Coalition-Building and Distributive Politics in Africa

20 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2024

See all articles by Dongil Lee

Dongil Lee

KDI School of Public Policy and Management

Date Written: December 29, 2023


How does ethnicity shape distributive politics in Africa? While previous studies show considerable variation in ethnic favoritism across African countries, it is unclear which factors moderate rulers’ resource allocation strategies. In this paper, I propose a game-theoretic account of leaders’ coalition-building to explain the conditions under which top leaders choose ethnic favoritism rather than an ethnic balancing strategy. By doing so, I identify four key variables and review past studies in light of the model’s predictions. I argue that explaining heterogeneity in ethnic favoritism can be done best by examining leader-level variables and that previous studies yield mixed results due to their focus on country-level factors, such as economic development. This paper calls for more attention to the role of political elites in ethnic politics.

Suggested Citation

Lee, Dongil, Coalition-Building and Distributive Politics in Africa (December 29, 2023). KDI School of Pub Policy & Management Paper No. 23-10, Available at SSRN: or

Dongil Lee (Contact Author)

KDI School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

P.O. Box 184
Seoul, 130-868
Korea, Republic of (South Korea)

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