4. Noteworthy Case Studies

There is an increasing number of political economy studies as they become a more common feature of development assistance, but most are not publicly available. Below is a selection of publicly available political economy studies for a variety of different sectors and topics in a range of countries.

4.1 Country/donor relationships

For country level political economy studies, many of DFID’s original Drivers of Change studies from the early 2000s can be found on the GSDRC website. They offer useful overviews, including of longer term, structural factors that shape power relations and how pro-poor reforms might be feasible.

Below are two more recent examples of political economy analysis for Tunisia and Tanzania. 

This paper summarises the experience of providing ‘Political Economy support’ to the EU delegation in Tunis - both at the stages of context analysis and in designing programmes, with implications for the full life cycle of the interventions. 

This paper provides a definition of a political settlement and explains how different political settlement dimensions can affect the prospects for inclusive development, providing pointers for how external actors might engage under different political settlement ‘types’. It provides an overview of Tanzanian history viewed through this lens.

4.2 Economic Sectors

We have selected recent studies on the politics of agricultural sectors in Tanzania and Kenya, and on local economic governance in Medillín, Colombia.

This paper explores rice production in Tanzania, which has quadrupled since 2000, but has not seen a reversal on related rent-seeking, which is usually prominent when rice is scarce. The paper explores the different factors that have led from a shift from rent-seeking in the domestic market towards rent seeking in Tanzania's nearby export markets. 

This article illustrates the recurring pattern of patronage politics in the Kenyan agriculture sector during the governments of President Kibacki. It is drawn from ongoing monitoring of, and participation in, the Kenyan agricultural and political scenes by the authors during 2005 -12, combined with key informant interviews. It explores how the perceived opportunity for agricultural reform didn't come to fruition with democratisation, as the ethno-regional basis of politics survived, watering down the opportunity for agricultural reform by dividing the power in number of poorer smallholder households.

This paper shows that domestic political economy dynamics have played a more central role in Kenya’s horticultural success than has hitherto been recognised, in particular by shaping the inclination and ability of the state to perform various roles within the sector. The paper argues that political settlement analysis offers a useful lens for understanding how shifts in power relations along the state-business interface have shaped the ability and inclination of the state to govern the sector, yielding a fuller and more nuanced account of the domestic and transnational drivers of growth in Kenyan horticulture. 

This article argues that the distribution of power in Medellín and the evolving elite interests have shaped governance structures in ways which not only provide the economic elite access to sources of power that help in sustaining power balances, but also contribute to low productivity development outcomes.

4.3 Energy

Two studies examine the politics of electricity reform in Lebanon and Ethiopia.

This study explores how it has been possible to establish EDZ’s functional, but problematic, service provision within the complex sectarian political context of Lebanon. We draw existing development and political economy literature to understand the rents and types of corruption in the sector and how the changes implemented by EDZ have been consistent with the nature of Lebanon’s political settlement.

This paper examines the political economy of electricity generation planning in Ethiopia during the EPRDF era (1991–2019), highlighting the importance of power relations between politicians and the bureaucracy, the political interests of the ruling party and the dominant ideas shaping politics and the electricity sector. It draws on more than 100 key informant interviews with politicians, government officials, consultants and donors involved in the sector. 



4.4 Regional integration

ECDPM, which has issued guidance on regional political economy analysis, has prepared this case study of regional economic integration in East Africa.

This study presents a political economy analysis of the East African Community (EAC), focusing on what drives and constrains this regional organisation in promoting economic integration. In particular it looks at transport infrastructure, and at trade policy monitoring, particularly the system for monitoring regional integration implementation. 

This paper introduces a new political economy framework in the form of five lenses that aim to gain a deeper understanding of the political economy features of particular reforms and integration processes.

4.5 Health

The first briefing provides a summary of using a political economy approach in health and education programmes.

The other case studies cover maternal health, universal health coverage and health systems resilience in a large number of countries, as well as country-wide reform in Nigeria - examining how the World Bank adopted an adaptive approach in its Saving One Million Lives programme for result.  

This brief summarises how the Abt Associates Governance and Development Practice (GDP) has applied Political Economy Approaches (PEA) to education and health sector programming in 13 countries in Asia, the Pacific and Africa; and the key findings from these undertakings.

This paper compares the experience of Rwanda, Bangladesh, Uganda and Ghana in reducing maternal mortality, relating policy uptake and, in particular, implementation to the underlying balance of power and institutions, or political settlement, on which these countries’ politics is based. 

This paper aims to understand why and how countries provide health coverage, particularly to left-behind groups. The paper quantifies the relative importance of different enablers, strategies and constraints that 49 countries faced on their move towards universal health coverage (UHC).

This note summarises the main points arising from a discussion in the TWP community on health systems resilience, particularly in Cameroon, Nepal, and South Africa, and highlights important policy issues and recommendations. 

