contracts: Evidence from Benin”.

Motivated by the contrast observed not only in Benin’s institutions – good democracy but bad governance, free and fair elections but poor public goods provision – they were interested in documenting the dynamic of elections and policy implementation both at the local and national level in Benin by looking at the direct linkage between politicians and businessmen. Preliminary results show that more than 70% of politicians’ campaign budgets were funded by businessmen, who in turn benefit from policy implementation which is in line with their own interests, often at the expense of the general interest. Interestingly, the clientelist deal between incumbents and businessmen depends on the political uncertainty related to the electoral outcome, which can range from a simple agreement (benefit from public procurements or narrow policy implementation) to the direct form of state capture (running for an election oneself).

The data supporting these findings was collected at IREEP by ASE’s Predoctoral Fellows, and was coordinated by Lazare Kovo, who participated to the meeting alongside Professor Wantchekon.

Participants, both researchers and decision makers, discussed findings, proposed improvements and made recommendations to cope with the issue.