New Tools for the Analysis of Political Power in Africa

84 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2012

See all articles by Ilia Rainer

Ilia Rainer

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

Francesco Trebbi

Vancouver School of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 2012


The study of autocracies and weakly institutionalized countries is plagued by scarcity of information about the relative strength of different players within the political system. This paper presents novel data on the composition of government coalitions in a sample of fifteen post-colonial African countries suited to this task. We emphasize the role of the executive branch as the central fulcrum of all national political systems in our sample, especially relative to other institutional bodies such as the legislative assembly. Leveraging on the impressive body of work documenting the crucial role of ethnic fragmentation as a main driver of political and social friction in Africa, the paper further details the construction of ethnic composition measures for executive cabinets. We discuss how this novel source of information may help shed light on the inner workings of typically opaque African political elites.

Suggested Citation

Rainer, Ilia and Trebbi, Francesco, New Tools for the Analysis of Political Power in Africa (September 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w18424. Available at SSRN:

Ilia Rainer (Contact Author)

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ( email )

450 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20549-1105
United States

Francesco Trebbi

Vancouver School of Economics ( email )

University of British Columbia
6000 Iona Dr.
Vancouver Canada, BC V6T 1L4


National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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