This paper contrasts the ways in which an adaptive component of a major health care project was implemented in three program and three matched comparison states in Nigeria. It argues that adaptive programmes need to be grounded in a fit-for-purpose theory of change and evaluation strategy.

​​​​​​​4.6 Education

The first briefing provides a summary of using a political economy approach to health and education programmes.

The second case study covers education in Afghanistan.

This brief summarises how the Abt Associates Governance and Development Practice (GDP) has applied Political Economy Approaches (PEA) to education and health sector programming in 13 countries in Asia, the Pacific and Africa; and the key findings from these undertakings.

This paper examines micro-level political economy factors of education in Afghanistan to demonstrate that education is caught in a complex interplay between security, political, economic and social dynamics. 

4.7 Humanitarian system

Three cases studies cover the politics of food, information and analysis in emergencies and reform of the humanitarian system.

While the political economy of food in Somalia has been examined for the 1990s, there has been less focus on the famines of the 2000s. This study examines how it has changed in the past 10 to 15 years, with shifts in governance and in aid.

Synthesizing findings and recommendation from six country case studies, this study considers the constraints on data collection and analysis in extreme food security emergencies in countries with a high risk of famine and aims to suggest methods to ensure independent and objective analysis of humanitarian emergencies. 

This report examines reform efforts related to three central aspects of humanitarian assistance: cash transfers, accountability to affected populations and protection. For each area, the paper develops a thought experiment to explore how the humanitarian system would change if the reform proposals were fully implemented.

4.8 Climate change

This guide to assessing the political economy of domestic climate change offers concrete examples.

This guide offers an assessment methodology to understand how structural factors, rules and norms, stakeholders and interests, and ideas and narratives influence the political economy of climate action in a given country.

4.9 Anti-corruption

We have selected case studies illustrating two approaches to tackling corruption: a social norms approach in Nigeria and research from SOAS on implementation strategies.

The report examines corruption in Nigeria from the perspective of the social norms that serve as embedded markers of how people behave as members of a society and have a strong influence on how they choose to act in different situations. This report aims to diagnose what drives corrupt behaviour in Nigeria, and the types of beliefs that support practices understood to be corrupt.

Instead of conventional anti-corruption strategies, which may be less effective in a developing context, this working paper suggest an alternative approach: to identify anti-corruption strategies that have a high impact and that are feasible to implement within contexts. 

4.10 Democracy, human rights, voice and accountability

Two case studies of adaptive management of innovative inclusive and accountable governance programmes in Africa cover:

  • the Institutions for Inclusive Development in Tanzania, which was an issues-based programme operating under a constrained political context 
  • the State Accountability and Voice programme in Nigeria (see also the next section for related governance reform programmes in Nigeria).


This paper looks at adaptive management in DFID-funded Institutions for Inclusive Development (I4ID) project in Tanzania. It looks at the dynamic interaction between three elements: delivery, programming, and governance.  

This study identifies the core ingredients of adaptive programming by using a qualitative comparative analysis of the UK-Irish funded Institutions for Inclusive Development programme in Tanzania (2016-2021).

This paper looks at adaptive management in DFID-funded State Accountability and Voice (SAVI) programme in Nigeria. It discusses how to find a ‘good fit’ with country context, and employ a ‘politically smart’, problem-driven, adaptive, locally led approach.

The Learning Review of three human rights projects in Colombia, Somalia and Tanzania explores (i) how applied political economy analyses (APEAs) have been used to inform program decisions and their implementation; (ii) how insights from APEAs have influenced program achievements; and (iii) what factors have enabled and constrained the uptake of APEA and its impacts in terms of improved programming.

4.11 Public-sector reform

There are more case studies of the politics of public sector reform.

Chapter 7 of the review of twenty years of UK governance programming in Nigeria illustrates how three generations of programmes aimed to think and working politically, including the State Partnership for Accountability, Responsiveness and Capacity (SPARC) and the State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI) which can be found under the previous section.

Additional case studies cover institutional reforms in Malawi and migration policy in Morocco.

This research identifies the contextual factors and causal mechanisms that explain how UK governance interventions contributed to improving governance, health and education outcomes by influencing the ‘service delivery chain’ that connects the Nigerian federal, state and local governments to frontline service providers (e.g. primary schools, local health facilities) and to users of health and education services.

This paper explores the State Partnership, Accountability, Responsiveness and Capability (SPARC) programme in Nigeria, which aimed to work adaptively at the state level to support policy and strategy, public financial management, and public service management.

This paper seeks to promote a shift in approach to institutional reform, offering some practical recommendations for reform-minded managers, project teams, and political leaders in which the focus is placed on crafting solutions to problems that Malawians themselves nominate, prioritize, and enact.

This study analyses the political economy factors affecting migration policies in Morocco, and their implications for the country’s development policies and outcomes.