The African Political Business Cycle: Varieties of Experience

Paul Mosley and Blessing Chiripanhura


We seek to understand both the incidence and the impact of the African political business cycle in the light of a literature which has argued that, with major extensions of democracy since the 1990s, the cycle has both become more intense and has made African political systems more fragile. With the help of country-case studies, we argue, first, that the African political business cycle is not homogeneous, and is rarely encountered in so-called ‘dominant-party systems’ where a pre-election stimulus confers little political advantage. Secondly, we show that, in those countries where a political cycle does occur, it does not necessarily cause institutional damage. Whether it does or not depends not so much on whether there is an electoral cycle as on whether this calms or exacerbates fears of an unjust allocation of resources. In other words, the composition of the pre-election stimulus, in terms of its allocation between different categories of voter, is as important as its size.