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Unsustainable Development: How Incoherent Governance Stunts Africa’s Energy Future

Peterson, Maxfield J. (2022) Unsustainable Development: How Incoherent Governance Stunts Africa’s Energy Future. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The related goals of developing renewable energy resources and expanding electricity access in Sub-Saharan Africa are understood in academic research and development practice as critical to the region’s future. Yet progress towards so-called “sustainable development” has been limited. This dissertation explores the political and economic forces that frustrate sustainable development in African power sectors through a combination of interviews in the field, case studies, and quantitative evidence. I find that successive attempts to reform African power sectors have produced incoherent sets of institutions, or policy regimes, working at cross-purposes rather than in pursuit of common policy goals. Power sector policy regimes formulate constituencies of politicians, bureaucrats, and businesses invested in regime preservation for political and economic reasons. Even when reforms establish statutory entities responsible for growing renewable energy production, they face powerful competition from incumbent coalitions with superior resources and political capital. Dominant approaches to sustainable development rely heavily on market-based mechanisms intended to align capital with social and environmental goals. These strategies are unlikely to work so long as they fail to recruit influential actors from within the policy regime. My findings contribute to theoretical literature on
governance by demonstrating the necessity of holist approaches to administrative reform and providing a new analytic framework for doing so. The findings contribute to the policy literature by providing a theoretically motivated, systematic empirical analysis that challenges the assumptions of dominant models of sustainable development. Specifically, I show how politically controlled monopsonies in power sectors relegate market-based mechanisms to the margins of the industry and show why this is unlikely to change. However, I provide evidence that, under even moderately strong democratic conditions, state-led investment can be a powerful tool for
sustainable development goals.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Peterson, Maxfield J.mjp161@pitt.edumjp1610000-0002-2023-4977
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairPeters, B. Guybgpeters@pitt.edubgpeters
Committee MemberAklin, Michaelaklin@pitt.eduaklin
Committee MemberAmes,
Committee MemberPicard, Louispicard@pitt.edupicard
Date: 12 October 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 28 June 2022
Approval Date: 12 October 2022
Submission Date: 12 August 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 339
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Political Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: political science, governance, public administration, political economy, renewable energy, Africa
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2022 16:03
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2022 16:03


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